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Publisher Profile: Berbay Publishing

The CBC asks Nancy Conescu, Publisher of Berbay Publishing, questions about the publisher.

How did your publishing house start out?

Our Managing Director, Alexandra Yatomi-Clarke, was on a trip to Europe with her young family in 2008 and saw the creative and imaginative books children were reading in places like France and Finland and was inspired to start Berbay.

Alexandra wanted kids in Australia to have access to great stories from all over the world. Berbay was originally a translation house, but now we do about two translated titles a year and then rest of our titles are original. We’re really proud of the fact that our original titles are now published all over the world, too.

What is your publishing house most known for?

We’re known for our design-savvy, beautifully-produced, kid-friendly picture books and illustrated fiction.  Even though we want our books to be the ones everyone picks up because of the way they look, we feel strongly that the story has to deliver and have kid-appeal. These are books for kids, not just objects to admire on the bookshelf.  So, we’re always thinking about longevity and how we can create stories that will be read and reread. How will the reading experience change as the child gets older?   

Where in the country is your house based?

We’re based in beautiful Australia, and we work remotely from Melbourne and Sydney.

Which genres does your house prefer to publish?

We specialize in nonfiction and fiction for children 0-12 years old.

Which formats does your house prefer to publish?

We generally publish our titles in board book or hardcover format first. Then, we consider doing paperback editions. 

What are some of your house’s publishing priorities over the next few years?

We only started distributing our titles in North America a few years ago, so we’re quite keen to continue to grow our presence in this market. We’ve had titles selected by JLG and included in roundups in the WSJ and NYT. So, that’s a good start for us. We’re passionate about our list and can’t wait for more readers to discover our titles. 

Which title does your house feel deserved more love than it got?

As a small independent publisher, every book on our list is really important to us and is carefully discussed prior to acquisition and throughout the publication process. We wish that the middle-grade novel Tish by Edwina Wyatt, with illustrations by Odette Barberousse which was a JLG title, received more support. The reviews we received in Australia were overwhelmingly glowing and compared the book to absolute classics. It’s the kind of story I think imaginative kids will read over and over again. Edwina is an enormously talented writer. Likewise, Moth in a Fancy Cardigan by Charlotte Lance, illustrated by David Booth is such a fresh story about identity and fitting in.  It’s told in the alternating (and hilarious) voices of a grey moth desperate to be seen and a butterfly who wants to blend in. Even if you don’t typically gravitate toward stories told from a non-human perspective, I’d urge you to give this one a try. It’s a story about feeling comfortable being yourself, regardless of what everyone else thinks. Charlotte Lance has such a unique voice for this age group, and our illustrator David Booth, who also happens to be Charlotte’s best friend, is one of the founders of the Melbourne graffiti movement.

Which upcoming titles is your house buzzing about? 

We’re about to publish David Woodland’s Sharkman and Blowfish: World Domination in Australia. David is an illustration wizard with a background in film and animation. This is his debut novel, and it is such a fun read for fans of Bad Guys and The Real Pigeons series. I also think Chris Riddell fans will love David’s line work. The story reminds me of the old cartoon “Pinky and the Brain.” It’s about lifelong friends with the humble plan of taking over the world one penguin at a time. It’s got science, adventure, and a whole lot of humor. It’s the first book in a planned series.  

Which of your frontlist titles would be great for a school or public library?

The school and library market is invaluable to us in the Austrlian market, so we’d love to see our titles be embraced by the school and library market in North America.  I’d love to see libraries connect with Gus, which is written by an Australian teacher librarian Liz Murray and illustrated by Swiss artist Walid Serageldine. It’s a story about a crocodile and the boy who grows up to be his keeper. It’s a funny and touching story about friendship and aging where nobody dies. I think Amos McGee fans will adore this one. 

Which of your frontlist titles would be great for a classroom? Which grade?

So many! We have a narrative nonfiction series about the body, written by pediatric experts in their fields.  All About the Heart is already out, and All About the Brain will be available in September.  Chihiro Takeuchi’s All in a Day is a great introduction to reading a clock. Plus, it has interactive elements to add interest to her incredibly detailed cut-paper artwork. Her follow-up title, All in a Year, will be out in November, and it explores what happens in a year in terms of emotional growth, seasonal changes, and holidays, with a particular emphasis on Japanese holidays.  There’s also The Endfixer, by Noemi Vola, translated by Rosa Churcher Clarke, which explores the idea of changing the endings of stories. In a world where kids can feel pretty powerless, the idea of changing the narrative can be really empowering. Plus, it’s the perfect book to use when you’re talking to kids about the value of writing stories. In your story, you make the rules. 

Which of your frontlist titles would you like to see get more attention from bookstores?

The Robbery by Joaquïn Camp reminds me of the work of Chris Haughton and Lane Smith.  It’s that clever and fresh. It’s the story of a failed robbery where our thieves discover that sometimes the real treasures are the friends you meet along the way. It’s a story about plans gone awry and shifting priorities, but it’s also just funny. The author was inspired by a famous bank robbery in Argentina. In this case, he imagined what would have happened if the thieves hadn’t been successful and decided to be happy with what they already had. 

Name a few of your favorite backlist titles that people should check out.

I think everyone should know the work of Gabriel Evans. His book Norton and the Bear was shortlisted for Picture Book of the Year in Australia, and the follow-up title Norton and the Borrowing Bear was a notable book. Gabriel writes about setting boundaries in the funniest, most kid-friendly way. He really taps into the mindset of the kinds of problems that are a big deal for kids, like copying, sharing, and borrowing. I think his stories are every-kid books and read-aloud favorites. 

What else would you like to tell us about your house and the amazing work you all do?

We’re a small team, and when we publish books, we’re imagining them becoming the books that matter to the kids who read them. Whether it’s a book that helps develop a child’s visual literacy like Holly Jayne’s Bunnygirl books, Mariana Ruiz Johnson’s The Most Delicious Soup and Other Stories, or Chihiro Takeuchi’s cut-paper artwork or a story that makes them laugh their heads off like Mine: A Story of Not Sharing, we want to publish the kinds of books that families want to keep.  We want booksellers, teachers, librarians, parents, and, above all, kids to want to see what we have coming next because we can promise it’s something special. 

Thank you, Berbay Publishing!

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