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It’s Lantana’s 6th Birthday! Our Summer intern Vanessa Browne takes us back in time, recounting our 6 biggest highlights in the past year.
We at Lantana are certainly not alone in saying that this has been a year like no other. Many plans have had to change, and projects put on hold, but we’re immensely proud to be celebrating our 6th birthday…even if not as we’d originally envisioned! Plenty of concerns have been (rightfully) occupying the public imagination, here and across the world, whether it’s public health, the economy, social justice, or education, and that likely won’t change soon. In the midst of this, however, we’d love to share some of the achievements we’re most proud of during our fifth year:
1) Launching the Lantana Book Club
We launched the Lantana Book Club to engage children virtually with videos of our authors reading aloud their books, to keep children reading despite the closure of schools and libraries during the pandemic, and to do what we could to respond to the growing need for homeschooling resources. Our authors and illustrators joined in with abandon and really did us proud, producing all kinds of accompanying materials including colouring sheets, word searches and a board game (you should try it!). We’ve received an incredibly positive response on social media since launching this new initiative. If you’d like to see more, head over to our Instagram and YouTube pages.
2) Partnering with Worldreader to help children in need in lower-income countries
Worldreader is a leading digital book platform that reaches over 13 million young readers across 47 low and middle-income countries. With children’s educational prospects severely damaged by COVID-19 and with under-represented groups likely to bear the brunt of the crisis, we are proud to have donated 12 of our eBooks to their curated collections - including Chicken in the Kitchen by Nnedi Okorafor and Mehrdokht Amini, Nimesh the Adventurer by Ranjit Singh and Mehrdokht Amini, Kaya's Heart Song by Diwa Tharan Sanders and Nerina Canzi, and Tomorrow by Nadine Kaadan. Worldreader’s innovative platform is doing vital work to transform literacy and improve access to education across the Global South. To learn more, visit Worldreader’s website.
3) Partnering with Okezie Morro’s Tàta Storytime
Actor Okezie Morro (World War Z, The Mist, Silent Witness) wished for his daughter to see more images of characters that look like her in print and on screen. This desire morphed into the Tàta Storytime channel – a YouTube platform that showcases children’s books by authors in the African, Caribbean and African American diaspora. Series 1 includes 10 fun and engaging storytime videos featuring a host of talented Black creatives, including Adjoa Andoh, Lucian Msamati and Arinzé Kene. We were proud to be one of his first partners in this project and to have seen our stories burst into life in such an exciting way. Our books have garnered almost 20,000 views and the YouTube channel itself now boasts over 65,000 views – check it out here.
4) Gifting over 500 book donations to charity
As many will already know, last month we celebrated the milestone of having donated 500 books to our charity partner, Read For Good, through our A Book for A Book programme. As part of our buy one, give one initiative, we commit to gifting one book to a literacy partner with every book bought from our website. Buoyed by the project’s success, we’ve begun expanding our charity network and have now established new partnerships with the brilliant Children’s Book Project in the UK and Bernie’s Book Bank in the US. Each charity resonates with our values, in their mission to help children from every background and circumstance access quality books. To find out more about them, visit our website, and please remember to keep on buying our books so that we can help even greater numbers of children see themselves in stories.
5) Amplifying Black voices in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests
In the immediate wake of the global protest movement sparked by the murder of George Floyd, we experienced an overwhelming surge in interest in our company ethos, which we are proud to say has never wavered. Our inclusive books, written by Black authors and celebrating the lives and experiences of Black characters, became a focal point for households across the UK, the US and further afield who were seeking to show solidarity with the Black community, amplify Black voices, and educate their children on racism and how to counter it. Not only did we see a 300% increase in direct sales but also a 400% increase in social media referrals, and we were humbled by a few mentions by high profile influencers, including the children’s books editor of the New York Times. Wanting to do even more, we gratefully partnered with Antiracism Kidz, a grassroots virtual book club which launched in June with a focus on engaging families in dialogues surrounding racial injustice (see their Instagram page for more). We are so glad to see our books being used as catalysts for vital conversations, and helping many to make sense of recent tragic events.
6) Prizes and accolades for our published titles
We already think that our authors and illustrators are pretty amazing, but it’s always nice to receive some external recognition. In the last year, our talented creators have received the following accolades:
Northern Lights Book Award (winner of Picture Book – Preschool category): Mira’s Curly Hair written by Maryam Al Serkal and illustrated By Rebeca Luciani
Northern Lights Book Award (winner of the Family Category): Maisie’s Scrapbook written by Samuel Narh and illustrated by Jo Loring-Fisher
Middle East Book Award (Honourable Mention): Tomorrow written & illustrated by Nadine Kaadan
Kate Greenaway Medal 2020 (shortlist): You're Snug With Me written by Chitra Soundar and illustrated by Poonam Mistry
Derby Children's Picture Book Award (shortlist): The Pirate Tree written by Brigita Orel and illustrated by Jennie Poh
Teach Early Years Award (finalist): I Am Brown written by written by Ashok Banker and illustrated By Sandhya Prabhat
...among others. Our books have also received some brilliant critical acclaim from the press; A Story about Afiya (written by James Berry and illustrated by Anna Cunha), I Am Brown and Taking Time (written and illustrated by Jo Loring-Fisher) were included in this year’s children’s picture book roundups, in the New York Times, the Guardian and the Observer respectively. If you’d like to purchase or read more about any of these titles, you can of course find them on our website.
In a year that has proved so difficult for so many, we have had much reason to pause and reflect, and our thoughts go out to all those who have lost their lives, their loved ones or their livelihoods. On a personal level, we feel for the small independent booksellers and publishers who are struggling to regain a footing after such uncertainty, and urge you all to go out and support them as much as you can. All this makes us so hugely grateful for our valued partners and our trusted friends, which include you, our wonderful readers. And with so many plans and books still in the pipeline, we like to think that this is only the beginning of a whole new – healthier, happier and brighter – chapter.
Thank you, Vanessa! And many, many THANKS to you, our amazing readers. We've also made many new friends in this extraordinary year, so we've put together a video showing you exactly what we care about. Check it out below!
Click HERE to take a look at our current titles. Every print book purchased will continue to support our charity partners!
Vanessa Browne joined Lantana as a Projects Intern in July 2020. She graduated from University College London with a degree in MSc International Planning. She has an unending fascination with different cultures and cities, and has always loved the way stories can illuminate the world around us. You can find her on Twitter @girlintransituk and on her blog, www.girlintransit.co.uk.