Following the success of its first book, Oh Oh Baby Boy – called “remarkable” by the San Francisco Chronicle — Blood Orange Press is preparing to launch three new titles, expanding its effort to bring diversity in all its dimensions to children’s literature.
The first of the new books, One of A Kind, Like Me / Único Como Yo, written by Laurin Mayeno and illustrated by Robert Trujillo, will be released in late September, with the others following over the next two years..
Oakland native Janine Macbeth, a mother of two, created Blood Orange press out of frustration with the lack of diversity in children’s books. “As a kid I loved books – I mean loved books – so much so that I wanted to make them myself,” she recalls. But seeing the overwhelming whiteness of the children’s book world – from authors and illustrators to the characters portrayed – discouraged her. Still, Macbeth never let go of her dream, piling up experience in design, production and marketing at a variety of publishing firms before launching Blood Orange Press in 2013.
Blood Orange Press seeks to fill a longstanding gap in children’s literature: While over half of U.S. children under age five are children of color, only 15 percent of the kids’ books published last year featured main characters of color. “When children see themselves, their family, their community in books, it tells them that reading belongs in their life,” says Macbeth. “And that can fuel their success for a lifetime.”
School Library Journal praised Oh Oh Baby Boy, written and illustrated by Macbeth, as “emotionally and artistically satisfying … a beautifully conceived and executed book.”
One of A Kind, Like Me / Único Como Yo tells the story of Danny, a multiracial Latinx preschooler who decides to go to the school costume parade as a princess. It’s a gentle story that lifts up children who don’t fit gender stereotypes, and reflects the power of a loving and supportive community. Next up, in late 2017, will be Best Day Ever, in which cultural textile patterns unlock the imaginations of 12 diverse children as they take different journeys to the local park. In 2018, Blood Orange Press will release The Blue Flute, about a young African American girl’s relationship with a magical flute that reveals the music of her city.
To finish funding ongoing production expenses, Macbeth has launched a Kickstarter campaign. The Blood Orange Press Kickstarter page features a video in which Macbeth and the authors of the three new books discuss their vision for a more diverse and inclusive children’s book universe. The campaign includes one unique twist: Instead of choosing a sponsorship reward for themselves, sponsors who wish can instead elect to send books to the school, library, or community-based organization of their choice.
“Blood Orange Press is about creating the books that I missed as a child,” Macbeth says. “My sons are not going to grow up with the invisibility I experienced.”