Editor’s Note: Something we consider often is how language informs how we define and experience an ethnic or national identity. We wonder about the merits of raising bilingual, or even trilingual, children, and whether our mother tongues will ever find a place in communities that do not recognize them. Our contributors have discussed loss and mourning of such languages, but also learning and discovery.
With language as vehicles in mind, Taiwanese American writer Eva Lou launched Madeleine Editions, a children’s publishing house specializing in multi-media iBooks with beautiful narration, music, and moving pictures! There will be monthly new releases in English, Chinese, and French editions.
Contributors include award winning writers from Harvard and Columbia, the classical music label Deutsche Grammophon, world-renown maestro and composers, plus the newest generation of illustrators from Paris… all at the service of the littlest readers, in an easily accessible and affordable digital format.
Madeleine Editions’ mission is to make it easy for parents to expose children to the musicality inherent in each language, even if they are not fluent speakers themselves.
We were thrilled to catch up with Eva in this interview with TaiwaneseAmerican.org.
Q: Hello, Eva! So happy to have you talk to us about the launch of Madeleine Editions—and congratulations on the World Cup this past summer! Vive la France!
A: Bonjour from Paris! Yes, it was amazing to hear the entire city explode simultaneously into cheers. No one could sleep for a few days. There was just such excitement in the air …
And thank you for having me. I love seeing TaiwaneseAmerican.org in my social media feeds. It feels as if a friend is reaching out from the screen to hand me a bubble tea.
Q: Ahh, books and bubble tea—two of our favorite things in the world! So tell us about Madeleine Editions, which is quite a unique kind of publishing house …
A. Sure! We make story experiences for children where narration, music, and pictures play equal roles. You can think of it as a magic iBook that moves and speaks. Each story is an original collaboration between artists from all over the world. All our titles are available in English, Chinese, and French editions and can be enjoyed in either a native or foreign language. We release a new “Tale in Music” a month, and our third one just came out!
Q. What inspired you to launch a publishing house for children? You wrote some of the stories yourself. Where did the inspiration come from?
A: I am a writer, so I deal with my daughter’s meltdowns with storytelling. For example, The Princess who loved Rose – or how scissors were invented, our 4th Tale in Music that is due in the fall, was made up in a Japanese restaurant, when the food took too long to arrive and she was hungry and tired. There was a pair of scissors on the table, so I started a story … and stretched it … until the sukiyaki came. Obviously there was a lot of refining and polishing the sentences afterwards, working with an illustrator, animator and voice actresses, incorporating the beautiful Deutsche Grammophon recording of Sheherazade, etc., before it settled in its final form. I started to invite other artists in my circle – writers, musicians, illustrators – to join in on the crusade (against meltdowns, ha! … but also against the “factory fiction” crowding the shelves …). But that was always how every story started – to entertain a child in a creative and educational way.
Interestingly enough, many of our contributors share the same profile: We used to only write/compose/perform for adults. Upon becoming parents, we are inspired to make something beautiful for children, starting with our own.
Q. How wonderful many of you were inspired to create children’s books due to your own children! So why did you decide to make these books multilingual?
The idea of 7 and under being a “sensitive” age for language acquisition has been confirmed by more and more studies. We all know it’s an uphill battle to pick up a language at an older age, so why not give children the gift of languages now?
As a writer with a music background, I am convinced that it has everything to do with exposing the ears to the beauty of the spoken word. Vocabulary and grammar rules can be memorized at any age, but developing an ear for a language – for the inherent musicality in every tongue – comes naturally to children.
As a new parent, I noticed that it was very hard to find good quality audio recordings of children’s books. The majority of children’s titles in audio still comes in CD form … ! I had to buy a boombox just to accommodate this. Even digitally-available audio books are not synchronized with the visual book in a practical way. And who is going to go through all this hassle when the audio isn’t that great to begin with?
This to me just didn’t make any sense, because children’s books are meant to be read out loud. That was when I decided to start Madeleine Editions, to make it easy for parents to help kids cultivate an ear for languages and a taste for the creative arts during this sensitive age.
Q. Why did you choose digital books as format?
Very simple, for 2 reasons:
1. To incorporate words, music, and visual elements into a single concerted experience the children can manipulate on their own.
2. To make it accessible and affordable from anywhere in the world. Currently our books can be opened instantly via any iPad/iPhone/Mac. We want a parent in the U.S. to be able to access quality stories in Chinese or French as well as English without paying more or waiting longer. Same for a parent in France or any of the 51 countries where the iBooks store is available.
Unfortunately Apple hasn’t made the iBooks store available in Taiwan just yet, but we will rectify that in 2019 … maybe with the printing of limited edition book sets, since we still have a soft spot for paper books!
Q. Where did you grow up? Has your background influenced the direction of the project?
I was born in Taiwan and educated in the States (on opposite ends, Hawaii when I was younger, and Rhode Island+New York for undergraduate and graduate schools). Since then, I’ve lived in Seoul and Paris, where I am currently based. It’s hard to say where I call home. I think of Taiwan as “where my family is,” the U.S. “where my dearest friends are,” and France as “where I feel myself the most.”
Q. We definitely relate to this sense of “many homes.” Thank you so much for taking the time to chat!
Eva Lou also writes short stories and poems, which have been anthologized in America and France. Her first collection of short stories, Rapture/d’extases, was published by Editions Lanore in France in a bilingual edition. Her novel-in-progress, The Vocalist, is a finalist of the James Jones First Novel Award. She is the founder of Madeleine Editions, an international independent publishing house for children.
For more on Madeleine Editions, visit:
And check out multilingual samples from a few of the charming titles below!
The Little Baby Airplane (Chinese sample):
The Princess who loved Rose (English Sample):
The Taste of a Strawberry (French sample):
*Bonus* Book Trailer for the newly released September 2018 title Little Travelers!
(featuring music from iconic classical music label Deutsche Grammophon)