Book Island is a small, independent picture book publishing house based in Bristol. Actually, it is the city's only children's publisher. For the past seven years the company has been known for its range of beautifully-illustrated and thought-provoking picture books from around the world.
The publishing house was founded by linguist and translator Greet Pauwelijn. She grew up in Flanders, Belgium, where she developed a strong love of books and languages. This stayed with her as she started a family and later moved to New Zealand.
Having identified a gap for picture books in English translation, she decided to launch Book Island in 2012. Initially, Greet also published picture books in Dutch translation, for the Belgian and Dutch market.
Photo by Magda Bojęś
The publisher kept building the Book Island list by handpicking award-winning picture books from around the world and having them translated into English by professional literary translators.
In 2016, she was proud to receive the Bologna Prize for Best Children's Publisher of Oceania. In the same year, Book Island moved with her and her family to the other side of the world where they found a new home in Bristol, UK.
Book Island has now published more than twenty titles from around the world which are available in over thirty countries.
Greet has a clear vision for the books Book Island publishes: ‘As a publisher I am not afraid to publish books that challenge the reader, provoke emotion and push the boundaries of what is a picture book. It is not my role to be a gatekeeper, on the contrary, I want to make picture books accessible for our readers — young and old — to explore and assess themselves whether our stories are suitable for them.
She feels very strongly about the brick-and-mortar bookshops and libraries and encourages her followers to support them instead of the online giants.
In 2018 Book Island was the only – and perhaps also the last – UK picture book publisher to receive a grant from Creative Europe. It will allow Book Island to publish three highly sophisticated picture books from Europe in English translation and promote and distribute them worldwide.
In September 2019 Book Island launched its new website, allowing visitors to purchase high-quality giclée prints of illustrations from a selection of their picture books. With this approach Greet wants to make beautiful artwork from picture books available as wall art, allowing more people to enjoy the mesmerising illustrations by their award-winning illustrators from around the world.
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