When Trinity University Press ventured into the children’s book market with its ArteKids series in 2011, we’d never published anything for children before.
The press, the San Antonio Museum of Art, and the San Antonio Public Library Foundation formed a creative partnership with the aim of publishing a single board book, featuring artwork from the museum’s extensive collection and supporting the library foundation’s Born to Read Program, which delivers a book to every newborn in San Antonio each year.
That book was 1, 2, 3, Sí!, a bilingual counting book in English and Spanish—one guitar, dos ojos, three babies, cuatro amigos, a collection of unruly toucans, and so on, all paired with delightful, vibrant images and child-friendly questions inviting readers to engage with the art.
The book was so successful—and, incidentally, a lot of fun to publish—that the partnership decided to do two more books. And then two more.
With the essential collaboration of Kia Dorman, the museum’s assistant registrar, and Madeleine Budnick—who serves as the books’ series editor and designer, and who has an uncanny ability to present objects, images, and concepts in irresistible ways to the zero-to-three crowd—we’ve wrestled with art that looked fabulous in the museum’s galleries and not so great, tiny, on the page. And other art that looked just as terrific on the page as it did large and in person. Some art succeeded better featured in full and other art worked better as a detail.
We’ve been able to include art from all over the world, created thousands of years ago, or in the past century, or just last year: the spiral on a Egyptian flask, a zebra sculpture, wooden bears, dog and mouse masks, a pyramid of folk art creatures, the stars on a lotería board, a jaguar hiding in a Huichol yarn mosaic, fierce (but not too fierce) tigers on a Korean screen. The books showcase artwork by Frank Stella and Philip Guston, and by Faith Ringgold and Dale Chihuly, Carmen Lomas Garza, René Magritte, Joey Fauerso, and so many others, both named and unnamed.
Today there are five bilingual board books in the ArteKids series, focusing on numbers, colors, shapes, animals, and the concept of black and white. Like 1, 2, 3, Sí, the others—Colores Everywhere!, Hello, Círculos!, Animal Amigos!, and Black & Blanco!—feature identifying terms for shapes, colors, numbers, patterns, and animals, along with inviting questions (Do you like to eat cake? ¡Claro que sí! Do these spirals make you dizzy? Can your fingers climb these tall stairs? Is it time for a little nap?) that help babies and young children—and their families—encounter artwork in their very own homes or while they’re on the go.