This June, the Astra Books for Young Readers imprint will receive a new name: Minerva. The company will mark this change with a June 6 posting Papa’s Magic Water Jug Clock, the first children’s book by American comedian and actor Jesus Trejo, illustrated by Eliza Kinks, as the opening act for the renamed brand. Trejo’s humor stems from his memories of accompanying his father as a landscaper to work on Saturdays as a child, and the bonding and life lessons that came from this experience. A Spanish edition will be published simultaneously (El Barrilito Magico de Papá) and Trejo will support the project with a national tour.
The name morphed from MineditionUS to Minerva and it’s steeped in all kinds of history — both professional and personal — according to the publisher’s managing editor, Maria Russo. “The name of the mining causes some confusion,” she explained. “People aren’t sure how to pronounce it, and from a marketing point of view that’s a challenge. And we realized that the name itself is very much related.” [its founder, international picture book publisher] Michael Neugebauer In fact, it is derived from his initials, “mi” and “ne” are the first letters of Michael and Neugebauer”. In 2020, Astra Publishing House officially launched mining in the US with Russo at the helm, and acquired books for the market The American said, “As Astra Books for Young Readers becomes more established, it seemed like the right moment to start with a new name that was actually born from within Astra but still references history.”
Books already published under Mining’s US imprint will still be Mining titles, including any reprints. Neugebauer, who remains a director of Hong Kong-based Michael Neugebauer Publishing, will continue the European mining programme. In addition, books and picture books will continue to be published on the US Mining Select Front List along with Minerva List under the Astra BFYR umbrella.
Rousseau’s personal connection to the name Minerva comes from researching her family history in Italy, working with the town registrar in the village where her paternal grandparents belonged, and researching birth certificates and other documents. “It turns out my grandparents had a thing called Hercules,” she said, laughing. I learned that the Greek myth of Hercules is important in that part of Italy. She added, “So I went into the rabbit hole of Hercules a little and there was Minerva herself, who was also famous in that region, because they saw her as the protector of Hercules.” “One day, I just realized the first four letters of Minerva are MINE, and it all just kind of clicked.” She noted that Minerva is the goddess of wisdom and is also recognized as a protector of artists and artisans. “She’s everything you want in comic books.”
“We really want to associate the launch of Minerva with Papa’s Magic Water Jug Clock on June 6 because this book is too big for us,” Russo said. She won the book at auction last year in a two-book deal, noting, “I still thank my lucky stars.” And she has nothing but praise for her new author. “He’s funny, he’s a storyteller.” Good stories, of course, because he’s a professional comedian. But he’s also just a human being who is deeply interested in that inherent charisma.” Trejo shared stories with Russo about spending time in the library when his parents were working because they couldn’t afford childcare. “He has a really deep attachment to children’s books and libraries, and we can’t wait to share the story with children”.
Russo added that the book “hits a lot of my favorite places”. “It’s a working class Mexican American family, and it’s obviously in the L.A. area — Jesus grew up in Long Beach and still lives there, and I’ve lived there for 10 years. Two of my kids were born there.” All this gives the book a distinctive point of view that Rousseau is excited about. “L.A. is now a majority-minority district, so this story isn’t about you being an outsider,” she said. “It’s not really about the majority white Anglo culture at all. It’s just a story about Jesus and his father and their loving bond and their family landscaping business.”
Rousseau also praises the painter Tigana Kinks. “She brought a lot of visual humor to go along with Jesus’ humor in the storytelling. We’re just getting started on book two, which centers on Jesus and his mom. Papa’s Magic Water Jug Clock Rousseau was excited for another reason as well. “I’m excited to be publishing in both English and Spanish,” she said. “We are reaching more children, celebrating Mexican American families and encouraging bilingualism. There is a huge demand for picture books in Spanish and I am very happy to be a part of that.”
Moving forward, 10-12 new books are slated to be produced annually under the Minerva name, and the imprint will feature a new logo for author and illustrator Dan Yaccarino who has published two titles with mineditionUS. In addition to Trejo’s book, June will also see Minerva’s publication Luna Ranchera Written by Mexican author Rodrigo Morlessin, illustrated by Argentine artist Mariana Ruiz Johnson, highlights the singing of a mother and daughter to dogs in Nuevo Wild West. Furthermore, readers can expect to see Minerva titles from bestselling authors Emily Jenkins and Gideon Steerer; book from afar Written by Bruce Handy, illustrated by Julie Benbasat, a wordless picture book about a human child and an alien child who meet and exchange books; And Simon Written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Than Nguyen and illustrated by Vietnamese-American illustrator Mini Van, it features a child who must evacuate her home in the path of a wildfire.