Catholic Publisher Ventures Down New Path

Ignatius Press and Magnificat Co-publish Children's Books

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By Traci Osuna

SAN FRANCISCO, California, DEC. 22, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Ignatius Press, known for publishing classic and modern theology, is venturing down a new path in the publishing world: children's books. 

A new line of children books, jointly published by Ignatius Press and France's Magnificat, debuted in October. The books, beautifully written and produced in France, are geared toward younger children, ages 2 to 10 years old, says Anthony Ryan, marketing director of Ignatius Press.

"We've done books for young people, say 9 to 15 years old, but we haven't done much for this younger age group." Ryan attributes this disparity in the Catholic youth market to the lack of quality books for this age group. "They're very hard to do," he explains. "[Traditionally,] they're very expensive [to produce] and you have to find the right artists and good writers. It's a whole genre of Catholic writing that we just haven't had the means or the people to do it." Until now, that is.

For 32 years, Ignatius Press has been one of the largest American publishers of Catholic reading and viewing materials. Founded by Father Joseph Fessio in 1978, the publishing house, headquartered in San Francisco, has been a source of powerful, inspirational, and informational books for its audiences throughout the world. It is only fairly recently, however, after being approached by French publisher, Magnificat, that Ignatius Press decided to venture into the children's genre.

Magnificat, the publisher of the well-known worship aid and religious books, has been working on a line of children's books for several years. The company approached Ignatius Press about the possibility of co-publishing the new line. "Here comes Magnificat," explains, Ryan. "They've already got the books done: the art work…the stories…so frankly, we haven't really done anything," he chuckles. "Of course, we were interested because we know everything they do is beautifully produced and beautiful looking," he says. "Good, solid, Catholic stuff."

Father Fessio agrees and is proud of the new line of books that Ignatius is presenting. "We love these books because they fit in perfectly with the standards we've set for all our books: beautiful art and typography; fidelity to Catholic teaching and tradition."

The two publishers have had a professional relationship for a while. Ryan says that while Magnificat distributes their material to their own subscribers, Ignatius Press has basically been their distributor to the rest of the Catholic market-bookstores, schools, on-line marketing-for nearly five years. "It's kind of a win-win deal," he says. 

Ryan describes how the process of choosing which books to introduce in the United States came about. "They sent us a batch [of books] and we asked, 'Which are your most popular? …What do you recommend?' We went back and forth and we picked out these first eight from those discussions."

Prayers for family, Christmas

Among those first books chosen to launch the line are two board books of prayers: "My First Prayers for My Family" and "My First Prayers for Christmas," for ages two and up. "We're going to do another couple of books in that line [for spring]," says Ryan. "One is going to be 'My First Prayers with Mary' and another, 'My First Bedtime Prayers.'"

They also offer another padded board book titled "The Bible for Little Ones," which provides simple yet beautifully written and illustrated versions of popular bible stories from both the Old and New Testaments. 

Older children will enjoy two new books written in comic book style: "The Adventures of Lupio" tells of a young orphan befriended by St. Francis of Assisi; "The Illustrated Gospel for Children," of course, tells of Jesus' life, death and resurrection. "As we know, comic books appeal to young people," says Ryan. "Lupio is an adventure story that takes place in the Middle Ages. And the Gospel is an adventure story, really." 

"For comic book style, the illustrations are very well done; good art work, very attractive," Ryan explains. "And they're just engaging for young people. We've gotten a lot of good feedback from parents who really like them." Next spring, two more books in this format will be available: "Adventures of Lupio: Volume II" and "The Illustrated Acts of the Apostles."

Also published were two "The Life of a Saint" books, one on "John Mary Vianney, The Holy Cure of Ars," and another on "St. Bernadette, the Little Girl from Lourdes." 

Ryan explains that St. John Vianney was specifically chosen because he is the patron saint of priests. And with the Holy Father declaring last year as the Year for Priests, he says, it was a natural decision. 

"And St. Bernadette is always popular," he says. "Because of her connection with Lourdes and the fact that she was a young girl and Our Lady appeared to her."

Anthony Ryan is very excited about this new venture and the opportunities it holds for both the publishers as well as the children who will undoubtedly be enjoying the books. 

"We think there's [been] kind of a gap out there in Catholic publishing for these kinds of books for children that are…just top quality books," says Ryan. "They're the perfect combination of beautiful illustration, high production values, and good writing and storytelling."

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On the Net:

"My First Prayers For Christmas": http://www.ignatius.com/IProducts/37174/my-first-prayers-for-christmas.aspx

"My First Prayers For My Family": http://www.ignatius.com/IProducts/37381/my-first-prayers-for-my-family.aspx