Intergalactic Afikoman publishing house is the brainchild of children’s author and educator Brianna Caplan Sayres. (image from Intergalactic Afikoman)
A new Jewish children’s publisher is set to launch in Seattle. The brainchild of children’s author and educator Brianna Caplan Sayres, Intergalactic Afikoman will officially release its first book on Feb. 11.
Sayres is a fourth-generation Seattleite. Her bestselling series Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night has sold hundreds of thousands of copies. Illustrated by Christian Slade and published by Random House, Sayres said the series was inspired by a question from her then-2-year-old (who just celebrated his bar mitzvah) about where dump trucks sleep at night.
Her latest children’s books explore territory far from earth. Night Night, Curiosity (Charlesbridge), illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke, is about a young girl who imagines herself on board the rover Curiosity as it explores the planet Mars. Asteroid Goldberg: Passover in Outer Space, illustrated by Merrill Rainey, is one of the books to be published by Intergalactic Afikoman. In this story, a young Jewish girl gets stuck in outer space for Passover, so she plans a celestial seder.
Sayres is a graduate of Brandeis University in Massachusetts and an award-winning Jewish educator – recipient of the 2016 Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.
“I realized that I had a vision for what I wanted to see in Jewish children’s books,” she said about why she decided to establish the new publishing house. “One day, I sat down at my computer and a mission statement just started pouring out of me.”
Her vision includes publishing genres that are not frequently seen in the Jewish book world, including fantasy. She also wants Intergalactic Afikoman to be known for publishing humorous books – “The word zany often comes to mind,” she said.
However, the primary goal of Intergalactic Afikoman is “readability,” she said. “We are aiming to publish books that children re-read again and again.”
Of the name Intergalactic Afikoman, Sayres said it “really says a lot about our company in that it is a fun and unique name and we are a fun and unique Jewish children’s publisher.”
She added that the word “intergalactic” also “signifies the out-of-this-world quality we are going for with every one of our books – from the text to the illustrations, it all has to be absolutely stellar,” she said.
Aside from Asteroid Goldberg, Intergalactic Afikoman will be releasing Such a Library! A Yiddish Folktale Re-Imagined, written by Jill Ross Nadler and illustrated by Esther van den Berg. “Both of these books exemplify the type of fun, humorous and unique books that Intergalactic Afikoman is aiming to publish and both of them feature illustrations that are absolutely out of this world,” said Sayres.
“Make sure to look closely at Such A Library! A Yiddish Folktale Re-Imagined,” she added. “There are so many wonderful and funny details hidden in Esther’s illustrations.”
In addition to publishing these two books, Sayres said, “Intergalactic Afikoman is planning to do our own small part to help fight hunger by donating 10% of the net profits from each book sold to Northwest Harvest, Washington state’s own statewide hunger relief agency whose vision is ending hunger in Washington.” She explained that this commitment embodies the principle of feeding the hungry that is a fundamental element of the Passover seder.
Sayres, who has deep roots in Seattle, said she is “thrilled that our publishing company is based in Seattle, which is a literary hub of the Pacific Northwest, with many wonderful independent bookstores, an incredible children’s writing community and a thriving literary community.”
She said she is also “very happy to let the world know that, yes, there are Jews in Seattle.”
Sayres intends to publish just a few books a year to start and will be looking for both picture books and middle-grade novels from writers and illustrators from around the world.
“Our goal is to publish the absolutely best quality of Jewish children’s literature, so we are eager to consider all submissions,” she said, pointing out that one of Intergalactic Afikoman’s upcoming books is I Am Hava: A Song’s Story of Love, Hope and Joy by Freda Lewkowicz, who is from Quebec
“Of course, we would be thrilled to publish children’s authors from the wonderful Vancouver writing community,” she said.
Sayres also is looking forward to teaching a session at this year’s Limmud Vancouver, which takes place Feb. 29-March 1 at Congregation Beth Israel. For more on the class and the full LimmudVan schedule, visit limmudvancouver.ca.
For more information on Intergalactic Afikoman, visit intergalacticafikoman.com.
David J. Litvak is a prairie refugee from the North End of Winnipeg who is a freelance writer, former Voice of Peace and Co-op Radio broadcaster and an “accidental publicist.” His articles have been published in the Forward, Globe and Mail and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. His website is cascadiapublicity.com.