“Liberation” reports every week on the latest in children’s books. Today, a focus is on the publisher We don’t count on butter, which presents homoparental families and racialized, transgender, or neuroatypical children.
Simone has a lover: Makeda. She thinks about it all the time and it’s doing her a lot of good. “Maybe falling in love is like seeing stars in broad daylight” said the little girl to herself. But Simone and Makéda both like to command, so it can sparkle when they play. And when they argue, Simone feels like an arrow in the heart. She discovers that love isn’t easy every day.
The two little girls are the heroines of Simone’s lover, an album written by Elsa Kedadouche and illustrated by Amélie-Anne Calmo, just released by On ne compte pas pour du beurre. This very young publishing house, founded at the end of 2020, specializes in stories with characters that are mostly absent from children’s literature: homoparent families, transgender children, neuroatypical… In addition, Simone and Makéda are not only in love, but also black . But these different qualities are never emphasized in the stories. A fundamental approach, explains Caroline Fournier, co-founder of We don’t count for butter.
Why did you start this publishing company?
It started with a very personal need. We are two mothers of a little girl and quickly realized that most children’s albums are very heteronormative. We just wanted to read the occasional simple story that turns out to be two mothers.
We built a first somewhat experimental thing to see if it worked and we found that it met a need beyond our family. That it was even an overt social need. Little by little we thought that there is also something to do for all those families and children who are underrepresented in children’s literature: LGBTQIA+, neuroatypical, disabled, racialized children…
Why did you choose to incorporate gay parenting or trans identity into your stories without making them the main theme?
When my daughter was little and started reading a story that re-enlightened her about the family pattern of two mothers, it was totally unconventional. It didn’t meet her need to be told a good story she could relate to. make it a question [centrale, ndlr]to compare yourself to a norm. But we want to multiply representations and ways of life.
The world of children’s literature has developed rapidly in recent years and is making more and more room for new depictions. Was it really necessary to start your own publishing company?
It’s true that things have changed, especially with gender equality and gender stereotypes, that’s great and that’s good. But when I read stories to my daughter, I quickly found myself with a few titles, like 2-3. That is not enough. We feel an urgency to make it much more bloated. It’s like we’re entering pretty virgin territory, which is crazy.
They also work in schools.
We intervene in different schools, more in the east of France, to work either on the question of representation or, for the little ones, on questions of ecology and philosophy. The little ones have no prejudices, so the more we offer them multiple stories, the more they grow with openness and acceptance of others.
We had two or three reactions [négatives], especially in one school where a mother threatened to drop her daughter, it was quite violent. But history is being made without these people because I have no doubts about the legitimacy of what we are doing.
Are you all volunteers?
So it’s an association, everyone in the office works on a voluntary basis. On the other hand, as a publisher, we remunerate and commission all authors and illustrators.
In addition, choose your writers, authors and illustrators, illustrators according to your lineage.
This diversity, which we defend in our titles, we also defend in our team. We want it to be those affected who express themselves and take up the stories so that it happens through their eyes. And we like to have sensitive readers: we let the people affected read the stories to see how they get on with them. Leo up there about a neuroatypical child, was written by a young psychomotorist who is more or less concerned with the question herself. Nonetheless, it was reread by children or those directly affected. It’s good for us to get feedback.