By Olivia Snaije
This year the beloved independent children’s book publisher, l’école des loisirs, is celebrating its 50th birthday. An exhibition of 70 illustrations, of which 70% are original works opened at the Paris Salon du Livre today.
A true feast for the eyes, the brightly colored illustrations, hung on a black background with carpeting in various colors stamped with animal feet stencils, are divided into four themes: adventure, love, fear and impertinence. The images on the theme of fear are in a darkened room lit with black light where children battle nightmares, crocodiles, lions or play with Sendak’s monsters.
L’école des loisirs was created in 1965, and grew out of an academic publisher that was founded in 1922. Two years later the company began to publish children’s books in translation by authors such as Maurice Sendak, Tomi Ungerer, Arnold Lobel, Leo Lionni, Peter Spier, Mitsumasa Anno, and Iela and Enzo Mari.
In the 1970s, l’école des loisirs began to build a stable of young illustrators and authors including Yvan Pommaux, Philippe Dumas and Claude Boujon who became the publisher’s “pillars.”
The stable continued to grow, with authors such as the Lecaye family (Grégoire Solotareff, Nadja and Olga Lecaye), Claude Ponti, and Philippe Corentin. YA novels were developed, introducing young readers to works by Susie Morgenstern, Brigitte Smadja, Agnès Desarthe or Marie Desplechin.
Since then, l’école des loisirs has managed to continue building its community of authors — for the most part faithful to its publisher — and it has remained independent. In 2013 Louis Delas, former CEO of Casterman BD and Jeunesse, but also the son of the l’école des loisirs’ general director, Jean Delas, took over from his father. He has since launched a BD/comics imprint called Rue de Sèvres. l’école des loisirs has a backlist of 6,000 titles of which 5,000 or so are original works. It publishes approximately 250 books a year.
The following are a selection of images being exhibited by l’école des loisirs at the Salon du Livre: