ZOOBEAN – picturebooks by mail!

Ever wish you could receive stunning picturebooks in the mail each month for yourself or you a loved one? Zoobean is a service that not only offers picturebooks by mail, but you can also personalize subscriptions by age, gender, and interests. Created by fellow Syracuse University alumn, Felix Brandon Lloyd and his wife Jordan Bookey, Zoobean is the most exciting addition to picturebooks for me since Reading Rainbow! Welcome to the blog, Zoobean!

photoHow would you describe Zoobean?

Zoobean is the lovechild of your fave indie bookstore and trusted children’s librarian.”  Well, we stole that description from a recent review on Red Tricycle, but it’s perfect, so it’s worth quoting!  Our more formal description is that we are a discovery and personalization service that delights families with products curated just for them, beginning with kids’ books.  

I think a subscription based book club is a great idea! When I was a kid—actually, even now, I still love receiving things in the mail. How did you come up with the idea of Zoobean, and how is it different from similar services?

Our son received the children’s book “All the World,” in the mail as a gift from a friend.  He was so excited to open his gift, and when we read the story, he kept saying, “Me, me, me!” about the little boy.  The family in All the World happens to look like our family, and that was a powerful moment for us.  But, more importantly, it’s simply a great story.  We thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to delight families with relevant, beautiful books that would engage their kids and inspire an even deeper love of reading. 

At Zoobean, we have curators (all parents who also happen to be children’s librarians or reading specialists) who handpick the books we have in our catalog.  We are quite deliberate with our featured book selections, and we also offer a personalized subscription.  Our highly tagged catalog of thousands of books gives us the ability to curate personalized subscriptions for families.  So, you tell us about your child and what you’d like for them to read (characters’ backgrounds, topics, genres, etc.), and we curate a unique subscription for you.  What’s more?  We offer reading guides for each and every book that is a part of a featured or personalized subscription.

Both of you are super educators. Can you talk a little about the educational component that is built into Zoobean and why that is important to you?

Yes, we met as teachers and Felix was named Washington, DC’s Teacher of the Year!  (Jordan ran education outreach for Google). At its core, Zoobean is inspiring a love of reading in kids by ensuring that all kids (and families) can see themselves and their situations in what they are reading.  As teachers, we understood the importance and power of building lifelong readers.  It’s really as parents that this became even more personal.  Through our personalized curation and highly developed reading guides (the books’ authors rave about them), we help excite kids and give parents the tools to engage even deeper with the literature in their homes.

Diversity is a huge issue in children’s publishing today. According to the the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (http://ccblogc.blogspot.fr/2013/07/i-see-white-people.html) there have been 1183 books published so far in 2013 about human beings, 124 of those books feature people of color. Do Zoobean curators try to create lists that reflect this issue?

One of our earliest customers, enjoying our very first featured book!

At Zoobean, we have three core values: love, inclusion, and remarkability. For us, that means we want to be sure that all of our books are high caliber, and that we do our very best to ensure that all families and kids are able to see themselves in the books we include in our catalog and featured selections.  More importantly, our catalog can serve as a discovery platform.  We’re one of the few places where a parent can go and search specifically by character’s background, including gender, ethnicity, family type, and religion.

Have you reached out to the children’s book community at large (publishers, authors, illustrators, librarians, etc.)? How have they received Zoobean?

We are getting there!  The majority of our curators are in fact librarians, so they have helped plug us into much of the library community.  Generally, librarians are big fans of ours.  Authors and illustrators, especially those with smaller distribution love our platform and often try to get their books listed in our catalog. 

What are your plans for Zoobean’s future?

We intend to extend our catalog, and help families by curating more than books.  We are currently considering apps, along with other markets for which it has become challenging for parents to discover the best products for their children.  One day, we hope that a parent (or aunt, family friend, etc.) sees our Zoobean logo and views it as a trusted seal that represents quality and our core values of love, inclusion, and remarkability.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Zoobean. I am so looking forward to watching you grow and ordering subscriptions for all the young readers in my life!