Meet Mark Lemon, the Founder & Author of independent Children’s Book publishers, Lemon Drop Books. Award winning Children’s Book Publishers, no less! Disillusioned with the lack of diversity in Children’s books, Mark Lemon (with two mixed-race children of his own) decided to create a series of exciting story books with non-white characters. With thrilling tales and beautiful adventures, the Otis & Thea Lemon series is fast becoming a firm favourite in family households.
We talk to Mark about some exciting collaborations, a cause close to his heart and exceptionally important campaigns, – including #diversechildrensbooksuk. Plus, what happened when Mark had a previous role in Silver service?!
CB: Please introduce yourself and your concept.
ML: My name is Mark Lemon. I am the Founder & Author at independent children’s book publishers, Lemon Drop Books.
CB: Brand names are a really important first impression of what you’re about, so how did you come up with your online alias/brand name?
ML: With a name like Mark Lemon, we had to fit Lemon in somewhere! Lemon Drop Books seemed to have a memorable ring to it.
CB: Where did it all begin? What inspired you to start up your concept?
ML: I have always enjoyed writing, but never thought to do it as a career. After our first child was born, I had the idea of writing Otis’ very own adventures. We quickly noticed a lack of children’s books featuring non-white protagonists. I wanted to find books that the kids could look at and relate to and imagine themselves being a part of. So, in an effort to diversify children’s literature, I created my own.
CB: What is your brand ethos?
ML: Our brand ethos is to create beautiful and diverse children’s books, which all children can enjoy across the world.
CB: On a day-to-day basis, what or who inspires you?
ML: On a day-to-day basis my kids inspire me. Creating Lemon Drop Books was for them, building a legacy for their futures. I am inspired by people who are brave enough to go it alone, grabbing their careers by both hands. Don’t get me wrong it’s tough, but the great thing about Instagram is the supportive network that shouts from the social sidelines, cheering you on! My main inspiration is my family.
CB: Can you tell us about or give us a sneaky peak of something new that’s coming up?
ML: Look out for my collaboration with the brilliant parent merch Mama, Mother Like No Other coming very soon. Using our Dad slogan, ‘I Dad It My Way’ we are releasing a t-shirt for the lead up to Fathers Day. From every t-shirt sold we will donate the proceeds to the amazing bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish. This is a charity close to my heart due to losing my father suddenly at the age of 12. Please keep your eyes peeled and join us to support this great cause.
We’re hoping to soon kick off our campaign promoting diverse children’s books across the UK. Across the UK there is a greater need for diversity in children’s literature in the mainstream. Over the previous two years a good friend of ours, Marley Dias, has been promoting her 1000 Black Girl Books campaign across America; meeting Barack & Michelle Obama at the Whitehouse and carrying out interviews on all major television stations. I would like to bring a similar campaign to the UK #diversechildrensbooksuk. We will be asking authors, publishers and organisations across the country to donate to us their diverse children’s books. Once we’ve received the donated books, we will then distribute to a large number of schools, filling that gap in the school Libraries.
CB: Anything you wish you’d known before you became a parent / best piece of parenting advice?
ML: SLEEP! Sleep as much as you can pre child. More importantly, just relax and enjoy the early years.
CB: Parenting-essentials, we know there are more than a few! But what is the one thing you can’t leave the house without? What is your most used piece of parenting/child paraphernalia?
ML: Snacks. ALWAYS make sure you have some form of food to plug the shopping aisle or bus meltdown! Children get hangry just as much as adults, if not more.
CB: Along the same vein as above, what is your ultimate Papa-Essential? What is your go-to item that you just can’t live without?
ML: It would have to be my phone.
CB: What gives you ‘Dad-Guilt’? And how do you get round it?
ML: Using my phone too much is probably my main ‘Dad-Guilt’. I’m sure this is happening across the parenting land, but I do need to remind myself to put my phone down and listen to the children. My wife is very good at letting me know when to STOP.
CB: Me-time is super important too, what do you like to do to zone-out?
ML: Just sitting down and listening to music is usually a good zone-out for me. Basically, anything that allows me to shut off my brain. My mind is constantly trying to think of new ways to get our books out there.
CB: Which are your go-to brands/shops?
ML: I love brands like AllSaints, Reiss and for a long time my footwear only consisted of Nike Air Max 1’s (still does). I’ve got to shout out the brilliant Parent Apparel ladies for their Dad-merch. My most comfortable chill out jumper has to be my ‘Breaking Dad’ sweat – go check them out!
CB: What current wardrobe item is your all-time favourite and why?
ML: It would have to be the AllSaints denim shirts. The fit is really comfortable and they age well.
CB: Choose 3 words to describe yesterday.
ML: Holidays, sunshine, kids!
CB: Tell us something about you that might surprise people.
ML: I worked at Claridge’s Hotel in London as a silver service waiter. At the end of a shift I was taking dirty plates and cutlery down to the basement. I was waiting for the service lift when a lady wearing sunglasses and a very large minder came out of the lift. It was Mariah Carey and her bodyguard. “Good evening.” she said. I think I mumbled something like, “Yes it is.” It was good fun working at Claridge’s.
CB: Whats the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
ML: I would have to say that one of the kindest things that someone has done for me is to support me through a very difficult time when I was a teenager. Throughout your life you meet people that keep you on the right course, offering amazing support. The kindest acts are generally the selfless shows of support.
CB: Recommend a book, film or album from the past year.
ML: I discovered the Robert Glasper Experiment last summer. He’s a brilliant musician with a great style.
CB: What can you see out of your closest window / what is your current view?
ML: I can see a main road. I’m currently in a café drinking coffee. Yep, I’m one of those guys on his laptop with his headphones on.
CB: Other than with your family & friends, where would you most like to be this weekend and why?
ML: Probably sat on a sunny beach in Jamaica, drinking a bottle of red stripe.
Loved chatting with you Mark! Really hope to catch you at an event sometime soon! Wishing you lots of luck for your impending busy ventures!
Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for those incredibly important causes and campaigns that Mark has highlighted. You can follow Mark on Instagram: @LemonDropBooks, Facebook and via his website: Lemon Drop Books; where you can also find the wonderful Otis & Thea Lemon books for purchase too.