To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Don Freeman’s classic children’s book Corduroy, Leila envisioned a new Corduroy story written by a public figure. She did some research and discovered that Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis was a fan, so Leila reached out to her about being the author of a 50th anniversary Corduroy book. Corduroy Takes a Bow, the result of that partnership, has been featured on NPR, Entertainment Weekly, People, the View, Essence, The New York Post, and elsewhere. Viola was selected as keynote speaker at both BookExpo America and the American Library Association Annual Conference.
After attending the Women’s March on Washington, Leila created a photo-illustrated book celebrating child activists. She partnered with the Women’s March organizing team to collect photos and photo permissions from hundreds of parents who had brought their children to the event, and she conducted interviews with the children themselves to get their thoughts on democracy, freedom, and equality. Their quotes provided the text for the book. She brought the Children’s Defense Fund on board to receive a portion of the book’s proceeds. The Little Book of Little Activists has been featured in Buzzfeed, USA Today, New York Magazine, and BUST, and Leila has taught workshops using the book at the PEN World Voices Festival, the Brooklyn Book Festival, and elsewhere.
When Leila saw an exhibit of MacArthur Fellow Xu Bing’s work at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, she knew that his “square word calligraphy” was a children’s book waiting to happen. She got in touch with Xu Bing, one of China’s most preeminent contemporary artists, and together they created the concept for this art book of language puzzles. Xu Bing created seventeen new works of calligraphy expressly for this book. Look! What Do You See? has received rave reviews in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, and was selected for the Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts Award.
Leila’s alma mater, the University of Chicago, has since 1987 been home to the world’s largest annual scavenger hunt. Thousands of students and alumni have participated over the past three-plus decades, and “Scav Hunt” is one of the college’s defining features, recognized by The New Yorker, U.S. News and World Report, The New York Times, The Guinness Book of World Records, and elsewhere. Leila conceived of an anthology of personal essays about people’s Scav Hunt experiences, and she edited this book for the University of Chicago Press.
Growing up in Boston, Leila has long been an admirer of the work of landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. After working with illustrator Becca Stadtlander on Look! What Do You See? as well as on the cover for Leila’s own middle-grade novel Once Was a Time, Leila realized that Stadtlander’s classic painting style would be a perfect fit for a picture book biography of Olmsted. Leila then pitched the concept to National Book Award Finalist Elizabeth Partridge, and Partridge’s own connection to Olmsted’s work inspired her to research and write Parks for the People: How Frederick Law Olmsted Designed America, which Leila edited for Viking Children’s Books and will be published in 2022.