It's never too late to go young: 40 years after its founding, scholarly Temple University Press in Philadelphia is broadening its children's book publishing. The press, which publishes between 50 and 60 new titles a year, will release two kids' books at the end of September: Marc Bekoff's Animals at Play: Rules of the Game, illustrated by Michael J. DiMotta, and Katy Friedland and Marla K. Shoemaker's A Is for Art Museum.
Although some university presses have long published children's titles, most notably Oxford, it's still far from typical for a university press to mix academic and kids' books. Temple executive editor Micah Kleit, who edited the press's first children's title three years ago (Susan Korman's primer P Is for Philadelphia), argues that university presses need to be inclusive. “If the job of university presses is to reproduce knowledge and to reach out to our constituency,” he says, “then it makes sense. The people of Philadelphia matter a lot to the university and the press. It goes hand-in-hand with how we developed.”
Of course, the success of that initial title, which embodied Temple founder Russell Conwell's “Acres of Diamonds” speech about looking for the riches of life in one's own backyard, hasn't hurt Kleit's argument that children's books should be part of the press's list. P Is for Philadelphia was illustrated by seventh graders in the Philadelphia public schools and was launched on Read Across America Day, which Philadelphia mayor John Street also proclaimed P Is for Philadephia Day. The book received extensive local media coverage and was distributed free to schools, bookstores and libraries in the Delaware Valley.
Going forward, many of Temple's children's books will fit into its regional publishing program. In addition, Temple plans to partner as much as it can with local institutions as it did for A Is for Art Museum, which was coproduced by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Illustrations from the book are taken from the museum's collection; for example, “B Is for Bridge” is more specifically a Japanese footbridge painted by Monet, and “D Is for Dancer” is a Degas dancer.
“For us to publish a children's book it needs to dovetail strongly with the strengths of our list,” says Kleit, who notes that Animals at Play fits with the press's existing titles on animals and culture. The book, which carries a recommendation from Jane Goodall, marks the launch of a new series edited by Bekoff, called Animals and Ethics.