Launched in 1996, Scholastic's Dear America series introduced history through the diaries of fictional girls living in various eras. It was a format that resonated with middle-grade readers: the 35 titles pub-lished between that year and 2004 reached an in-print tally of 14 million copies. In September, the publisher will bring back this paper-over-board series with an updated design. The relaunch, which encompasses previously unpublished titles as well as reissues, will be supported by a $250,000 marketing campaign.
"In-house, I'd say Dear America has been one ofour favorite series," says Suzanne Murphy, v-p and group publisher, Scholastictrade. "And the authors who wrote the original Dear America Books wereclamoring to see us relaunch the series, since they get so many letters-as dowe-from teachers, booksellers, and kids who find the books on shelves, askingfor more. The groundswell of support led us to relaunch the series, with a newlook for today's readers." The covers of the revamped Dear America titles willfeature new art, gold foil elements, and (for the first time) author credits.
One of the four inaugural releases is The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson,author of Newbery Honor book Hattie BigSky; a 50,000-copy first printing is on order for this new title centeringon a 13-year-old living in 1941 Seattle on theeve of the U.S.'sentrance into WWII. Also due in September are two reissues: Newbery Honorauthor Kathryn Lasky's A Journey to theNew World, one of the original Dear America launch titles; and The Winter of Red Snow by KristianaGregory. A third reissue, Ellen Emerson White's Voyage on the Great Titanic, will follow in November.
Marketing plans for the relaunch include a videointerview with Larson and a Dear America video book trailer, consumer print andonline marketing, a fan fiction contest, bookmarks, retail floor displays, andpromotion to mother-daughter book clubs. The publisher is also creating twointeractive Dear America Web sites, one designed for readers and one forteachers, which contain links to historical materials provided by the Libraryof Congress. Features of the readers' site include interactive scrapbooks foreach character, a downloadable private diary, message boards, book excerpts andauthor interviews, quizzes, and games.
"These multi-platform Web sites are great waysto extend the book experience," says Murphy. "We are excited about ourpartnership with the Library of Congress, and about building an online communityof Dear America fans."
Among the six additions to the series scheduledfor 2011 is Like the Willow Tree, anew book by Lois Lowry; and Cannons atDawn, Gregory's sequel to Winter ofRed Snow. Also due are reissues by Patricia McKissack, Karen Hesse, andMary Pope Osborne.
"The response from authors has been amazing,"Murphy notes. "Seeing history through the diaries of girls seems to be compellingto everyone. This is a great format that deserves to be back."