“Releasing simultaneously" has taken on a new meaning for Sourcebooks when it comes to publishing The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty, illustrated by Thomas Docherty, a British husband-and-wife team. While the Chicago company is publishing the picture book in both print and electronic formats under its Jabberwocky imprint, it is also releasing The Snatchabook in the U.S. on the same day that Scholastic U.K. is releasing it under its Alison Green imprint.
The October 1 release date by the two companies is no coincidence: for the past six months, Sourcebooks has collaborated with Scholastic U.K. in producing The Snatchabook. This is the first time, Sourcebooks representatives said, that the company has collaborated with another on such a large scale – and in such a short time frame.
The Snatchabook tells of a small creature that steals books at night from all the denizens of the forest; when confronted by a rabbit named Eliza, the Snatchabook confesses that he takes books from others because he doesn’t have anyone to read to him, the way the other baby animals do. Eliza pledges to help him if he returns the books he has pilfered.
Quick on the Draw
The road to publication in the U.S. for The Snatchabook has been short and sweet. Steve Geck, Sourcebooks Jabberwocky editorial manager, told PW that he first heard of The Snatchabook at the 2012 Frankfurt Book Fair during a meeting with Scholastic U.K.’s rights director. Upon receiving a PDF of the book’s interior in early January, Geck sought out a colleague and read the book aloud. “I had to read it aloud to the end,” he explained, spontaneously reciting passages from it from memory. “It’s about the comfort of reading and the power of books.”
Geck says he and his colleagues “fell in love with” The Snatchabook and immediately made an offer to the Dochertys’ agent, Penny Holroyde of the Caroline Sheldon Literary Agency in London. Sourcebooks had seen the fully developed materials at an early enough stage, and Scholastic U.K. was not too far along in its own production process, so the two publishers could coordinate their first print runs. Geck said it was “remarkably easy” working with Scholastic U.K. to prepare the book for simultaneous publication. The artwork, he explained, stayed “exactly the same,” and there were just a few tweaks made to the original text to accommodate American readers.
“There were a few Britishisms here and there,” Geck recalled. “The original text had the Snatchabook returning all the books he’d ‘nicked.’ That isn’t a word American children say.”
There was only one “tricky” revision between the original and the Sourcebooks edition, Geck noted: British readers would read “pane” and “again” as a rhyme, but not so American readers. Sourcebooks worked closely with the author (who had final approval) to revise that particular stanza so that those two lines rhymed for an American reader. The Sourcebooks edition reads, “The little owls, on Mommy’s lap,/ were quite surprised to hear a tap/ against their window glass./ Tap, tap! The noise came really fast.”
The Snatchabook is Helen Docherty’s first picture book. She is also the co-author, with her husband, of Ruby Nettleship and the Ice Lolly Adventure. Thomas Docherty is the author and illustrator of several picture books that were published in the U.K. by Templar and in the U.S. by Candlewick: Little Boat, To the Beach, Big Scary Monster, and Wash-a-Bye Bear. He also illustrated Snorgh and the Sailor by Will Buckingham.
Pre-publication, bookseller response in the U.S. has been positive. Leslie Reinerof Inkwood Books in Tampa, Fla., said, “I nominate The Snatchabook as the star/poster child of a new ‘Read to Your Child’ campaign. It’s badly needed, in light of dropping reading levels and the difficulty of gaining ground lost before children even enter school.”
Chris Livingston, the owner of The Book Shelf in Winona, Minn., recently read the book to audiences during a recent story hour at the store. “Every kid liked it and the adults liked it too,” he said. Livingston suggested to his customers via Facebook that they come into the store, examine the galley copy he received from Sourcebooks, and pre-order copies from him; so far, he’s received nine pre-orders for The Snatchabook and expects to order 20 copies, if not more, which he says is a large initial order for the store. “People adore books about books,” he said. “I think this will be one of our staff picks for a long time.”
And Kari Holmes Rojas of The Cornerstone Cottage in Hampton, Iowa, is submitting a nomination in rhyme of The Snatchabook for the ABA’s October IndieNext list: “For everyone who’s ever read/ A book when heading off to bed,/ The Snatchabook is one for you,/ I know you’ll love it through and through!”
The first print run for The Snatchabook, which was heavily promoted at this year’s BEA and ALA shows, has been upped to 75,000 copies due to strong pre-orders, said Derry Wilkens, children’s and YA publicity manager at Sourcebooks. She declined to disclose the figure for the initial print run, but says that it was considerably lower.
Geck pointed out that The Snatchabook isn’t just firing up booksellers and publishers in the English-speaking world. Rights have been sold to date in Brazil, Finland, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Sweden, and Thailand.
“It’s not easy to translate a book written in rhyme,” he said, “But [international publishers] took it on and are doing it. This is a testament to The Snatchabook’s universal appeal. The story just resonates.”