Soon after marking its fifth anniversary, Roaring Brook Press has more news to report. The house, a division of Macmillan, is gearing up to welcome a new executive editor, Nancy Mercado, on December 3. Deirdre Langeland came on board last March to head up the Flash Point nonfiction imprint, which debuts in the spring. And since Macmillan U.K. recently acquired Kingfisher from Houghton Mifflin, Roaring Brook publisher Simon Boughton has taken on responsibility for Kingfisher’s U.S. operations.
Most recently a senior editor at Dial Books for Young readers, Mercado has edited such well-received titles as Paul Acampora’s Defining Dulcie, Kevin Sherry’s I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean and Emma Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis. Mercado says she has admired Roaring Brook’s publishing philosophy since the house’s inception. “The company has a very personal approach to publishing and to me that is very important,” she says. “I like Roaring Book’s entrepreneurial spirit, willingness to take risks and individualistic attention to books and authors. I am excited about continuing in this tradition and adding more titles to the list.”
Mercado expects to continue to focus on the genres that she feels most passionate about: middle grade and young adult fiction, especially novels she describes as “realistic books with a hopeful quality.” She says that as she packed up her office at Dial and deliberated about which books to bring with her to Roaring Brook, she had a hard time parting with any. “I feel that the books I’ve edited are the clutch-to-your-heart, can’t-live-without-it kind of books, books that withstand the test of time,” she notes. “That’s the kind of book I want to keep doing at Roaring Brook.”
The goal of the new Flash Point imprint is “to publish high quality nonfiction for middle graders and young adults that speaks directly to kids,” says Langeland, formerly an editor at Kingfisher. “We are creating books with innovative concepts and strong content that are well designed for the trade market, books that kids will pick up themselves in a store.”
The name of the imprint—in chemistry a flash point is the temperature at which a liquid generates sufficient vapor to ignite—is telling, the editor explains: “It’s a strong analogy for the way learning happens. We go through life gathering information, and if we’re lucky we have moments when all this information congeals and there is a sudden burst of understanding. We want to create books that lead kids to these bursts of understanding, these flash points.”
Flash Point’s inaugural list exemplifies the wide range of topics the imprint will encompass. Included are two KidChat paperbacks by Bret Nicholaus and Paul Lowrie that compile facts and questions to spark conversations; Catherine Brighton’s picture-book biography, Keep Your Eye on the Kid: The Early Years of Buster Keaton; Christo and Jeanne-Claude: Through the Gates and Beyond by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, a biography of these contemporary artists; and the first books in a series that promises to deliver “history with the good bits put back in”: King George: What Was His Problem?: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the American Revolution and Two Miserable Presidents: Everything Your Schoolbooks Didn’t Tell You About the Civil War both by Steve Sheinkin, illustrated by Tim Robinson.
Langeland expects that Flash Point will eventually publish 15 to 20 books each year, the same title count Boughton anticipates that Mercado will acquire annually. He views the creation of Flash Point as “a chance for us to grow in a new area. Since we haven’t published a great deal of nonfiction in the past, this is an opportunity for us to expand the list without treading on our own feet.” The arrival of Mercado will also enable Roaring Brook to, in Boughton’s words, “build our middle grade and younger YA fiction list. Nancy’s strength in these areas will help us expand our reach.”
On the subject of his new responsibility for Kingfisher’s U.S. division, Boughton emphasizes that, although the Macmillan U.S. sales force will now sell both the Roaring Brook and Kingfisher lists in this country, Kingfisher will remain an entirely separate operation, with what he terms “some overlap in the marketing area only.” He adds, “We hope to grow Kingfisher U.S.’s business, and down the road this might include publishing books in this country, but for the present the Kingfisher books will still originate in the U.K.”