With this issue, we launch a regular column of news from Canadian children's book publishers, written by PW's Canadian correspondent.
Tundra Books Under New Management
In a deal that saw two of Canada’s oldest publishing houses absorbed into Canada’s largest multinational, Tundra Books is now wholly owned by Random House of Canada.
One of Canada’s first children’s publishers, Tundra was founded in 1967 by May Cutler, who sold it in 1998 to the venerable McClelland & Stewart, now more than 100 years old. In 2000, M&S owner Avie Bennett sold 25% of his company to Random House of Canada. He donated the other 75% to the University of Toronto, maintaining M&S’s Canadian ownership and eligibility for government grants for Canadian publishers.
Since that time, Random House has provided an increasing number of services to M&S, including sales, production, distribution, accounting and human resources, to M&S, until in January, with M&S struggling financially, Random House stepped in to take over entirely. Tundra was part of the package.
Tundra managing director Alison Morgan, who describes the transition as fairly gentle, says "there is lots of support" from Random House for the things her company is doing. According to Morgan, Tundra’s editorial direction will stay on course and no staff changes were required. In fact, Tundra will have a prominent place at Random House Canada as its primary children’s imprint. "They do have a YA program, which isn’t huge so there’s a teeny bit of overlap there," Morgan says, "but they don’t have picture books and middle grade at all, so that’s quite exciting for us." And she adds that there are many advantages to the new arrangement. "It brings us closer to people we’ve been working with at arms-length for a while. And there’s that whole gang of people there doing traditional marketing and online marketing... and it will give us access to that in a much more direct way, so that’s really exciting."
Penguin Group Canada Launches Razorbill
Already an established YA brand in the U.S. and recently launched in the U.K., Razorbill now has a home in Canada as a Penguin imprint.
The Canadian version has its own Web site, razorbill.ca, and will feature Canadian authors. Since its official launch on January 16, Razorbill has published a new book by Hiromi Goto, Darkest Light, and a paperback edition of Cathy Ostlere’s novel Karma. The first book in Charles de Lint’s Wildlings series, called Under My Skin, will be out this month.
Lynne Missen, publishing director for Penguin Canada’s children’s and YA program, says, "We want the brand, both the imprint and Razorbill.ca, to create a natural hub for the community and conversations that go on for young adult fiction."
Illustrated E-books' Time Has Come, Says Kids Can Press
A turtle and a high-strung squirrel may seem like unlikely trailblazers, but Kids Can Press says that sales of Franklin and Scaredy Squirrel demonstrate that illustrated e-books are now viable and highly marketable.
"We’re very excited about the fact that illustrated kids’ books are now an option," says Lisa Charters, Kids Can’s new v-p of brands, new media and new channel revenue. "The technology has caught up, and six months ago that wasn’t the case," she said, mentioning the Kobo Vox, the Kindle Fire and iPads. Charters adds that the "extremely encouraging" early sales of Franklin e-books showed Kids Can that read-along audio was an essential feature, so they added it to all of the 29 Franklin books that are now in the market. Each word is highlighted as it is read aloud.
Working with Open Road Media and Apple, Kids Can has also created two Scaredy Squirrel illustrated e-books with a level of interactivity that Charters says she hasn’t seen before in an e-pub format. That means, she says, that "we’re not relegated to the app world, which is more than a half million or more apps in the storefront. It’s a crowded space." Plus,” she adds, "the building of apps is more expensive because you are doing each one separately. We’re hoping that the world of e-books as opposed to app e-books allows us to price to the market."
Kids Can is planning to release about 20 more illustrated e-books, which will be chosen from various series, which she says e-retailers prefer over single titles.
'Throwing The Book' at Them
Watching Canadian politicians’ rowdy arguments over Canada’s withdrawal from the Kyoto climate change accord last December, Orca Book Publishers’ Andrew Wooldridge said that he thought the Opposition should have thrown some of his educational books across the aisle at the government. So he decided to do it himself. In January he sent copies of 2007 Nobel Peace Prize-winner Andrew Weaver’s primer on climate change, Generation Us (April 2011), to all 308 members of Parliament.
"This book is part of our rapid read series, which are the books for reluctant adult readers.," Wooldridge told PW. "This is 100 pages of reasonably accessible information on what global warming is and what our choices are in dealing with it. I just had a thought that it wouldn’t hurt for our MPs to read it."
Based on the appreciative responses from a few MPs, including one from a government minister, as well as coverage in the media and on environmental Web sites, Wooldridge says he’s thinking of doing something similar with Nowhere Else on Earth, a book by Caitlyn Vernon on the Great Bear Rainforest, which is currently threatened by a proposed pipeline. Nowhere Else on Earth "is a book for kids about how to stand up for what you believe in and how to make a difference," Wooldridge notes.