A drive to inspire children to learn more about the Earth motivated Gabriella Francine to found Big Blue Marble Books, based in Newport Beach, Calif.
“BBM is about our kids, and teaching them about our planet’s resources and everything that lives on Earth,” says Francine, the company’s executive director, who is making her first foray into book publishing. “It’s about teaching them to care. I’ve always been a lover of nature, and it has so saddened me to see what’s happening to our planet. I want to be part of the solutions we must find.” Francine decided to start her own press after being told by several publishers that her first book, Let’s Make a Difference: We Can Help Orangutans was “not going to work.” She begged to differ.
With the help of editor-in-chief Holly Kondras, who in 1999 founded Terra Haute, Ind.-based women’s sports press Wish Publishing, Francine formed her own nonprofit press and proceeded to build a list of books for ages 5 to 7 about the environment. The list launches with two titles this year and an additional five in 2014. Publishing in October are Francine’s Orangutans, co-authored by Solara Vayanian and illustrated by Phil Velikan, and California Symbols, which highlights the state animal (the grizzly bear), flower (golden poppy), and the state fossil (the sabretooth tiger), among other icons. Kondras says that BBM may create a Symbols series and cover additional states. All of the press’s books so far are designed with both photographs and illustrations, and images of children appear throughout each title.
Each book in the Let’s Make a Difference encourages kids to collect and save coins to donate to environmental causes, and includes a list of suggested groups specific to the theme of each book that welcome donations. Francine has trademarked “Save Coins for Causes” as the brand for all of BBM’s books, and the slogan will appear on each cover. “Gabriella originally wanted to include old-fashioned coin books in each book that kids could use for saving, but then there were concerns about how to mail these in to the organizations. Unfortunately, we had to scrap that idea,” Kondras says.
BBM, which will be distributed by Bookmasters, is committed to publishing books that highlight endangered species and endangered resources. Next year the press will release a trio of books about the ocean – the coral reef, ocean life, and our relationship to the ocean – and two titles about animals, one on mountain gorillas and the other on chimpanzees. “Each book opens the minds of the children reading them to caring about these issues, and to help,” Francine says. “Hopefully, they’ll feel empowered by our books.”