Berlin-based Gestalten, publisher of books on art, architecture, design, and photography for adults, will begin distributing books in the U.S. market this month under the Little Gestalten imprint. This follows the publisher’s April debut of Kleine Gestalten, a German-language children’s imprint, whose publishing program will closely align with the English-language books released by Little Gestalten. The inaugural list will be published under both imprints simultaneously, and will be distributed in this country by Prestel Publishing.
Little Gestalten’s kickoff titles reflect the eclectic nature of the imprint, which will also include non-book sidelines. Debut releases include Elsa and the Night by Jöns Mellgren, a bedtime story about a girl who hides the night in her cookie jar; The Zoo’s Grand Opening: An ABC and Counting Book by Judith Drews, which introduces an alphabetical menagerie of zoo animals; and Issun Bôshi: The One-Inch Boy by Icinori, a Japanese fairytale.
This is not Gestalten’s first foray into children’s books, editor Hendrik Hellige explained. A decade ago, the publisher released a series of illustrated fairytales, including those by the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen. “We’ve learned a lot over the years, and decided it was due time to launch an imprint solely dedicated to our children’s books,” said Hellige. “Many readers of our adult books and designers who have worked on our books now have kids and are looking for children’s books that have a creative approach. So we feel it’s a natural progression to start Little Gestalten.”
Noting that Gestalten has published more than 500 adult books on visual arts and culture since opening its doors in 1995, publisher and editor-in-chief Robert Klanten explained, “Our forte is publishing contemporary visual books that foster and impart knowledge – that is what defines our program. With Little Gestalten, we aim to bring to children new and surprising books by gifted storytellers and creative illustrators. As George Bernard Shaw aptly put it, ‘Make it a rule never to give a child a book you would not read yourself.’ This is almost a mission statement for us.”
Hellige added that picture books are a main focus of the Little Gestalten list, which also includes nonfiction titles illustrated with original artwork. “We have illustrators who are adopting their style and approach to illustrate nonfiction topics, giving the books a contemporary look and feel,” he said. “Many of them are designers, illustrators, and photographers whom we’ve worked with and published on our main list over the years.”
Little Gestalten’s debut list also includes several sideline items, including Petting Zoo Memo Game, a matching game created by Christoph Niemann; and two paper doll-style sheets of magnets. “While we want to offer non-book products, we don’t feel that we have to release them every season,” said Klanten. “We’re looking out for really good ideas that stand on their own, great products with a fresh illustration style that will stand the test of time.”
Similarly, the number of books to be released annually is not set in stone. Klanten estimated that Little Gestalten will publish between 20 to 25 titles a year, depending on the projects submitted. He emphasized that production standards are as high as editorial and illustration standards: “Quality is also an absolute priority for us. All of the Little Gestalten titles are printed in Germany or other countries in Europe, using certified paper stock and produced with high quality printing and binding.”
Another key characteristic of the new imprint is its worldwide creative reach, explained the publisher. “Since our audience is international and our business global, the books that are on the current and future lists will reflect this as well,” he said. “Some will be written originally in English and some will be translated from German or even other languages if and when we find an exciting story. We definitely welcome submissions by American authors and illustrators. Our ideology isn’t fixed by a certain language or home country. We’re looking to work with creative illustrators and talented storytellers – and that’s an international language.”