The University of South Carolina Press has launched a children's publishing imprint, called Young Palmetto Books. A collaboration between Kim Jeffcoat, executive director of the S.C. Center for Children’s Books and Literacy – now the senior editor of the imprint – and director of USC Press Jonathan Haupt, the focus of Young Palmetto Books will be series books with a local angle. “We want to share powerful, positive stories and ideas from South Carolina with audiences near and far alike," says Haupt. "As the name implies, all series books will be connected to the Palmetto State, either by content or authorship and most commonly by both."
Inspired by a commitment to positively impact the lives of their readers, Jeffcoat notes, “SCCCBL also runs USC’s award-winning statewide literacy outreach program, Cocky’s Reading Express, based on our university’s mascot. To date Cocky’s Reading Express has given out almost 58,000 books. By working with USC Press, and through the successful outreach programs SCCCBL and the Press already have in place, we can get these books into the hands of children in South Carolina and beyond.”
USC Press is known for its regional books for adult readers, but chose to shift focus as the market and its audience called for it. "We were hearing from our bookseller and library partners an increasing demand for high quality children’s and YA books in both print and electronic formats and with relatable, regional connections. With that impetus, and with some strong submissions already coming to us even before the series was announced, the timing seemed ideal,” says Haupt. Young Palmetto Books plans to release two YA titles this year, with four picture books lined up for 2014.
The first book in the Young Palmetto Books series is Louise Meriwether’s Fragments of the Ark (March), and the second is Greek Revival from the Garden: Growing and Cooking for Life by USC First Lady Patricia Moore-Pastides (June). Both titles will be featured at the South Carolina Book Festival this May. "Our edition of Fragments of the Ark restores to print a fantastic novel based on the inspiring life of Robert Smalls, a native of Beaufort, South Carolina, and one of the first African-American heroes of the Civil War," Haupt says. "The novel received a wealth of wonderful praise on its first publication in 1994 and deserved a new life in our series. Louise also authored one of the first children’s books about Smalls, The Freedom Ship of Robert Smalls, in 1971, which we’ll be resurrecting as a new edition, this time with original illustrations by acclaimed lowcountry artist Jonathan Green."
Young Palmetto Books will release the first two books simultaneously in print and e-book editions. Haupt notes this is "a pattern we expect to continue for the series." As forthcoming titles, Jeffcoat says, “Young Palmetto Books will include a remembrance of African-American artist, author, and children’s book illustrator Tom Feelings as written by his daughter Niani and widow Dinah Johnson, herself an accomplished children’s author; a celebration of discovery and education as seen in the life of Charles Townes, a Nobel laureate from South Carolina; and the inspirational story of teen dynamo Katie Stagliano, the founder of Katie’s Krops, a national nonprofit bringing a kid-based solution to hunger, and the youngest recipient of the Clinton Global Citizen Award."
Jeffcoat says the aim is to keep the series focused on reshaping how South Carolina sees itself and others see the state. In her words, "There’s no shortage of topics and tales to be covered in the series, so our hope is that Young Palmetto Books continues to expand in breadth and impact."