It’s a heartening, come-full-circle publishing story that spans a quarter-century. Caitlyn Dlouhy, who heads up her eponymous imprint at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, first worked with William Joyce back in 1992, when she was hired as assistant to his editor, Laura Geringer, who at the time helmed her own imprint at HarperCollins Children’s Books. Twenty-five years later, Dlouhy has forged a new editorial bond with Joyce’s early picture books, a number of which Atheneum is now reissuing in hardcover. The World of William Joyce debuts next month with three titles, Bently & Egg, Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo, and A Day with Wilbur Robinson. It’s a reissue program that both editor and author find deeply rewarding.

“When I left HarperCollins 18 years ago, I was still a puppy, and not yet doing any major editing,” recalled Dlouhy. “Still, one of the reasons it was difficult to leave was knowing that I wouldn’t still be working with Bill. In a way, I feel that working on his books was my children’s publishing foundation. Without even realizing it at the time, I learned so much through his attention to detail—things like why choose a certain color for endpapers, why one typeface suited a story, and why you’d place a piece of art on one page rather than another. Working with Bill was truly my Publishing 101.”

When she moved to Atheneum, Dlouhy also anticipated missing Joyce’s spontaneous phone calls, which he often makes when he is at his drawing board. “Bill likes to talk and draw at the same time—I think he finds it helpful,” she said. “He’d call me and we'd babble about random things—gumballs, marbles, the history of who knows what. I remember thinking, ‘Holy moly—this is what publishing is all about?’ How wonderful!”

Dlouhy and Joyce kept in touch sporadically after her departure, shortly after which Joyce moved to Los Angeles to pursue opportunities working on films and TV shows tying into his books. These projects included television adaptations of Rolie Polie Olie and George Shrinks, as well as the 2011 animated short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, for which he and Brandon Oldenburg won an Academy Award, and on which his subsequent picture book of the same title was based.

Reflecting on the decade he spent in Hollywood working in those media, Joyce noted it was a creative endeavor that he enjoyed for its “collaborative nature, and for the chance to work with talented individuals who can bring something to the party you didn’t expect.” In contrast, Joyce said, the authorial role “is a very different creative life, involving a more singular vision and endeavor—and I have more control. But when I get stuck, I have people to bounce ideas off.”

Yet when he resumed writing, Joyce realized that he’d lost most of his personal connections to HarperCollins. “I’d been publishing with Harper for so many years, and I was spoiled by that continuity,” he said. “But when I got back to writing books, Laura Geringer had left the company, and my great friend Bill Morris had died. I felt somewhat orphaned at Harper, which at my age is a bad feeling.”

Looking for a new publishing home, Joyce connected with Dlouhy at Atheneum, who acquired and edited a number of the author’s titles, including The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore and his Guardians of Childhood and Guardians series—and subsequently The World of William Joyce reissues.

A Smooth Move from Backlist to Frontlist

Interested in “bringing everything together” under his current publishing roof, Joyce bought back the rights to his HarperCollins backlist titles, most but not all of which were still in print, and sold them to Atheneum. “My very first book, George Shrinks, which was published in 1985, had gone out of print,” he said. “It’s great to know that that book, and so many of the others, will be frontlisted for the first time in a long time. We didn’t change much in the reissues, but I was pleased to be able to tweak things in a few of the books, which I’d been able to do with Harper over the years as well—hats off to them.”

The author praised S&S’s design and production teams, whose high standards, he observed, are evident in his previous titles with Atheneum as well as the new reissues. “Honestly, I am so thrilled with the company’s commitment to quality,” he said. “When it comes to production, I’m pretty picky and tough, but they’re even pickier and tougher. Seeing these beautiful new editions of my earlier books reminds me of a Cajun word, ‘lagniappe,’ which means something extra that’s given. For me, this is a very powerful lagniappe.”

In addition to the three launch World of William Joyce releases in April, Atheneum will publish Rolie Polie Olie, The Leaf Men, and George Shrinks in June; Santa Calls in September; and Snowie Rolie and Buddy in November. Scheduled for spring 2018 publication are Big Time Olie and Sleepy Time Olie. Joyce will promote the new reissues on a tour that will bring him to stores, libraries, and book festivals in at least a dozen cities between early April and mid-June; a second tour will follow in the fall.

Musing on future projects, Joyce is, not surprisingly, open-minded. “I’m sort of creatively restless, and I don’t want to ever get stale or bored,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I could do one thing over and over again awesomely—like Beatrix Potter—but that’s not how my mind works. I’m always trying to do something different, though I find that stories I’m working on now have similarities to things I’ve done in the past. But I’m pushing them further.”

As always, Dlouhy eagerly awaits word of Joyce’s next book project. “I have never come across someone with so many ideas,” she said. “And the fact that every new idea is even better than the good idea he had two days before is a marvel to me. Bill has an almost preternatural ability to tap into what most delights children. He respects them enough that he never tries to impose his grownup self on them—and that is why there is such magic in his books. There are very few creative people who do what Bill Joyce does. I sometimes think, ‘If only I could clone him—that would be grand!’ ”

Bently & Egg by William Joyce. Atheneum, $17.99 Apr. ISBN 978-1-4814-8949-2

Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo by William Joyce. Atheneum, $17.99 Apr. ISBN 978-1-4814-8947-8

A Day with Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce. Atheneum, $17.99 Apr. ISBN 978-1-4814-8951-5