Peter Pauper Press will expand its reach into the children’s market in May, when it releases its first hardcover picture book, Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley. Founded in 1828, the White Plains, N.Y.-based company publishes approximately 100 books and ancillary products annually, including gift books, humor books, compact references, travel guides, journals, and stationery. The house has also established a presence in the children’s market with its various lines of activity books, among them the Brainiac’s Activity Books, Scratch & Sketch series, and Ready, Set, Draw! Series.

Laurence Beilenson is the press’s president and the third generation of his family to operate the business, which his grandfather Peter Beilenson started and ran with his wife, Edna. “She had a lot to do with conceiving the concept of the gift book, and continued to build the business into the 1970s, after my grandfather passed away,” he says of his grandmother. After Edna’s death, there was a temporary lull in the press’s operation until her son Nick and his wife, Evelyn – Laurence’s parents – stepped in to rebuild the company. Laurence joined the press in 1994; Nick is retired and Evelyn serves as publisher.

“Our children’s activity books are a significant part of our business now, and we are always trying to build on our previous successes,” Laurence Beilenson says of Peter Pauper’s foray into the picture book market. “We have a strong relationship with buyers at chains, independent bookstores, toy stores, and gift stores that buy children’s products. Publishing trade picture books is a natural progression for us, and we expect to sell them through these same channels.”

The idea of publishing in this format has “been simmering for a while,” says senior editor Mara Conlon, who edited Hank Finds an Egg. “But we had the luxury of waiting for the right book to launch with, and this was it.” In this wordless book (a different version of which the author had originally self-published), the title character finds an egg on the forest floor and makes repeated attempts to return it to its nest above before finally succeeding.

Conlon credits Dudley’s original artwork with much of the book’s appeal. “Rebecca builds dioramas by hand and then photographs them, and it is amazing that she can give so much expression to a still, puppet-like character,” she says. “There’s something very subtle and endearing about Hank, and we fell in love with him. And his sweet, kind story absolutely won us over.”

To start, Peter Pauper Press will publish two to four hardcover picture books annually, Conlon says. Scheduled for fall 2013 release are Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go to Sleep! by Bruce Arant and Digby Differs by Miriam Koch; Sarra J. Roth’s Not the Quitting Kind is due in spring 2014. “Since we are not a traditional trade publisher and we publish so many other categories, it’s nice that we can be very picky,” says the editor. “We are able to take our time and select only the picture books we really want.”

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley. Peter Pauper Press, $16.99 May ISBN 978-1-4413-1158-0