Redleaf Press, which has specialized in publishing curriculum, management, and business resources for early childhood professionals since 1973, is moving into the trade market this season with the launch of Redleaf Lane, a picture book imprint that will be, along with Redleaf’s other publications, distributed by Consortium.

Redleaf Press is headquartered in St. Paul, Minn. and is the publishing arm of Think Small, formerly Resources for Child Caring. The nonprofit organization provides services, resources, and advocacy for early childhood education professionals. The 20 Redleaf Press employees, under the guidance of director David Heath, have added responsibilities for Redleaf Lane to their job descriptions; the company plans on hiring more employees, but none is scheduled to work on a dedicated basis on Redleaf Lane.

“For close to 40 years, Redleaf Press has been publishing resources for the grownups who care for and educate young children,” content development editor Laurie Herrmann explained. “Redleaf Lane will do the same, but for children.”

Redleaf Lane will be officially launched at the Minneapolis Central Library on Saturday, April 19, with a story time with author Mike Huber that will include book giveaways and signings. The first six Redleaf Lane titles are written by Huber, a Minneapolis writer, blogger, and educator, and illustrated by California-based artist Joseph Cowman, who bills himself as having worked in “toy and environment design.” The six picture books are being released with 7,000-copy initial print runs in hardcover format between now and August: Bree Finds a Friend and Mama’s Gloves (both April); Evette’s Invitation and The Amazing Erik (both June); and All in One Day and Rita and the Firefighters (both Aug.). The books retail for $15.95 and are aimed at ages 3 and up.

“We were eager to publish our first books on some of the big common experiences children have when they spend time in a group care setting – saying goodbye to Mom when she goes off to work in the morning; figuring out how to make a friend when you’re only four years old; coming up with ways to join the play when it’s started without you,” explained Herrmann, “Our hope was to find a really good writer who also knew the world of early childhood – and we found that in Mike Huber. Mike’s been an early childhood teacher for 20 years, and a writer for just as long. We loved the earnest humor and the sweetness of Mike’s characters and stories.”

Three more Redleaf Lane titles are scheduled for release this fall, including Noah Chases the Wind by Australian author Michelle Worthington, illustrated by Joseph Cowman. The other two titles are written by Rachel Robertson and illustrated by Priscilla Prentice: When You’ve Just Got to Roar! and A Teacher’s Promise.