Penguin Young Readers and the Smithsonian Institution will roll out a line of visually driven, narrative nonfiction books in June. Viking Children’s Books and Grosset & Dunlap will jointly launch the Smithsonian books line with five titles, which target readers across a range of age levels and will encompass jacketed hardcovers, paper-over-board books, and paperbacks.
The new program evolved from the publishers’ awareness of both market demand and the Smithsonian’s vast and wide-ranging resources. “We’ve been hearing more and more about the need for more nonfiction, from our accounts, teachers, and librarians,” said Francesco Sedita, president and publisher of Grosset & Dunlap. “We already have a marvelous piece of the nonfiction world and great expertise at Penguin, and what better place to turn for creating a robust, wonderful new program than the Smithsonian? As soon as we began talking to them, both sides knew they wanted to do this.”
The debut list demonstrates the editorial and graphic breadth that the new line can draw on from the Smithsonian's collections and archives. Due from Viking is When the Earth Shakes: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis by Simon Winchester; and G&D releases are Curious About Fishes by Elizabeth Bennett, inspired by a Smithsonian exhibition; Gina Shaw’s Welcome, Bao Bao, introducing the Smithsonian National Zoo’s panda cub; Blast Off! Doodle Book by Karen Romano Young, an activity book that draws from the National Air and Space Museum’s archives; and No Way…Way! Road Trip by Tracey West, which launches a fun-facts series.
Ken Wright, v-p and publisher of Viking Children’s Books, anticipates that his imprint will release one or two Smithsonian titles per season. Sedita reported that G&D will add three or four to the line each season. In addition to its obvious appeal to visitors to Smithsonian museum gift shops, both publishers expect that the new line will have legs in other museum shops across the country, as well as in the trade and institutional markets and in Scholastic school channels.
Sheila Keenan, senior editor of G&D, is responsible for the editorial coordination of Smithsonian Books titles released under both imprints, which mirror the editorial focus of each. Viking’s jacketed hardcover editions are more likely to be inspired by special Smithsonian exhibits, whereas G&D books will encompass, Sedita explained, “what a family walking through the Smithsonian would see on a ‘day-to-day’ basis. What is important to us is to have a range of price points to make this line accessible to every type of reader.”
Wright emphasized that this joint venture between his imprint and G&D has been a rewarding, though uncommon experience. “For two very distinct imprints to work together so closely on a program is really unusual, and it has been very exciting,” he said. “And this venture certainly underscores our company’s commitment to nonfiction.”
Sedita added, “We have a lot of people at Penguin who are very happy to have the chance to work with such exciting and fresh content. It’s very cool for our two imprints to work together, and when you put the Smithsonian in the middle of it, I really think this is a dream come true in a lot of ways.”
When the Earth Shakes: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Tsunamis by Simon Winchester. Viking, $18.99 June ISBN 978-0-670-78536-0
Curious About Fishes by Elizabeth Bennett. Grosset & Dunlap, $3.99 June ISBN 978-0-448-48462-4
Gina Shaw’s Welcome, Bao Bao by Gina Shaw. Grosset & Dunlap, $3.99 June ISBN 978-0-448-48225-5
Blast Off! Doodle Book by Karen Romano Young. Grosset & Dunlap, $12.99 June ISBN 978-0-448-48210-1
No Way…Way! Road Trip by Tracey West. Grosset & Dunlap, $9.99 June ISBN 978-448-48211-8