This fall, Penguin Young Readers will launch a new children’s imprint, Penguin Workshop, helmed by Francesco Sedita. The emphasis will be on accessible titles and brands for every type of reader, from ages 0–12.
Sedita, who is also president and publisher of Grosset & Dunlap, Mad Libs, and Frederick Warne, said that in some ways the venture has been in the works since he joined Penguin nine years ago. “On day two I said, ‘I think that we should rebrand the group,’ ” he said. But faced with a large list of about 275 books a year, Sedita focused on the work at hand and the project was deferred.
Still, the desire to create a new imprint remained in the back of his mind. “I have a huge respect for history. Grosset & Dunlap has a great history, but I couldn’t wrap my head around the way it translated to the work we were doing,” he said. During an imprint-wide meeting, including members of the managing editorial and licensing departments, Sedita recalled saying, “I want us to stop thinking of ourselves as a factory, but as a workshop.” Later, while brainstorming names for a new imprint, the team circled back to his earlier statement, deciding on Penguin Workshop. “Even the process of naming the group was a sort of workshop,” he said.
Collaboration is important to Sedita; “I really believe in the creative process,” he said. With the new imprint, his goal is “to find the reader—every type of reader—at every corner.” Though Sedita said he did not enjoy reading as a kid, he loved to write. If not for Choose Your Own Adventure titles and the Scholastic Book Club, he said, “I wouldn’t have read at all.” Connecting with reluctant readers has become the mission of the imprint.
Penguin Workshop will launch in September with 11 titles, with an expected annual output of around 30. The imprint will also publish some of Penguin’s most popular series, including Here’s Hank by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver, and Who HQ. Original titles include Landry Q. Walker’s Project Terra: Crash Course, the first in a sci-fi humor series for tweens, which was created in-house; the first book in the Muppets Meet the Classics series, The Phantom of the Opera, developed with the Jim Henson Company; and Stacia Deutsch’s The Friendship Code, book one in a cross-imprint, STEM-based series in partnership with Girls Who Code.
Grosset & Dunlap will retain in-house brands such as Llama Llama, Lady Bug Girl, and Eric Carle. “All of the big picture book brands will stay, but we won’t be acquiring the way we have been. We will acquire into Workshop,” Sedita said.
In his new role, Sedita works alongside editorial director Sarah Fabiny, executive editor Rob Valois, and eight editors. When brainstorming launch titles, Sedita said the team asked: “What would we like to read? And how do we get a variety of readers to want to be a part of this list?” So far, the answer has been series like Project Terra: “We feel that once you hook a reader with a great story, why not give them more? [Project Terra] established the heartbeat of the new imprint. The list then started to evolve,” he said.