Quarto Publishing Group, the global illustrated book publisher and distribution group, is launching two new U.S. children’s book imprints this season: Seagrass Press and words & pictures. Helmed by publisher Josalyn Moran, Seagrass Press will publish a selection of environmentally focused titles for young readers. Words & pictures, which debuted in the U.K. in 2012, has expanded across the pond under the direction of Maxime Boucknooghe.
Seagrass Press: Books for Growth
The name and editorial mission of Seagrass Press emerged from Moran’s experience clipping seagrass in the Bahamas with her daughter, a marine biologist. The plant’s many life-sustaining functions brought to mind the role of books in child development. “Seagrass provides a nursery, protection, and a source of food—much in the way that books serve a child’s emotional and intellectual development,” Moran said. She envisions the Seagrass imprint consisting of mostly nonfiction books, with a few informative fiction titles. Her goal in building the list is “to introduce to children information about themselves, their families and communities, and the wider world.”
Prior to joining Quarto, Moran held executive positions at a number of companies, including Barnes & Noble, Albert Whitman, Chronicle Books, and Scholastic. “Having had the opportunity to work in publishing and bookselling, I found that perhaps there are areas that haven’t been covered before, or that we can cover with a new angle or twist,” she said of her new project.
Additionally, Moran served as interim director of the Children’s Book Council and Every Child a Reader in 2016, and brings a passion for literacy to her current work at Seagrass. “Books are part of the way we help children feel safe in their development,” she said. Moran has also been informed by the experience of reading with her family. “Some of [my work] is based in watching children—how they live and grow. It’s fun to see what resonated with my daughter and now with her daughter.”
The Seagrass launch list this spring features five titles for children in grades pre-K–5, with the primary focus on animals and nature. Susan Grigsby’s Open Wide: The Ultimate Guide to Teeth is the first in a science series on the human body, inspired in part by Moran’s visits to first and second grade classrooms. Another science title out in May is How Could We Harness a Hurricane? by InkThinkTank founder Vicki Cobb and illustrated by Theo Cobb, which examines how engineers work to minimize damage from storms. Moran turned to Kathleen M. Hanes, her marine biologist daughter, to write Seagrass Dreams: A Counting Book, an aquatic counting book illustrated by Chloe Bonfield. Rounding out the list are two reissues by Thornton W. Burgess, The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk and The Adventures of Peter Cottontail. Moran estimates the imprint’s annual output at 20 titles per year.
The marketing plans for Seagrass’s debut list include social media campaigns, a partnership with the Nonfiction Minute blog, and posters and other giveaways at national trade shows. Through educator outreach, Moran hopes to learn about trends in the market and to publish the books that are needed in classrooms.
Words & Pictures: Books for the Imagination
Also launching this spring, Quarto’s words & pictures imprint will focus on illustrated children’s titles that celebrate imagination and creativity. Boucknooghe, who is also publisher of QED/QEB Publishing in London, believes that the U.S. expansion is “a natural step forward for us” and an opportunity to build upon the success of the U.K. list. “The idea is to bring a fresh list with illustrators from around the world and from the U.S.,” he said.
Boucknooghe stated that whereas QED/QEB is focused on “the world around us,” words & pictures is about “escaping this world and learning something that you don’t normally see—and then coming back to the world and enriching it.” Working with group publisher Zeta Jones, Boucknooghe said he is seeking out innovative illustrations and stories with unique formats. “We want children to discover new worlds and atmospheres,” he said.
The 13 titles on the launch list include The Street Beneath My Feet by Charlotte Gullian and Yuval Zommer, a foldout picture book exploring the layers of the Earth; two picture book titles from Polish collaborators Przemyslaw Wechterowicz and Emilia Dziubak, Hug Me, Please! and The Secret Life of a Tiger; and It Starts with a Seed, a rhyming picture book about the life-cycle of a sycamore tree, by Jennie Webber and Laura Knowles. Boucknooghe plans to limit the words & pictures list to no more than 20–25 titles annually.
Marketing plans for the words & pictures launch include national advertising and online promotion; The Street Beneath My Feet will be featured in the imprint’s Earth Day social media campaign and new STEAM initiative. While attending the recent Bologna Children’s Book Fair, Boucknooghe noted the popularity of The Street Beneath My Feet in the U.K., and books with the “vintage, 1960s feel” of Bobby’s got a brand-new car, another launch title. Though he is confident that there is “a big demand for imaginative and creative titles” in the U.S. market, he believes the challenge will be in finding “the right time and place [to publish] the right title.”