“Discover a World Where Everything Is Possible,” the lead-in to the mission statement for Make Me a World, captures the essence of this new imprint from Random House Children’s Books. Author and artist Christopher Myers, creative director of the imprint, explained that Make Me a World is dedicated to “exploring the vast possibilities of contemporary childhood” and “making books where the children of today can see themselves and each other.”
Due in the fall, the three inaugural titles exemplify the line’s range of genres, storylines, and age levels. First out is Pet, a September novel about a creature that escapes from an artist’s canvas and can sniff out monsters in a world that claims they don’t exist anymore. The book marks the YA debut of Akwaeke Emezi, born in Umuahia and raised in Aba, Nigeria, who is also the author of a critically acclaimed autobiographical novel, Freshwater (Grove, 2018). Pubbing in October is Annie Sieg’s Mama Mable’s All-Gal Big Band Jazz Extravaganza!, a debut picture book showcasing 1940s music halls, where young female musicians broke racial and gender barriers—and forever changed the face of jazz.
Rounding out the fall list is Gravity, a November YA novel introducing a young boxer who, if she can stay focused, may have a chance to achieve her dreams and find true family in a gym full of fighters. Author Sarah Deming knows well of what she writes: she’s a Golden Gloves boxing champion and instructor and a sports journalist.
Myers shared his passion for diversity—in all senses of the word—in children’s books with his late father, prolific author Walter Dean Myers, with whom he collaborated on the Caldecott Honor winner Harlem and the Coretta Scott King Honor winners Black Cat and H.O.R.S.E. When Christopher’s vision of creating a fresh, forward-thinking model for children’s publishing and introducing new voices into the industry was embraced by Barbara Marcus, president and publisher of RHCB, Make Me a World was born. Michelle Frey, executive editor of Knopf Books for Young Readers, will assist Myers editorially, though he will acquire all titles and be involved in every step of the publication process.
Mining for Gems
Given his expansive contributions to and wide array of colleagues in the writing, illustration, publishing, theater, and film worlds, Myers has a rich cache of talent to draw from for his imprint. “So often, when we talk about diversity, we make the mistake of thinking of demographic diversity rather than storytelling diversity,” he noted. “It is so important to introduce young readers to the storytelling of writers, artists, scientists, athletes—people who bring so many different directions to and interpretations of story. And when we put story first, the biographies of storytellers will yield that demographic diversity.”
That’s a truth borne out by the roster of authors and illustrators whose work will appear on subsequent Make Me a World lists. Forthcoming releases include How to Solve a Problem, written by rock climber Ashima Shiraishi and illustrated by Yao Xiao; Child of the Universe by astrophysicist Ray Jayawardhana, illustrated by Raul Colón; Emile and the Field by Kevin L. Young, National Book Award finalist and director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; a YA memoir, Walk Toward the Rising Sun, by South Sudan-born model and actor Ger Duany; and The Road to Alma, a YA novel in verse by Rhode Island poet laureate Tina Cane.
When describing the imprint and its contributors, Myers said, “I often ask people, ‘If you could invite anyone to hang out with your child and share something with your child, who would that be?’ With Make Me a World, my job is to distill all kinds of stories into formats that children can readily access and identify with—stories that will give them the tools for living their lives in the future world, and for telling their own stories.”
Frey ardently supports Myers’s mission of making Make Me a World an imprint that defies the conventional publishing mold. Though she anticipates that the imprint will release four to six new titles annually, she emphasized that flexibility is a hallmark of the venture.
“I love that this imprint is about the creative part and not the corporate part,” Frey observed. “We function very differently from most imprints—we are guided by Chris’s vision, and I am very honored to have the chance to help him shape that vision. He sees possibilities where others do not in terms of imagination, creativity, and stories that haven’t been heard before. Chris takes his role as mentor to other writers and illustrators seriously, and that translates beautifully into the work he is doing with Make Me a World.”
Amplifying the imprint’s mission, its name was in part inspired by the opening lines of African-American poet James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation”: “And God stepped out on space,/ And he looked around and said:/ I’m lonely—/I’ll make me a world.” Myers added, “I also wanted Make Me a World to reflect that we are making the world anew every day, and that each book is a world that invites young readers to enter, to think about, and to alter it. I very much want our books to give readers the wherewithal and inspiration to know that they are essential to the process of making the world anew—daily.”