“Our children deserve the best writers, and we want to bring them the best adult storytellers of our time,” says author-illustrator Christopher Myers, creative director of Make Me a World, a new imprint from Random House Children’s Books that debuts this fall. “So far, I’ve found world-class scientists, athletes, and adult novelists to make books for young folks, all bringing the uniqueness of their storytelling forms as well as their identities to bear.” Myers says he envisions the imprint as a series of TED Talks, or even a dinner party “where parents and children can invite all the most interesting folks in the world to share with their kids and themselves; it’s all about making books that are more focused on tomorrow than yesterday—on the world that’s coming, not the worlds that are long gone.”
The initial list of Make Me a World, which will publish four to six titles per year, includes two young adult novels and one picture book. Pet (Sept.), about a creature that escapes from the canvas of an artist and can sniff out monsters in a world that claims they don’t exist anymore, marks the YA debut of Akwaeke Emezi, author of an autobiographical novel for adults, Freshwater. Mama Mable’s All-Gal Big Band Jazz Extravaganza (Oct.) by debut author and illustrator Annie Sieg takes readers on a trip to the music halls of the 1940s, where young female musicians broke racial and gender barriers. And in Gravity (Nov.), Golden Gloves champion and sports journalist Sarah Deming tells the story of a teenage boxer who is always breaking things and thinks her life is broken, too.
Myers, the son of Newbery Honor author Walter Dean Myers, sees Make Me a World as a “grand experiment for rewriting what publishing can be.” He adds, “With the landscape of storytelling expanded to include everything from video games to virtual reality to cellphone soap operas, how can we change as storytellers in the book space? Children’s books especially, as the original multimodal community storytelling form, are positioned to innovate at a faster pace, dictated by the needs of the storytellers as opposed to whatever fashion is current.”
For Myers, there has never been a better time to be a storyteller. “Stories, as a commodity, as a resource, are traveling around the world at dizzying speeds, consumed by even more people in a plethora of ways,” he says. “We need to understand the value of the stories we tell in a global context, as not only reflecting the world we live in, but shaping the world we want to become.”
When Myers isn’t editing or acquiring titles for Make Me a World, he’s busy with projects of his own: a picture book about youth-led protests for Disney-Hyperion and a play that opens next January at New York City’s New Victory Theater, which will have a companion book to be published by Crown.
Myers will appear on the “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Representation in Publishing: Why it Matters and Where Publishing Is Headed” panel on Friday, June 28, 4–5 p.m., in the Westinghouse Room.