Blue Dot Kids Press, a new children’s publisher operating out of San Francisco and Wellington, New Zealand, has unveiled five titles forthcoming in spring 2020, its inaugural list primarily focused on young readers aged three to eight years old. Distributed by Consortium in the United States and Canada, the press will release three books in April 2020 and two books in May 2020.

The name is inspired by Carl Sagan’s famous ode to planet Earth, reflecting on our world as “a pale blue dot” when viewed from the vastness of deep space. Most of the new books focus on the environment, encouraging children to care for our fragile world. “It’s all about cultivating the sense of empathy and wonder that children already have innately,” said founder and publisher Heidi Hill. “By developing this sense of empathy, they can connect to our global community and to our planet, the pale blue dot.”

Blue Dot Kids Press authors and illustrators hail from Japan, Iran, Australia, Italy, and the Netherlands. Hill has been building the children’s press for more than a year, completing her slate at this year’s Bologna Children's Book Fair0. “I was looking for authors and illustrators who had a passion for nature and its stewardship,” she said. Hill is open to unsolicited manuscripts in the future and hopes to include a few debut authors “with a unique voice” on her 2021 list.

Most recently, Hill served as head of marketing for digital education products at Pearson. Her professional career began as an intern at Heyday Books in Berkeley, helping build the Heyday Kids imprint in 2005. From there, she worked in marketing at Backpacker magazine and Yoga Journal, before moving to eBay, where she led a recycled fashion initiative.

The April 2020 releases include: Under My Tree, a book about a girl who befriends a tree, written by French magazine publisher Muriel Tallandier, with illustrations by Japanese native Mizuho Fujisawa; Who Will It Be? How Evolution Connects Us All, a book that teaches children about the theory of evolution, by Italian children’s author Paola Vitale with illustrations by Italian author-illustrator Rossana Bossù; and Ivy Bird, about a girl who pretends she is a bird, written by Australian author, illustrator, and editor Tania McCartney with illustrations by Australian illustrator Jess Racklyeft.

The May 2020 releases are: My Favorite Memories, a story of moving to a new country, inspired by author Sepideh Sarihi’s own memories about immigrating from Iran and illustrated by Julie Völk; and Leafy Critters, a book of outdoor-focused crafts written and photographed by Yvonne Lacet.

Hill aims “to be a force for good” in the publishing industry and the business community. To that end, Blue Dot Kids Press is a member of 1% for the Planet, a global initiative launched by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Blue Ribbon Flies founder Craig Mathews. Participating businesses donate 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes. During its launch month of April 2020, Blue Dot Kids Press will partner with Trees for the Future, sharing funds that will help the nonprofit plant trees and raise awareness for Earth Day.

Blue Dot Kids Press will also print on paper certified by the Forest Stewardship Council—a nonprofit monitoring responsible management and sustainability of the forests used to supply paper products. In addition, Blue Dot Kids Press books are printed with soy-based inks, an eco-friendly alternative to traditional petroleum-based inks. “Most folks are not going to notice the difference,” Hill said. “That means that we can use sustainably sourced paper and have amazing quality at the same time.”

Hill married a New Zealander and her three-year-old son has dual citizenship, so her family spends significant time traveling. Through all her journeys, Hill has held onto one value. “Empathy is the foundation for understanding all of our differences and similarities,” she said. “Kids will learn that we actually are so much more alike than different. We are all gazing at the same moon. The oceans connect us all. Understanding that and having empathy will allow kids to be leaders in building a more compassionate world.”