Sourcebooks announced on Tuesday that the Chicagoland independent publishing company has acquired Dawn Publications, a Nevada City, Calif., press that is known in the school and library market for publishing picture books about nature and the environment. Effective January 1, Dawn, which celebrated its 40th anniversary this past year, become part of the Sourcebooks Kids division. All operations will transfer to Sourcebooks’s headquarters in Naperville, Ill., though Dawn’s co-publishers, Bruce and Carol Malnor, will remain involved with Dawn as consultants; two Nevada City-based employees, who were both part-time, have been laid off.
Sourcebooks declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal, but disclosed that it has acquired 88 Dawn titles in print, including two of its evergreen bestsellers, A Drop Around the World by Barbara Shaw McKinney, which received a 1998 Benjamin Franklin Silver Award, and The Dandelion Seed by Joseph Anthony, which received a 1997 Benjamin Franklin Silver Award.
The 88 titles will henceforth be published as an imprint under Sourcebooks three-year-old eXplore juvenile nonfiction imprint, which is headed by editorial director Kelly Barrales-Saylor. Four new releases are scheduled for publication in 2020 under the Dawn imprint: What’s This Tail Saying? by Carolyn Combs, illustrated by Cathy Morrison, and Nature Did It First: Engineering Through Biomimicry by Karen Ansberry, illustrated by Jennifer DiRubbio, will be published in March, while Plants Fight Back by Lisa Amstutz, illustrated by Rebecca Evans, and If Animals Built Your House by Bill Wise, illustrated by Rebecca Evans, will be published in the fall. Four titles are scheduled for release in 2021.
“Adding Dawn’s authors and illustrators to our current list elevates us on a literary level,” Barrales-Saylor said. “Dawn is so highly respected; it has such a vast and prestigious list. These books are not your basic nonfiction: they’re creative nonfiction; it’s a great match for us.”
According to Carol Malnor, the two co-publishers and their late colleague, co-publisher Richard Rodrigue, had been working on a succession plan for several years, with a 2022 target date for selling the press. The three co-publishers consulted with publishing strategist Mike Shatzkin to find a new owner and were introduced by Shatzkin to Sourcebooks publisher Dominique Raccah last spring.
“From the first phone call with Dominique, it unfolded so beautifully,” Malnor said, “She told us, ‘You’re a mission-driven company, we’re a mission-driven company.’ Sourcebooks recognized Dawn’s mission of cultivating a love of nature and the environment in children with its focus on education. We told Dominique we wanted to do this in 2022, and she told us she’d wait.”
After Rodrigue died unexpectedly in August while hiking in Yosemite National Park, however, the date to transfer ownership of Dawn’s assets to Sourcebooks was pushed up.
Dawn Publications, which was founded in 1979 with the publication of Sharing Nature with Children by Joseph Bharat Cornell, expanded into children’s books in 1992 with A Walk in the Rainforest by Kristin Joy Pratt. The Malnors and Rodrigue took over ownership of the press in 2015 from Glenn Hovemann and Muffy Weaver.
“Dawn Publications is the largest, the most successful, and most award-winning nature conservancy [children’s book] publisher,” Raccah said. “It’s such a great fit, in terms of our already robust eXplore juvenile nonfiction list, which includes the Baby University series by Chris Ferrie and Little Pickle Press. Our mission is to honor and continue the exceptional work that Dawn Publications has done in using storytelling to illuminate environmental issues for young readers. We’re going to bring these books further into the public space, to more readers, librarians, and educators.”
While Sourcebooks has experienced a 28% growth company-wide in 2019, Raccah said, its children’s book division has grown by 30%, with much of that growth in juvenile nonfiction. Sourcebooks is conducting a search for an educational marketing specialist to help execute its strategy to expand further into the school and library markets; Julie Larson—who comes with an educational background—was just hired as an eXplore assistant editor to work on Dawn projects.