Fall will bring the debut titles from RISE x Penguin Workshop, a line of board books and early picture books for children up to the age of five. Spearheaded by publishing director Cecily Kaiser, RISE will feature a varied list of titles that have, in her words, “the common thread of empowering children to feel smart, capable, safe, and important. It is upon this foundation that children are then able to develop empathy, resilience, and compassion—an infusion of which our society so desperately needs.”
Kaiser, who joined Penguin Workshop in April 2019, has had bountiful experience navigating preschool publishing waters. She began her career two decades ago at Scholastic, initially as a manager in its book clubs, and then as editorial director of the Cartwheel imprint for children up to six years old. She went on to oversee the debut of Abrams’s Appleseed imprint for preschoolers, and most recently spearheaded the relaunch of Phaidon’s children’s list.
RISE’s inaugural list reflects the line’s array of nonfiction and fiction, and its emphasis on contemporary, relatable topics. Due in September are Families Belong by Dan Saks, illustrated by Brooke Smart, a lighthearted, rhyming celebration of families being—and belonging— together; and Joshua David Stein’s The Invisible Alphabet, illustrated by Ron Barrett, an ABC book introducing things unseen, from “air” to “zero,” which enables children to piece together the narrative themselves based on clues.
October releases are I Am! Affirmations for Resilience by Bela Barbosa, featuring art by Edel Rodriguez, a compilation of simple affirmations aimed at building self-esteem and confidence; and I Am the Storm by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell, depicting the power of nature and the resilience of humans.
Rounding out the fall list are the two debut installments of Who Was? Board Books, a spinoff of the publisher’s bestselling series for older readers. Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? and Who Is Ruth Bader Ginsburg?, written by Lisbeth Kaiser and illustrated by Stan Chow, will pub in December.
Kaiser, whose RISE team includes art director Maria Elias and assistant editor Gabriella DeGennaro, expressed optimism about the timing of the program’s launch. “I’ve seen a strong focus on this segment of children’s publishing industry-wide,” she said. “And Penguin has invested a lot of time and resources digging into what publishing for this age group is all about—in terms of readers’ developmental needs, in terms of what parents, teachers, and librarians are looking for, and in terms of what is relevant and important to this audience. Though Penguin has many classic children’s books, series, and brands, it has never before had an original publishing program dedicated solely to kids up to age five, which was the impetus behind creating RISE, with its strong focus on original board books and young picture books.”
Launching RISE x Penguin Workshop marks a career milestone for Kaiser, she reflected. “This is the fourth house at which I’ve published, and in a lot of ways this feels like a culmination of all that I’ve done so far. To be supported by such a strong team and to have the chance to integrate into RISE all that Penguin stands for has grown me. I now have an opportunity and a responsibility to publish books that address the state of our world by elevating our youngest generation.”