Phoenix International Publications, best known for its licensed children’s sound and novelty books, will launch a children’s imprint this fall to house all of its non-licensed titles. Sunbird Books will include board books, storybooks, graphic novels, and other formats from a diverse group of authors and illustrators, including emerging talents. The company’s licensed books will remain housed under the PI Kids imprint.

“What we’re trying to do is diversify our list by looking at where our consumers are, what kinds of content they’re looking for, and how they’re interacting with that content,” said Sophie Partridge, publisher of Sunbird and PI Kids. “We’ve been very busy on the PI Kids side of the business, too, with several rights expansions, and we were experiencing a bit of a crisis of identity. We have this great history with our licensing partners, and this new range of kids’ books was not sitting as comfortably with these big names as we would like. There was a danger they would get lost.” Thus, the Sunbird imprint was born.

The first Sunbird list this fall will include 10 titles, among them the picture book Beasties Love Booties by Susan Rich Brooke, illustrated by Simona Ceccarelli; the board book V Is for Votes!: A Suffragette Alphabet by Erin Rose, illustratedby Jane Pica; and a series of graphic novels called It’s Her Story, including Rosa Parks by Lauren Burke, illustrated by Shane Clester; and Marie Curie by Kaara Kallen, illustrated by Rosie Baker. Another 15 titles are expected in 2021. “It’s very much a curated list,” Partridge said. “It’s a very female-friendly imprint and we wanted to include some strong voices and pull ideas from all over the world.”

Sunbird, which will include both external submissions and internally developed concepts, will encompass titles for kids up to 12, from board books through graphic novels, with a sweet spot of ages four through eight. “PI Kids is so strong in preschool, but we’re precluded by our licensors from developing certain formats,” Partridge said. “We wanted to stretch our legs in slightly different ways, and to stretch up as well.”

Phoenix International Publications, known as Publications International before its acquisition by Phoenix Media in 2014, has been in business for more than 30 years. In addition to Sunbird and PI Kids, it oversees the Sequoia Children’s Publishing imprint, which focuses on value books that parents or caregivers and children can read together.