Summer will bring the debut titles from two imprints of Random House Children’s Books, each steered by a principal of Schwartz & Wade Books, co-directed by Anne Schwartz and Lee Wade from 2005 until 2020, when the imprint was disbanded. Wade is now spearheading Random House Studio, which is spotlighted here; and later this week we will feature a profile of Schwartz’s eponymous new imprint.

Random House Studio’s freshman list, v-p and publisher Wade said, is representative of “the broad and diverse range of books the imprint will publish by bestselling, award-winning, and debut authors and illustrators.” Random House Studio plans to release books across all formats, with its primary focus on picture books.

Wade explained that establishing Random House Studio involved a balance of the new and the familiar. The rest of the imprint’s editorial team—executive editorial director Maria Modugno, senior editor Ann Kelley, and editorial assistant Charlotte Roos—are Random House veterans. “The imprint is new, but we are decidedly not new,” Wade noted. “Maria, Ann, and I have worked together for a long time and we share a mission to publish a wide range of high-quality books. We all have our own sensibilities that work well together.”

Wade anticipates that Random House Studio will release between 30 and 35 titles annually, and said she is looking forward to expanding the scope of her editorial reach, while remaining true to her publishing roots.

“I enjoyed working with Anne at Schwartz & Wade for 15 years, and learned from the experience,” she said. “Now, I am pleased to oversee a bigger list and to have the opportunity to work on a greater variety of titles and with even more authors and illustrators. My background is in design, so I have an eye for the visual, and graphics, art direction, and production will always be important elements of the books we publish.”

A Look at the Inaugural List

Random House Studio’s first list, which will be released between May and August, affirms the imprint’s emphasis on picture books featuring wide-ranging topics and diverse collaborators. Highlights include Cat Problems, a humor-driven tale showcasing feline conundrums by bestselling author Jory John and two-time Caldecott Honor illustrator Lane Smith (for The Stinky Cheese Man and Grandpa Green). In Areli Is a Dreamer, illustrated by Luisa Uribe, Mexican-born DACA recipient and first-time author Areli Morales relays her immigration story. A Spanish-language edition, Areli es una dreamer, will be released simultaneously.

The imprint’s first picture-book biography is Indelible Ann: The Larger-Than-Life Story of Governor Ann Richards by newcomer Meghan P. Browne, illustrated by Carlynn Whitt, which profiles the late governor of Texas. Another debut author is Kristy Everington, whose Isobel Adds It Up stars a math-loving girl who finds an unlikely solution to a noise problem. The book is illustrated by AG Ford, recipient of two NAACP Image Awards. And Brave as a Mouse, in which pesky felines jeopardize the friendship between a goldfish and a mouse, marks Italian author-illustrator Nicolò Carozzi’s U.S. picture-book debut.

Lastly, a familiar picture-book character headlines the imprint’s first foray into graphic novels, Grumpy Monkey Freshly Squeezed by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang. In this series opener, the title character searches for the perfect orange stress ball.

And a Look Ahead

Random House Studio’s fall list includes YA novelist Jennifer E. Smith’s debut picture book, The Creature of Habit, illustrated by Pura Belpré Award winner Leo Espinosa, a story about being open to trying new things; The Faith of Elijah Cummings: The North Star of Equal Justice, a picture-book biography by Carole Boston Weatherford, featuring art by Laura Freeman; The Woman All Spies Fear: Code Breaker Elizebeth Smith Friedman and Her Hidden Life by Amy Butler Greenfield, a YA nonfiction title; and the first two Grumpy Monkey Step into Reading titles.

Among the offerings in 2022 are Sweet Justice: Georgia Gilmore and the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, a Caldecott Honoree for Freedom in Congo Square; A Gift for Nana, a picture book by Lane Smith; This Story Is NOT About a Kitten by Randall de Sève, illustrated by Caldecott Honor recipient Carson Ellis; and a coming-of-age graphic novel by Liz Montague, one of the first Black female New Yorker cartoonists.

Reflecting on the past year, Wade observed that planning and orchestrating the launch of Random House Studio during these troubled times was challenging, yet curiously gratifying.

“It’s impossible to know what this experience would have been like had we all been in the office together,” she said. “Despite the fact that we were working remotely, I feel very connected to my colleagues. The pandemic cut out the noise, helped us focus, and created a bubble for us to work in—which has been a true bonding experience. In a sense, I feel as though this past year has kept us grounded and made me realize that every book must have a purpose. I’m not sure I felt that a few years ago, but now it is so clear to me that there should be no wasted space, and that it’s important that every book has a reason to be.”