After close to three decades of working as a children’s book editor at Random House, Viking, and HarperCollins, among other houses, Jill Davis is opening a new chapter of her publishing career. She has joined Astra Publishing House, where she will helm a yet-to-be named imprint dedicated to publishing illustrated children’s books. Davis will report to the company’s COO Ben Schrank and president Leying Jiang.
Davis’s imprint, which will debut in fall 2022, joins a roster of established children’s lines at Astra Publishing House, among them mineditionUS, Boyds Mills Press, Calkins Creek, Kane Press, and Wordsong. (The company also comprises Astra House, an adult trade publisher of international literary fiction and nonfiction.)
Discussing her move, Davis explained that during her tenure at HarperCollins, working under Katherine Tegen and Nancy Inteli, she “learned so much about how successful books are published, which was invaluable.” Yet after eight years at the house, she added, “I wanted to settle down at a smaller publisher and was lucky to hear about what Ben Schrank was doing at Astra.”
The editor drew up a proposal for starting her own imprint at the company, which Schrank (with whom Davis had crossed paths when they both worked at Penguin) endorsed. “I have loved getting to know Ben as well as Leying Jiang and everyone at APH,” Davis said. “Ben and Leying are comfortable giving me the autonomy I need and I appreciate that they believe in my books. We share the goal of wanting to give authors and illustrators the attention they need.”
Envisaging the List
Davis anticipates publishing 15 to 20 books annually—those by authors and illustrators she has worked with before, as well as books created by new talent. “My focus will be developing authors and illustrators and helping them create unforgettable stories with sparkle, soul, and lots of surprise,” she said. Having edited a wide range of titles over the years—including works by Beatrice Alemagna, Daniel Bernstrom, Serge Bloch, Babette Cole, Elise Gravel, Julie Morstad, Elizabeth Partridge, and Brendan Wenzel—Davis noted that she expects to stay an eclectic course.
“I plan to publish some board book series, graphic chapter books, lots of picture books, and an occasional middle grade or teen graphic novel,” she said. “More than anything else, my list at Astra will be lots of fun. I want to find the perfect balance between the quirky approach I love so much and the broad appeal that helps a book succeed. I still adore nonfiction and biography and continue to gravitate toward books by European creators—so some of those will definitely be in the mix.”
Schrank shared his and his colleagues’ enthusiasm about Davis’s new venture. “We are all excited to welcome Jill and to help her start a new imprint,” he said. “She has an amazing eye for talent and is known internationally for working with the very best creators. Jill’s brand of playfulness is just what we want here. We can’t wait to give kids her books because we know they’ll love [them], laugh, and treasure the experience—and we can’t wait to champion everything she publishes with us.”