The Little Press, an independent children’s publisher based in Wood-Ridge, N.J., isn’t quite as little anymore. Owner and publisher Michele McAvoy set it up as an LLC in 2016 to self-publish her picture book My Superhero Grandpa, illustrated by Mike Motz. In 2020, she made the leap to becoming a traditional publisher, and the press now acquires picture books, middle grade for the imprint Blue Bronco Books, and Christian books for the imprint Bless This Press. This month the company will launch its first YA novel, Sierra Isley’s In the Ring, and has partnered with environmental nonprofit One Little Earth to add to its nature-themed offerings.

McAvoy and One Little Earth executive director Debra Wolf Goldstein announced their alliance in August. With Goldstein serving as nature editor, they plan to publish two Little Press books annually about the natural world and environmental subject matter.

First on their list will be Wonder of the Woods by author–illustrator Bonnie Kelso, slated for fall 2024. Two more projects are under way, including a book on light pollution called Dark Skies and a story about forest fires called Pioneer Tree. Titles need not be nonfiction, yet all will include explanatory back matter to reinforce the science behind the stories.

Supporting Environmental Literacy

Goldstein, a land conservation attorney invested in young people’s nature literacy, found her way to the Little Press through environmental education. In 2017, she co-founded the Philadelphia Environmental Film Festival, which provided outdoor-themed youth programming such as filmmaking courses and field trips. Her experiences led her to start One Little Earth, a youth-centered nature organization that provides writing workshops, supports libraries, and funds direct experiences like field trips.

While seeking ways to inform young people about sustainability and the planet, Goldstein met McAvoy and discovered their common goal of creating children's books that inspire a love of nature and encourage kids to get outside. In the arrangement they set up, One Little Earth committed to purchasing 500 copies of each title and “distributing them free of charge to nonprofits that focus on literacy or the environment” as part of their educational outreach, Goldstein said. The 500 copies are “a portion of the initial print run that helps to fund the project,” McAvoy added, “so that’s where the alliance comes in.”

McAvoy ensures that Little Press titles are available through Edelweiss, promoted in quarterly school newsletters, and championed by authors and illustrators on school visits. “We have to really work our community as an independent publisher, so we reach out to our contacts in the school market as well as our regular retail market,” she said. She also is excited to have signed a national distribution deal with Baker & Taylor last January, “which has propelled our company in terms of reach.”

The Little Press publishes six to eight titles per year, but with One Little Earth’s participation,” McAvoy said, “I think it’s going to grow to 10.”