It’s full steam ahead for Union Square Kids. The publisher’s dynamic line of children’s, middle grade, and YA titles includes well-established authors and illustrators and new voices alike. Editorial director Tracey Keevan shares the vision behind Union Square Kids, its publishing aspirations, and a few of the many standout titles on the horizon.
What are your goals for Union Square Kids going forward?
The Union Square Kids team is focused on building a portfolio of titles that wow young readers. We want every single kid to find a book on the Union Square Kids list that feels deeply special and personal to them. We’re in a unique position to reboot our trade publishing strategy and act quickly to make it happen. To help us establish a clear point of view, we’ve narrowed in on three key goals: establish best-in-class quality for our books and our talent; publish unexpected titles that surprise, empower, and engage readers; and lead the way in growing the children’s publishing market to reach all kids. These are lofty goals, we know. But they are also important goals... and we love that.
How are you connecting with both established and new authors to build the Union Square Kids line?
Emily Meehan, our chief creative officer; Amanda Englander, the editorial director for Union Square & Co.; and I have been on a virtual roadshow junket talking with agencies about the changes and opportunities happening here, as well as finding out what’s coming down the line from agents. It’s been fun to see so many familiar faces and talk about the thing we all love: books. One point we emphasize with agents is that our boutique-publisher size affords us the flexibility to work with well-established authors and illustrators as well as breakout debut talent. On either side of the spectrum, our approach is the same. Our talent is part of the team, and we’re 100% invested in their long-term success with Union Square Kids.
I admit, I’m a little nervous about Mo Willems’s Pigeon on a roller coaster. What does it mean for you to be able to continue the beloved series at Union Square Kids?
We’re all a little nervous about the Pigeon getting on that roller coaster. What could go wrong, right? Publishing The Pigeon Will Ride the Roller Coaster! with Mo Willems at Union Square Kids is surprisingly a lot like riding an actual roller coaster. It is emotional. There’s tremendous excitement from the Union Square Kids team to be working with Mo on this book and other new projects. Personally, I’m extremely grateful to Mo and his agent Marcia Wernick for their support and trust. It means a lot more than I can do justice to in a Q&A.
Nick Brooks seems like he’s already a force to be reckoned with. I’m guessing that in Nothing Interesting Ever Happens to Ethan Fairmont a lot of interesting things happen. What can you share without giving too much away?
In no particular order: someone loses a shoe; a vacuum-cleaner robot faces off with a bully; a tiny alien discovers a love of hot pickles; and three kids race to repair a broken spaceship before it’s too late. Besides the hot pickles, I don’t think I’ve leaked any major spoilers. And you’re right about Nick Brooks—he is a talent to watch. His writing is smart, funny, and vibrant. And Ethan Fairmont is a character who sticks with you long after you’ve finished reading. Nick, a former teacher, understands kids and effortlessly connects with readers through his storytelling. There is much more to come from Nick Brooks in the years ahead (including two more Ethan Fairmont books).
Who are the characters readers meet in the Graveyard Girls series, and what can this new generation of readers look forward to as they get their hands on the first book?
Graveyard Girls is scary... but the right kind of scary for a middle grade audience. Lisi Harrison and Dan Kraus knock it out the park with the first story in this five-book series, where we meet the fab five: Whisper, Sophie, Frannie, Gemma, and Zuzu. Whisper is the loud one, of course. She’s also the star of book one, telling a terrifying tale about sentient mutant thumbs. IRL, we get to know Sophie (the straight-A overachiever), Frannie (the drama kid), Gemma (the leader), and Zuzu (the edgy one) as they investigate the 100-year-old legend of Silas Hoke, infamous Misery Falls murderer. It. Is. So. Good.
Sara Shepard is such a renowned YA thriller author. What’s in store for readers in Wait for Me?
Wait for Me features Sara’s trademark writing: a deliciously twist-filled mystery with page-turning pacing, as well as a swoon-worthy romance and a hint of supernatural. That’s a lot of hyphens, I know. But Sara’s style is too dynamic for ordinary adjectives. The story is also time-bendy, jumping from Becky’s early 2000s story to Casey’s contemporary timeline. Time and place and personalities blur as the story unfolds. Sara’s fans are going to love this book. It’s worth the wait!