Fifty years after opening its doors, Abrams has issued its first catalogue devoted exclusively to children's books. The catalogue introduces more than a

The Worst Band in the Universe
BESTSELLING AUTHOR Graeme Base headlines the fall list.

dozen fall and winter releases that launch the new Harry N. Abrams Books for Young Readers imprint. Though the company has published numerous children's titles over the years -- including Graeme Base's two-million-copy 1986 bestseller, Animalia -- this marks the first time that new and backlist children's books have been brought together under one name.

At the helm of the new line is director Howard Reeves, who believes the timing of this first full-fledged children's list is especially appropriate. "Abrams's 50th anniversary not only celebrates where we've been but where we are going," he said. "We are committed to expanding our children's publishing program and repositioning our list to make it child-friendly and age-appropriate."

Reeves, whose publishing background includes stints at Rizzoli (where he also started up a children's line) and at Hyperion Books for Children, described Abrams's debut children's list as indicative of the shape of future lists: "Our first catalogue contains picture books, a book on art appreciation and a biography of Margaret Bourke-White, which exemplify the direction that we are going to be taking. Our goal is to get youngsters thinking about artwork not as something that hangs on the wall or that is housed in a building, but as something that is both ethereal and tangible."

Though Abrams will continue to buy titles from publishers in other countries, Reeves expects that the bulk of future children's lists will be made up of books that originate in-house, which marks a change for the company. He anticipates publishing between 15 and 20 titles annually. Abrams's existing design, marketing, publicity and sales departments have responsibility for the children's as well as adult titles.

Reeves commented that Abrams's sales force is well positioned to find appropriate retail outlets for the burgeoning children's list. "The areas of distribution that they focus on for our adult books, including museum stores and art bookstores, are also the perfect venues for our children's books," he said.

A Look at the List

Fittingly, Abrams's inaugural children's catalogue features the latest book by Graeme Base, the house's bestselling children's author. Due in September, The Worst Band in the Universe: A Totally Cosmic Musical Adventure is a science fiction/fantasy tale packaged with a CD containing music composed and performed by Base. Abrams has set a 200,000-copy first printing for this book, which it will back with consumer and trade advertising as well as a 14-city author tour.

Base is also a contributor to another book on Abrams's fall list, Wings of an Artist: Children's Book Illustrators Talk About Their Art, in which more than 20 illustrators share their thoughts about art and the creative muse that inspires them. Also featured are Leo and Diane Dillon, Steve Johnson, William Joyce and Susan Meddaugh.

Other fall highlights include the previously mentioned biography, Margaret Bourke-White: Her Pictures Were Her Life, by Susan Goldman Rubin; Dudley: The Little Terrier That Could by Stephen Green-Armytage; Animal Trunk: Silly P ms to Read Aloud by Charles Ghigna; and Gnome Life: A Monthly Celebration of Secrets, Tales, and Whimsy by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet, the creators of Gnomes.

Some of these releases reflect Reeves's belief that the finest children's books also hold appeal for adults. He commented that "those of us who grew up in the 1960s and '70s are lured by picture books, because we were raised as readers at a time of great expansion in the children's book market. Extraordinary talent came forward during these decades and we all benefited from it. As adults, we are still drawn to the art, style and design of wonderful children's books, many of which are today quite sophisticated. Yet the key, of course, is not to lose the child."