"Candlewick Grows Up" is the name of a special promotion that Candlewick Press in Cambridge, Mass., is launching in May, but it could just as easily describe the changes that the nine-year-old publisher has recently undergone. Some are a result of last spring's $7-million capital investment by parent company Walker Books in London, for growth over several years. Others come from the sale of Maisy books—one million copies in 2000 alone—and Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick's first Newbery Honor book.

Even before the financial assist, sales were strong. Final figures for 2000 aren't in yet, but publisher and president Karen Lotz anticipates that "we will have averaged double-digit growth for the past two years. We are reaching for a similar increase in 2001."

Candlewick's fiscal growth has led to other types of expansion. The company went from six people in 1991 when it opened its office to 46 in 1999 and 67 in 2000. To accommodate the increase in staff, Candlewick doubled its office space this past January. It now occupies two floors of the red brick building that has been its U.S. home from the very beginning. In addition, Lotz recently signed a lease for Candlewick's first New York City office, in the Williamsburgh Savings Bank building in Brooklyn; the office is scheduled to open in early April.

Like many publishers, Candlewick is experimenting with cyber growth. In mid-January, the publisher launched its Web site at www.candlewick.com. According to Deborah Sloan, executive director of marketing, in the first six weeks the site got nearly 1.15 million hits—without any advertising.

The sheer number of titles that Candlewick publishes is also increasing, from 35 originated here in the U.S. last year to approximately 70 in 2001. "More or less we want to be 50/50 with Walker," said Lotz. She revised last year's projection downward for the number of books that Candlewick will publish in 2001, from 200 to 150. "Our focus," she said, "is to do fewer titles, better."

The company has yet more changes afoot. Even before the buzz around Winn-Dixie started, Candlewick, primarily known for its picture books, had already begun buying fiction for middle and teen readers. "Every season," said Lotz, "we want to be able to market six or seven novels." And she is planning some novel ways to promote them. In May, Candlewick will roll out its growing-up fiction campaign. Kids who buy a Candlewick novel from a participating bookstore, review it and send the review to Candlewick will get a free novel in return.

Lotz is hoping that many teen readers will choose Celia Rees's novel Witch Child , which was published to much acclaim in England by Bloomsbury last fall. Set mostly in Salem, Mass., in the 1600s, it is told in journal form by a teenage girl who sees her grandmother hanged as a witch in England. She escapes to America only to face a similar fate. Candlewick decided to push up the pub date for the U.S. edition from Halloween to Friday, July 13th. Witch Child is Candlewick's first book to have a national laydown date and national consumer advertising, on teenpeople.com. Booksellers who buy 12 copies will receive a baker's dozen—the 13th book is free.

Despite the hoopla surrounding Witch Child, Lotz is determined to continue Candlewick's commitment to developing new authors and artists. "We feel like we can still be an incubator for talent," she commented. "Because of Winn-Dixie was a first novel edited by a first-time editor. We've opened our doors to unsolicited manuscripts. So many houses have stopped accepting them."

This fall also marks the introduction of the Candlewick gift line, with photo albums, picture frames and thank-you notes linked to two of its most popular properties, Guess How Much I Love You and its Mother Goose series. "We know people go to bookstores for a book and a gift," said Sloan about Candlewick's decision to enter the gift market. "We showed this line at Toy Fair, and the response was absolutely unbelievable. "

If it seems like a lot is happening at Candlewick as it prepares for its 10th birthday, that's because it is. In the meantime, Candlewick wants to show authors, illustrators, booksellers and consumers that it is here to stay, by growing up with them—and their kids.