Scholastic is expanding its commitment to nonfiction with the launch of Scholastic Focus, a new imprint dedicated exclusively to narrative nonfiction for middle grade and YA readers. The goal, according to Lisa Sandell, editorial director of Scholastic Press and Scholastic Focus, is to publish books that help young readers make connections between history and current events, see how ideas from the past inform the present, and be receptive to new perspectives. "With Scholastic Focus, we hope to introduce young readers to smart, thoughtful, and meticulously researched books that will help them make sense of the world around them," says Sandell.
The imprint will launch with two September titles: Deborah Hopkinson's D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History and Lawrence Goldstone's Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice. These will be followed by Neal Bascomb's YA title The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century, to be published in association with Arthur A. Levine Books, in October.
Sandell says these books will equip young readers—who, she notes, are "highly aware of their environment and likely to be involved in causes they're passionate about"—with a firm grasp of history. "Reading history gives us the context to understand how we have arrived at where we are today, which, in turn, helps us to navigate—and hopefully work to improve—both the present and the future," Sandell says.
The imprint, which will be publishing newcomers as well as established and award-winning authors, will bring out books on a broad range of topics, from history to identity, to wide-reaching cultural ideas, to "how young people experience life anywhere from Alabama to Africa," Sandell says.
Hopkinson's D-Day is an account of the Allied troops' invasion of German-occupied Europe during World War II, angled at middle grade readers. Goldstone's Unpunished Murder recounts the 1873 Colfax Massacre, in which white supremacists killed more than 100 African-Americans after burning down a Louisiana courthouse. Sandell also has books slated in other nonfiction subgenres. These include two reissues on the imprint's launch list: The Greatest: Muhammad Ali, a biography of the legendary boxer by Walter Dean Myers, former National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, and Lincoln's Grave Robbers, a true crime thriller by National Book Award finalist Steve Sheinkin.
Other heavy hitters in the pipeline include a book by Henry Louis Gates Jr. about Reconstruction and the birth of Jim Crow, and a memoir by Da Chen about the Chinese Cultural Revolution. "I'm most excited," Sandell says, "about having an opportunity to present readers, parents, and educators with books that are compelling and resonant and that will help them slow down for a moment and dive into true stories of remarkable events and extraordinary people."
The Scholastic Focus Launch List
D-Day: The World War II Invasion That Changed History
September | Ages 8–12
Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice
September | Ages 12–up
The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century
October | Ages 12–up
The Greatest: Muhammad Ali
Walter Dean Myers
October | Ages 12-up
Lincoln's Grave Robbers
October | Agest 12-up