When Jon Anderson came from Running Press to Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing in January 2009 as executive v-p and publisher, he was excited about the possibilities that the new technologies in publishing had to offer. "Running Press specialized in a lot of novelty and coffee-table books that could really only exist in book form. The digital onslaught that was coming was not a huge part of the planning," Anderson said. "When I got here, I was amazed at how far ahead of the curve S&S was, and in particular how the kids' division was taking advantage of the opportunities available."
In 2009, some major series were coming to a close: the Spiderwick books, the Pendragon series and "I think we thought we were concluding Mortal Instruments," Anderson said with a chuckle (more on that a bit later). "This year we have a combination of big, new series preparing to launch, and a handful of number twos--second books in series that are already performing incredibly well." Among those are follow-ups to the New York Times bestseller Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (Crescendo, November), the Printz Honor book The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey (its sequel, The Curse of the Wendigo, October), Dork Diaries #2: Tales from a Not-So-Popular Party Girl by Rachel Renée Russell (June), and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, the sequel to Leviathan (more on that a bit later, too).
Some star quality stand-alone titles also lead the fall list at S&S, including Lulu and the Brontosaurus (Atheneum, $15.99, 9781416999614/1416999612, 128 pp., ages 4-8, September) by Judith Viorst, author of classic backlist titles such as Alexander and the Horrible, Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, illustrated by Ray Cruz. After Lulu's parents nix her birthday wish for a brontosaurus, she takes matters into her own hands and heads to the woods to find the prehistoric pet herself. But the brontosaurus has his own plans for the heroine. "We all loved Lulu, and we realized we had to find a marvelous illustrator to pair it with. It was just a wonderful stroke of luck that Lane Smith was equally wowed by the tale and eagerly came on board," Anderson recalled. (Viorst and Lane will sign ARCs of Lulu and the Brontosaurus at BEA on Wednesday, May 26, at 11 a.m. in the autographing area, Table 15.)
The Brazilian fine artist Romero Britto makes a transition to children's picture books next month with My Alphabet Playbook (Little Simon, $12.99, 9781416996248/1416996249), a "puzzle board book," and in October, S&S will publish Britto's Where Is Friendship Bear? ($12.99, 9781416996231/1416996230, both board books are $12.99, 16 pp., ages 4-8). Anderson pointed out that Britto has done a great many sculptures, including the original cow parade, as well as high-profile advertising work like a design for an Absolut bottle. "He has a unique graphic style that is immensely popular, and we felt that appeal could easily stretch to a preschool audience as well," Anderson said. "With Alphabet Playbook, playing off his reputation as a sculptor, we thought it would be great if the letters popped out of the book, to allow kids to make their own sculptures out of the letters."
Anderson was introduced to Matthew Van Fleet's titles as a bookseller (he got his start at the age of 15 in a B. Dalton in his native South Dakota). "I have always admired his books for their child friendliness and distinctive look," Anderson said. "Now Matt is practically a household name." In September, S&S will publish Heads (Paula Wiseman Books, $19.99 9781442403796/1442403799), a companion to the author-artist's million-copy-plus bestselling Tails. "When you see a Matt Van Fleet book from across the store, you head right for it because you trust it," says Anderson. "Yet all of Matt's books are so different. Having the chance to now work with Matt has been a wonderful experience." (Van Fleet will sign copies of his book Alphabet at BEA on Wednesday, May 26, at 2 p.m. in the autographing area, table 30.)
S&S's new West Coast imprint, Beach Lane Books, led by v-p and publisher Allyn Johnston, will continue the Pals in Peril series by M.T. Anderson, edited by Johnston while she was editor-in-chief at Harcourt. Last fall, S&S/Beach Lane published the third in the series, Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware, and next month S&S will take over publication of the first two books in the series, Whales on Stilts and The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen. "I think a series tends to lose its focus if it's spread out across different publishers, so we bought the books back from Harcourt," Anderson said. He called M.T. Anderson "one of the most fascinating people I've ever met. I was a fan of his books before I had the pleasure of being his publisher." The fourth book in the Pals in Peril series, Agent Q, or The Smell of Danger! (Beach Lane, $16.99, 9781416986409/1416986405, 304 pp., ages 9-12), will be released in October.
The Canterwood Crest series by Jessica Burkhart "keeps getting bigger and bigger with each new book we do," according to Anderson. " It seems to be that perfect combination of girls and horses with a little attitude." The ninth book, City Secrets ($6.99 paper, 9781442403802/1442403802, July), finds series stars Heather, Sasha and Paige taking a break from academics and horses to head to Manhattan, and September marks the publication of book #10, Elite Ambition (9781442403826/1442403829).
In addition to what he calls the "abundance of riches" on the fall S&S children's list, Anderson is also excited about the online exchange S&S has developed with readers--through PulseIt.com in particular, which launched last June. "Everyone here has been embracing the new opportunities that are coming about with being able to reach our audience directly and to market to them directly," Anderson said. "Opportunities are coming about that never existed in publishing before."