Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday, June 21, 2017: Dedicated Issue: Chronicle's 50th Anniversary

Chronicle Books: Chronicle Books is turning 50!

Editors' Note

Happy 50th Birthday, Chronicle Books!

With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness celebrates the 50th anniversary of Chronicle Books, the innovative publisher of illustrated books and gifts that have delighted--and continue to delight--many millions of readers worldwide.

Chronicle Books: Chronicle Books is turning 50!

Books & Authors

Chronicle Books' 50th Festivities

Chronicle Books, the publisher whose titles are so distinctive and lively that many fans say, "I knew it was Chronicle Books the minute I picked it up," is celebrating its 50th anniversary in style. It's holding a range of events and offering limited-edition anniversary items, including tote bags, sticky notes and eyeglass-cleaning cloths (expanding on Chronicle's spectacles logo).

Appropriately for a publisher, Chronicle Books is also issuing Chronicle Books: The First 50 Years, a book that will be distributed to select fans and friends. The hardcover, full-color tome tells the history of the company and features hundreds of photos, reminiscences from current and former staff, images of rare treasures and sketches from the archives.

The San Francisco Center for the Book is hosting an exhibit of 50 Chronicle books (one for each year) as well as 30 children's titles and 25 gift products, ranging from Griffin & Sabine (1991) and The Beatles Anthology (2000) to Tartine (2006) and Mama, Do You Love Me? (1991). Unusually, visitors will be encouraged to pick up and leaf through the books. The Chronicle Books: Born in the Summer of Love exhibit opens with a reception this Friday, June 23, and runs through September 24. Copies of Chronicle Books: The First 50 Years will be available for a $20 donation to the Center.

Next week, on Thursday, June 29, Chronicle Books employees and authors will take part in "Chronicle Books Read Aloud Day" at all 28 San Francisco Public Library branches. The events will feature picture book storytimes that also include librarians and local heroes.

The celebration also has a culinary aspect: Humphry Slocombe has developed a Chronicle Books-inspired ice cream flavor called McEvoy's Chronicles that it's selling at special events, and, in a similar vein, in its five cafés in the Bay Area, Ritual Coffee is selling a Chronicle Books-inspired espresso called Acid Trip ("tastes like grapefruit, blood orange, rose hips and freedom").

And last but not least, to express gratitude for the support Chronicle Books has received throughout its history, the company is creating a "bicycle bookmobile" to bring the spirit of Chronicle Books to people across the Bay Area.

Chronicle Books: Chronicle Books is turning 50!

Chronicle Books: A Storied History--and Future

In 1967, the summer of love in San Francisco, Chronicle Books was founded as an offshoot of the San Francisco Chronicle, mostly publishing material by the newspaper's columnists. Soon the book program moved beyond its local focus, and Chronicle Books established its distinctive style, publishing books that are of the highest quality yet affordable, beautifully designed, amusingly and informatively written, and that approach subjects from different and often charming perspectives.

Nion McEvoy (photo: Joseph Seif)

That Chronicle Books Quality
A key aspect of what distinguishes Chronicle books is tactile appeal. As Nion McEvoy, chairman and CEO of the McEvoy Group, owner of Chronicle Books and a 30-year veteran of the publisher, puts it: "There's always been a sensuous quality to the publishing, appealing to the senses as well as to the intellectual quality of the books. Our books have a light touch with a seriousness of execution."

For his part, Jack Jensen, the longtime president of Chronicle Books until he became president of the McEvoy Group at the beginning of the year, says that Chronicle Books, early on developed a style of books that were "distinctive, curious objects and seductive at retail."

Tyrrell Mahoney, who succeeded Jensen as president of Chronicle Books, cites the "beauty and surprise and magic" of the company's books as qualities that Chronicle Books has maintained even as it's grown, now publishing more than 300 new titles a year with a staff of 200.

Publisher Christine Carswell observes, too, that "there's a lot of humor in our children's books and a lot of our adult publishing." The company also is "very democratic," she says, offering "people value for their money."

Jack Jensen (photo: Irene Kim)

The Early Days
In the 1970s, parent company Chronicle Publishing, which besides the San Francisco Chronicle, owned six other newspapers, four NBC affiliates and a cable division, neglected its book division, giving its young heads exceptional leeway--and an unusual amount of creative opportunity. Jensen described the situation this way: "As long as we were not losing money and were growing revenues, we were able to map our own direction."

That direction quickly became apparent. Because Chronicle Books printed many books in Japan and staff went there regularly to check print runs, "printers introduced us to Japanese publishers," Jensen says. "We discovered a lot of books with great visual content, mostly design and photography books with little text, beautifully produced, that we could do in trade paper at affordable prices."

Chronicle Books started buying rights to these books and others, which were unusual in the U.S. at the time, and became "a pioneer of doing trade paperbacks with flaps and of illustrated paperbacks," which made them affordable and appealing to "people our own age. It was the format of choice of the younger generation."

Tyrrell Mahoney (photo: Irene Kim)

Company Highlights
Over the years, the company began distributing "a select group" of other publishers, which was "a very important part of what helped us build the business and build our sales and marketing effort," Jensen says. Client publishers include Princeton Architectural Press, Moleskine, Laurence King Publishing, Hardie Grant Books, Sierra Club and Quadrille Publishing.

Unlike most publishers, Chronicle Books operates several bookstores, with three in San Francisco and one in Tokyo, where it focuses on selling its own and distributed publisher titles. It's also opened several kiosks in Dymocks stores in Australia.

The San Francisco stores are particularly important, Mahoney says, because they're "a great way to bring our brand to the city more directly," a brand that imbues "the California lifestyle aesthetic."

One of the biggest changes came in 1999, when Nion McEvoy, a great-grandson of the founder of the San Francisco Chronicle, bought Chronicle Books when the family was selling the various parts of the overall company. As Carswell observes, "That's when we became a fully independent publisher. We had a lot of autonomy when we were part of the Chronicle Publishing family, but things took on a new order when Nion became the owner. He has supported us with our independence and that independence of spirit."

Christine Carswell (photo: Irene Kim)

The Future Is Now
At the beginning of this year, Jensen became president of the McEvoy Group, which besides Chronicle Books owns Galison/Mudpuppy, Princeton Architectural Press and ISeeMe. "I thought it was a great time to turn the reins over to someone with a younger perspective," he says, adding that Mahoney, who joined the company in 1996, is "revered internally and externally, and like me, she comes out of sales," which he called "a sound footing to run a publishing business."

Mahoney says that among her plans are "to continue to innovate and expand our reach in new market channels and bring books to people who may not be thinking about books as a gift." She defines gifts in a broad way: "Chronicle Books has what consumers need, whether it's a gift of a children's book for grandchildren or a beautiful box of stationery or a great humor book for your dad."

Remembering that many in the industry believed not long ago that digital books would dominate the business, she notes that high-quality printed books and related physical products are if anything more popular than ever. She says, "it's really heartening" for Chronicle Books, a company that has been and continues to be "focused on the physical and tactile experience of books."

Here's to another great 50 years for Chronicle Books!

Chronicle Books: Chronicle Books is turning 50!

Chronicle Books' Children's List Continues to Grow

Appropriately, the children's program at Chronicle Books is "a bit younger" than the overall company, as children's publishing director Ginee Seo puts it. In the very early years, Chronicle Books published at least one kids' book, The Cable Car and the Dragon by legendary Chronicle newspaper columnist Herb Caen, a title that is still in print. But the children's effort didn't start in earnest until 1988, when Victoria Rock, an experienced children's book editor, was hired. (Rock is still with the company, working as editor-at-large and acquiring titles.) The first lists began with titles originally published in Europe, an approach that remains an important part of the list, adding to its international flavor and helping to "shape our aesthetic," Seo says.

Ginee Seo

Part of the impetus to publish children's books came from realizing that Chronicle's emphasis on well-designed, innovative, fun titles would fit well to children's books. In addition, Christine Carswell recalls, as more of the Chronicle staff became parents, "we appreciated the value of kids books and reading to kids and realized there was an opportunity for the company." The staff thought it could "offer more in terms of a visual vernacular, a different way of looking at things--and saw that there was a place in the kids' market for that kind of publishing. Readers and parents or loved ones didn't have a children's version of what Chronicle Books could do in the adult sphere."

The heart of the list has always been picture books, Seo says, "deceptively simple concept books" such as Little Pea by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace; Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld; and Peek-a Who by Nina Laden.

Nowadays, of course, Chronicle originates most of the children's list, and the company has grown the children's list with books that have longer stories and are character-driven, expanding "on the younger and older ends," Seo says, particularly with toddler and baby titles, novelty and early readers, chapter books and middle grade titles. This process of expansion began 10 years ago, and is reflected on both Chronicle's current and upcoming lists.

One outstanding sign of the list's power: Chronicle Books recently celebrated some major awards. Earlier this year, the publisher had its second Caldecott honor award--They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel; Lowriders to the Center of the Earth, illustrated by Raúl Gonzalez, written by Cathy Camper won the Pura Belpré Illustrator Award; and Over the Ocean by Taro Gomi was a Batchelder Award honor book.

As in adult publishing, the children's department aims, Seo says, "to stay true to our roots of creativity and offering different points of view and to try to make each title fresh and original every time. We always ask ourselves, 'Is this distinctive? Is it Chronicle?' " Humor is also an important component of the list.

"We know the power of books for inform and open people's minds to new perspectives, to encourage empathy, to improve motor skills," Carswell adds. "As long as kids are read too, books will continue to matter physically, emotionally and intellectually."

Backlist Landmarks: Titles That Built Chronicle Books

Sushi by Mia Detrick, photographs by Kathryn Kleinman ($12.95, 9780877012382, published in 1981). This trade paperback rolled out the art of sushi to Americans and began the trend of single-subject cookbooks. Sushi was Chronicle Books entrée into the food business, as Jack Jensen notes.

Gifts of Age: Portraits and Essays of 32 Remarkable Women by Charlotte Painter, photographs by Pamela Valois ($16.95, 9780877013686, published in 1985). These inspirational accounts showcase women over the age of 65 who have discovered new paths in life, including M.F.K. Fisher, Joan Baez Senior, Louise M. Davies, and Julia Child, who appears on the cover.

Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Barbara Lavallee ($6.99, 9780811821315, published in 1991). This classic children's book about an Inuit mother and daughter has sold more than four million copies. Papa, Do You Love Me?, about a Masai father and son, was released in 2005.

Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence by Nick Bantock ($19.95, 9780877017882, published in 1991). Griffin & Sabine is a novel told through illustrated letters, which readers have to pry from envelopes inside the book--interloping in a correspondence between two lovers. This first in a six-part series became a landmark bestseller for Chronicle Books.

Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy by Frances Mayes ($22.95, 9780811808422, published in 1996). This memoir of an American gourmet cook, travel writer and poet who purchased an abandoned villa in the Italian countryside and renovated it was an immediate bestseller and is still in print.

Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh ($15.99, 9780811818070, published in 1997) follows a dog who mishears the classic Christmas song and joins Santa's reindeer team. Olive's striking art style helped create Chronicle's reputation for aesthetically unique books.

Spring Is Here by Taro Gomi ($6.99, 9780811823319, published in 1999) uses simple words and bold pictures to show young children the progression of seasons. Spring Is Here "was just so far ahead of its time in understanding the way babies and toddlers view the world in really intuitive ways, and not necessarily the way adults view it," says Ginee Seo. Taro Gomi, an author/illustrator from Japan, continues to create similar books for Chronicle.

The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook series by David Borgenicht and Joshua Piven (the eponymous first title made its debut in 1999) has entries covering all kinds of dangerous situations--some more likely than others--such as surviving in the Amazon, on Mt. Everest, traveling through New York City or going on a date.

Enemy Pie by Derek Munson, illustrated by Tara Calahan King ($15.99, 9780811827782, published in 2000). When a rival new kid moves in down the block, a young boy learns the secret recipe for a pie that gets rid of enemies, though he'll have to spend the day playing with him first. "It's a book about bullying before bullying became the focus of so many school programs," says Ginee Seo. "Ahead of its time."

The Beatles Anthology by the Beatles ($60, 9780811826846, published in 2000) was created with the full cooperation of Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr to tell the story of the Beatles.

Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats by Angie Dudley ($19.95, 9780811876377, published in 2010) began an international snack food craze for cute cakes mounted on sticks.

Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld ($16.99, 9780811877824, published in 2011). As night falls on a construction site, machines like Cement Mixer, Dump Truck and Bulldozer bid goodnight. A sequel to this bestselling children's book, Mighty, Mighty Construction Site, was released on February 14, 2017.

Chronicle Books has a long history of publishing Star Wars titles and has enjoyed a relationship with George Lucas stretching back to the beginning of the franchise. Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown ($14.95, 9781452106557, published in 2012) is a humorous, illustrated imagining of Darth Vader as an attentive father to a young Luke Skywalker, which spawned calendars, postcards, a coloring book and an offshoot with Leia, Vader's Little Princess.

Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book by Grumpy Cat ($12.95, 9781452126579, published in 2013) brought everyone's favorite feline meme to the printed page. This sourpussy cat also has his own line of postcards, calendars and notebooks.

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson ($17.99, 9781452103143, published in 2014) won the Coretta Scott King Book Award and the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award, among other accolades. Josephine is an illustrated biography of the performer and civil rights advocate.

Press Here by Hervé Tullet ($15.99, 9780811879545, published in 2011). In this book for early readers, children are prompted to push a yellow dot and follow the instructions as it multiplies and changes color, all on printed pages. Tullet's work is an entertaining counterpoint to the age of ubiquitous iPads. It spent 300 weeks on the bestseller list. Tullet's Mix It Up! ($15.99, 9781452137353, published in 2014) continues the interactive magic of Press Here with more colors, shapes and even sounds for kids to follow along with. His most recent work is Let's Play! ($15.99, 9781452154770, March 29, 2016), which brings the original yellow dot from Press Here back for more fun, this time with a thin black line. Say Zoop! ($15.99, 9781452164731) comes out August 2017.

The Ivy and Bean series by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall has been a major bestseller since the first book came out in 2010. The illustrated antics of these two mischievous girls will continue with a new book coming in fall 2018. Thus far, Ivy and Bean have had 10 adventures, ranging from detective work and paleontology to dancing and babysitting. Annie Barrows is also co-author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Sophie Blackall is an Australian illustrator currently living in Brooklyn, N.Y.

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel ($16.99, 9781452150130, published in August 2016) imagines a wandering pet cat from multiple perspectives, each with its own vivid rendering. The cat's human, for example, sees something very different than a poor pursued mouse. They All Saw a Cat was a 2017 Caldecott Honor Book.

Chronicle Books: Highlighted Forthcoming Titles

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers, illustrated by Shawn Harris ($19.99, 9781452162812, Sept. 19, 2017), is Chronicle Books' first children's title by award-winning author Dave Eggers (The Circle; A Hologram for the King) and artist Shawn Harris. Her Right Foot is an original take on the Statue of Liberty, whose raised foot is moving forward: Eggers examines what it means to be American, getting "to the heart of why she's there and what she stands for and what she means to the U.S. and immigrants," says Ginee Seo. "The original pub date was spring 2018, but the subject is so timely that we moved it up."

The 12 Sleighs of Christmas by Sherri Duskey Rinker, illustrated by Jake Parker ($16.99, 9781452145143, October 24, 2017) brings Sherri Duskey Rinker, author of Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, to a North Pole in crisis. When Santa's sleigh breaks, his elves have to come up with new designs fast. Artist Jake Parker brings their varied creations to life: a sleigh shaped like a train, another like a helicopter, and 10 other wild rides. The 12 Sleighs of Christmas is another offbeat take on Christmas in the same vein as Olive, the Other Reindeer.

Nothing Rhymes with Orange by Adam Rex ($16.99, 9781452154435, August 1, 2017) follows an unhappy orange who cannot participate in a fruit basket singalong because nothing rhymes with the word orange. Children's book author/illustrator Adam Rex (Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich) brings a humorous twist to the common childhood affliction of feeling left out. "The orange comments on each rhyme," says Christine Carswell, "but of course it's really about inclusion and feeling different. Like the best children's books, it has a profound message but is also absolutely hilarious."

This Book Is a Planetarium: And Other Extraordinary Pop-Up Contraptions by Kelli Anderson ($40, 9781452136219, September 26, 2017) offers a new chapter on what pop-up titles can do. This title transforms into a functional planetarium, a spiralgraph, a musical instrument, an infinite calendar, a message decoder and a speaker, all using the book itself and a little extra light. "This book was years in the making," says Carswell. "It reflects our slogan: see things differently."

200 Women: Who Will Change the Way You See the World, edited by Ruth Hobday, Geoff Blackwell, Sharon Gelman and Marianne Lassandro ($50, 9781452166582, October 31, 2017). Women from around the world, from visionary artists and leaders (such as Ruth Bader Ginsburg) to everyday people, are asked the same five questions, including "What really matters to you?" and "What would you change in the world if you could?" Their answers, collected as photo essays, offer a global glimpse into womankind that will be published to coincide with a traveling exhibition and an interactive website.

Bäco: Vivid Recipes from the Heart of Los Angeles by Josef Centeno and Betty Hallock, photographs by Dylan James Ho and Jeni Afuso ($35, 9781452154688, September 5, 2017). Josef Centeno, the chef and owner of Bäco Mercat, Bar Amá, Orsa & Winston, Ledlow and P.Y.T., serves up more than 130 recipes that combine the many culinary traditions colliding in modern Los Angeles. Dishes like Crudités with Walnut-Miso Bagna Cauda and Blistered Green Beans with Fenugreek-Chipotle Tomato Sauce cover every course and craving.

William Wegman: Being Human by William A. Ewing ($24.95, 9781452164991, October 3, 2017). William Wegman has had a long career photographing his Weimaraners. In Being Human, William A. Ewing collects 300 images from Wegman's archives, curated into 16 thematic chapters. These canines coated in people clothes give new views on the aesthetics of being human.

Chronicle Books Facts and Figures

Chronicle Books publishes 300 titles a year, one-third of which are gift formats.

In 50 years, Chronicle Books has published more than 7,000 titles, which have had combined sales of more than 250 million units in 96 countries.

Chronicle Books' all-time bestseller is The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook (with nearly three million copies sold), followed closely by Mama, Do You Love Me? and The Beatles Anthology.

Chronicle Books has had 35 New York Times bestsellers in its history.

Chronicle Books has published 218 books and gifts about cats; 106 books and gifts about wine; and 124 books and gifts about Paris.

Twenty Chronicle Books employees have written Chronicle books. (And eight cats and four dogs have done the same.)

Chronicle Books' main categories are pop culture (28.37%), children's books (28.09%), lifestyle (17.67%), art (13.49%) and food and drink (12.38%).

Chronicle Books' non-book items include games, pencil and pen sets, finger puppet books, coloring books, puzzles, temporary tattoos, coasters, popsicle molds, tea towels and cookie cutters.

Through its Give Books campaign, done in partnership with First Book, Chronicle Books donates tens of thousands of books to children who need them most.

Chronicle Books: Enter for a chance to win 50 books to celebrate 50 years!

Chronicle Books: Chronicle Books is turning 50!

Chronicle Books: Chronicle Books is turning 50!

Chronicle Books: Chronicle Books is turning 50!

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