Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Thursday, February 28, 2019

Thursday, February 28, 2019: Dedicated Issue: Odd Dot

Macmillan Children's Books has a brand new imprint! Odd Dot: Joyful books for curious minds - Launching Spring 2019! Learn more

Editors' Note

Odd Dot: Joyful Books for Curious Minds

With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness features the newest imprint from Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, Odd Dot, which is dedicated to creating "joyful books for curious minds." Odd Dot's mission is "to develop interactive and substantive gift books that explore categories and formats never seen before."

What is Odd Dot? Click to watch!

Books & Authors

Daniel Nayeri, Publisher: Making Books Intended to Be Generous

As Publisher, can you explain what your role is?

The role of any director at Odd Dot is first and foremost to "get out of the way." It's a service position, as far as I'm concerned, with the mandate to seek, recruit and cultivate people who would otherwise be outsiders in our industry. I'm a Middle Eastern, refugee millennial who snuck into this country club through the back door and prefers mixed martial arts to arts mixers... so I suppose I have a heart for the outsider.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to found an imprint alongside nine of the most creative people I know. I'm not sure it gets any better than that. And I think it's just about the hardest thing to do in publishing. It turns out all those adages about people being the most important part are true.

What kinds of books are you looking to publish?

Definitive books. Interactive Books. Books of unabashed whimsy. We focus heavily on gift books for all ages, nonfiction in categories or formats that we've never seen before and novelty that offers toy-like experiences. We ask questions like, "Is it useful? Is it necessary? Does it empower a reader with a skill they've never had before?" Our books are intended to be generous--to give something to the reader in exchange for their time and attention. The more concrete that gift, the better.

Do you have any upcoming favorite titles?

Code this Game! The author, Meg Ray, is an expert on teaching computer science--she was a co-writer of the upcoming CSTA K-12 federal standards. In Code this Game, she takes readers through 200 pages of step-by-step instructions to build a tower defense game. She teaches this in Python and the art is all free to download on our site. In the next 100 pages, she goes even further. Once the reader has built their game, they've effectively learned how to follow a recipe. In those last 100 pages, she teaches you how to cook. Readers learn to mod, hack and remix the game to be whatever they might think of--a match-three puzzle game or a vintage arcade platformer. The skills they learn allow them to go off in any direction.

A 320-page, full-color book on coding is a feat in and of itself. But to make it a true Odd Dot project, we decided to add an innovative format as well: the entire book stands up on an easel built into the case, so readers can keep both hands free for typing. Altogether, it's a substantive skill-building concept, beautifully designed, illustrated and packaged in an innovative format.

Odd Dot has been described as "a proudly odd mix of makers, creators, and engineers, guided by the priorities of innovation, education, and play." What does this mean to you?

You know the part I like most about that line? The part that implies our team is actively in pursuit of greatness. It doesn't say we're passively at our desks, hoping for something to land in our laps. It says we're in the mines digging. Every day we have ad hoc development sessions wherein we prototype a new format or explore a new topic. The question at the heart of Odd Dot is this: What if you created a group within a publishing house that did nothing but make stuff constantly?

Daniel Nayeri

Daniel Nayeri is the publisher of Odd Dot, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. Daniel was born in Iran and spent several years as a refugee before immigrating to Oklahoma at age eight with his family. He is the author of several books for young readers, including Straw House, Wood House, Brick House Blow: Four Novellas. He is a former professional pastry chef, and if he's not writing or baking, he's likely playing board games or riding motorcycles.

Odd Dot: Calling all teachers and librarians - Enter for a chance to win a classroom set of TinkerActive Workbooks!

Nathalie Le Du, Editorial Director: A Passion for Discovery

In your role as Editorial Director, what do you look for when acquiring titles?

Originality, sound pedagogy, visual and format-focused ideas and the most important: play power. If a book can hit all of those notes, that's music to me.

What is most important to you in a work?

That the books we publish not only help kids enjoy, explore and understand their world, but also give them the tools to change that world. 

Part of the Odd Dot mission statement says you're "dedicated to creating joyful books for curious minds." How do you find works that represent this ideal? How does this goal drive you?

We develop most of the concepts for our list in-house, so "joyful books for curious minds" captures the sensibility of our development cycle. It's our team's approach to the world: an open and curious way of engaging with everything around us. We each have a passion for discovery, and I think that's something we share with children and why our books resonate with kids. Then, once we've got our teeth into a concept that's undeniably great, it's impossible to not want to collaborate with the experts, writers and visual artists that can make the idea come alive. I can't think of anything more fun.

What do you find most exciting about being Odd Dot's Editorial Director? What has made you most proud?

Hands down, our team is what makes me most proud. Developing ideas with the Odd Dots is a truly thrilling experience. I never know where an idea will land, and often the combined creative powers of the people in the room take us to places we couldn't have foreseen at the outset or reached individually. We question assumptions, wonder how to make things better and share our obsessions and discoveries. Most of all, we remind each other that there's always something more to learn and to try and to imagine.

Nathalie Le Du

Nathalie Le Du is a writer, editor and education advocate. She has more than 15 years of experience leading teams of teachers, curriculum developers, writers, illustrators and designers in children's trade publishing. In 2017, Nathalie cofounded Odd Dot, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group. Prior to joining Macmillan, she was at the helm and in the pages of such brands as KumonWorkbooks, Brain Quest, Star Wars Workbooks and the Big Fat Notebook series. When Nathalie is not creating books, she is playing with her son, learning Dutch to please her in-laws and learning guitar to keep up with her brother. Nathalie is a first and second-generation American, and a proud product of public schools. She was born in New York City, where she continues to live now.

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Colleen AF Venable, Creative Director: Feeling Inspired

Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Odd Dot?

All of us, editorial and design, work on the development of our books from day one and it's my job to make sure everyone feels inspired. I manage four absolutely brilliant creative designers and shape the look and feel of our books. I say "feel" because I'm a big believer in making books that you have to hold to really experience: books that beg you to pick them up and that push what a physical book can do.

What are your and the imprint's goals when it comes to the design of the books?

We want people to recognize our logo. Not just other publishers, but any book buyer. Kind of like when you pick up a book with an award seal--you know it's going to be good. (And likely the dog is going to die. SOB!) When you pick up a book with Tod, our logo, on the front, you know it's going to be playful and quirky but still have elegant design, gorgeous art and meticulous attention to every visual element. Also, I'm just gonna go ahead and say no dogs will ever die in our books. That can be our other motto: "Joyful books for Curious Minds" and "NO DEAD DOGS."

Part of the Odd Dot mission is to "develop interactive and substantive gift books that explore categories and formats never seen before." How do you interpret that?

As I mentioned before, the design staff is an incredible crew with diverse backgrounds. As a crew at Odd Dot, we love trying to think of things that don't exist in the world and then try our hands at making them a physical reality.  

How does that drive what you do?

We spend a lot of time doing physical research and development--exploring ideas of physical objects that are so tricky, we do iteration after iteration to get it right. We fail a lot but when we succeed... man, it's glorious. So many publishers focus on the written word as the creative side of books, but we love thinking about the whole experience our readers are going to have. 

Can you give us any insight on the process behind creating categories and formats that have never been seen before?

Everyone's ideas are valid no matter their age or publishing experience. And no ideas are bad. Some just need some collaboration with the team. The only way you can make things that don't already exist is to keep pushing and exploring, and we are a natural group of explorers.

What is something you've worked on that has made you very excited or extremely proud?

Our logo is the thing that hits me in the "awww I love my team" gut. Every single one of the design team had a hand in creating Tod. It came so naturally, sharing ideas back and forth, and each person taking the file on to play. The end result is a charming and iconic logo that would never have been as strong if it was just one of us creating it. Tod, in all his weirdness, is a great metaphor for the entire Odd Dot crew: show us a circle and we'll see it in a different way.

Colleen Venable

Colleen Ann Felicity (AF... yup that's her real middle name) Venable is the Creative Director at Odd Dot. Colleen previously worked for First Second Books designing hundreds of graphic novels, including Caldecott Honors and National Book Award Finalists. In 2014, she became Art Director for Workman Publishing, helping to create iconic projects such as the Paint by Sticker series. Along with working as a designer, Colleen is an author and maker. Her latest books include Kiss Number 8 and One More Wheel. Her graphic novel series Guinea Pig, Pet Shop Private Eye was nominated for an Eisner for Best Publication for Kids. In 2017, she was named a Publishers Weekly StarWatch Top 5 Finalist.

Odd Dot Team

The Odd Dot Team: (l. to r.) Justin Kranser, Tae Won Yu, Daniel Nayeri, Carolyn Bahar, Nathalie LeDu, Kate Avino, Colleen AF Venable, Phil Conigliaro, Tim Hall, and Barbara Cho (not pictured).

Odd Dot: Some Spring Titles

One More Wheel by Colleen AF Venable, illus. by Blythe Russo (Odd Dot/Macmillan, $12.99 hardcover, 22p., ages 2-4, 9781250307590, Spring 2019)

In this novelty counting board book with a moving multi-wheel cover, readers will spin their way through a tale of two animal friends competing to find vehicles with more and more wheels. With a new and unexpected vehicle appearing on each spread--from roller-skates to a jumbo jet--readers won't be able to guess what's coming next!

TinkerActive Math and Science Workbooks (Odd Dot/Macmillan, $12.99 paperback, 128p., kindergarten through 2nd grade, Spring 2019)

Children are guided through each workbook's entertaining activities by MotMots, the charming green citizens of TinkerTown. Covering essential math, science and problem-solving skills, each workbook begins with interactive exercises, then invites children to apply what they've learned through hands-on tinkering, making and engineering activities that use common household materials. Designed for all learners, TinkerActive Workbooks are filled with curriculum-based exercises with at least eight pages dedicated to each key concept. TinkerActive workbooks are an excellent supplement to schoolwork or at-home study.

Code This Game! by Meg Ray, illus. by Keith Zoo (Odd Dot/Macmillan, $24.99 hardcover, 288p., ages 10-14, 9781250306692, Spring 2019)

Code This Game! is a nonfiction visual guide that teaches young readers, 10-14, how to program and create their very own video game. A built-in kickstand allows readers to stand the spiral-bound book upright so they can read, program, and play their game simultaneously. By the time kids finish the book, they'll have mastered basic coding concepts and created a personalized game. The book is written by computer science educator and a writer of the CSTA Computer Science Standards Meg Ray, and vividly illustrated by Keith Zoo.

Odd Dot: TinkerActive Workbooks - On Sale May 14th, 2019!

Odd Dot: Code This Game!: Make Your Game Using Python, Then Break Your Game to Create a New One! by Meg Ray, illustrated by Keith Zoo

Odd Dot: One More Wheel!: A Things-That-Go Counting Book by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Blythe Russo

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