Friday, May 20, 2016

Children's Books: Then and Now

Here at Peachtree, we eat, drink, and breathe children's books (many of you may relate to this). If we’re not talking about and working on our latest titles, we’re discussing recent award-winning children’s books, or a title that we all enjoyed in our personal reading. A particularly fun conversation started as a result of a blog post we were writing in honor of children’s book authors and illustrators; everyone was listing favorite childhood books.

With the younger staff, we recognized all the favorites. However, a discussion sprang up when our Senior Editor and Creative Director started explaining that the books they were given in childhood were vastly different than those we publish today (check out Der Struwwelpeter, pictured on the right: a book about bad consequences for bad kids). The product of that conversation inspired an exploration into the purpose and mindset behind children’s literature in former generations, compared to current generations. This is what we found:

Children: The Shift in Thinking

The emergence of children's books began centuries ago when the notion of “childhood” started taking shape.

In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding published in 1690, enlightenment thinker and philosopher John Locke introduced the idea of humans being a “blank slate” at birth. Children were not just miniature adults, as previously understood; instead, with no ideas imprinted in them, children slowly learned and developed thoughts and ideas as they grew.

This theory about humans and human understanding was one of the first stones that started the avalanche of development and change when it came to children, children’s education, and children’s books. Ideas, morals, and manners did not come innately. Children needed to be instructed, and the children’s books of the 18th and 19th centuries reflected that.

What the Grown-ups Thought

Locke's theories about children and learning remained prevalent years later. An article entitled "On Novel Reading," published in The Guardian or Youth’s Religious Instructor in 1820 reflects John Locke’s 150 year-old (at this point) idea: “At this period, the mind as well as the body, is forming, is progressing toward the maturity of adult age; and, in this immature state, is peculiarly susceptible of impressions; and these impressions, whether good or bad, usually last, and have great influence on the future character” (p. 46).

Similarly, in an article entitled “Books for Children” and published in 1828 in The American Annals of Education, we see Locke's theory impressing upon adults the importance, and potential danger, of books on a child's mind. In particular, the article shows how adults worried that a single bad idea or habit in a book could affect children for the rest of their lives, their impressionable brains never being able to recover if an immoral habit took hold.

With the fear of immoral future generations, it makes sense that books given to children were carefully monitored. In particular, the frivolity and non-reality of novels was rejected by many adults because of the possibility that their susceptible children might not to be able to differentiate fact from fiction. Once a novel or children’s book taught a child a certain behavior, it might not be unlearned!

 from A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1744)
“On Novel Reading” also spells out another danger of children’s books. The article explains that “The great profusion of children’s books protracts the imbecility of childhood. They arrest the understanding, instead of advancing it” (p. 48). Here, the issue is not that their kids would become immoral adults, but that they would not mature into adults at all if given the wrong type of literature to read.

With all the fears and dangers of “childish” or fictitious books, many of the American grown-ups (and adults throughout the world), focused the attention of children’s books to teaching morals, manners, and rules. Books were not meant solely for entertainment; they had a very practical purpose. However, this began to shift at the end of the 19th century.

Children’s Literature as a Genre

Children’s books as a genre really began in the 1700s; A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, written by British publisher John Newbery (after whom the Newbery Medal is named) in 1744, is widely considered the first children’s book. The genre was made up mainly of rhyming stories and fairy tales meant to entertain youth, but they also provided moral lessons. So, children’s books existed as a genre, but the books themselves were not necessarily for children for enjoyment's sake; they were for children to become responsible adults. They were to fill the empty void that was a child’s blank mind and give direction to a non-existent moral compass.

Modern attitudes toward children emerged during the late 19th century when the Victorian middle and upper classes started emphasizing, protecting, and celebrating the sanctity and innocence of a child’s imagination instead of stressing morals. With this new mindset, we began to see a very distinct shift in children’s books, which led to the Golden Age of children's literature.

In her overview of children’s literature entitled “Picturing Childhood,” Cynthia Burlingham gives us a list of genre-changing books—including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865); Little Women (1868-1869); Treasure Island (1883); Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884); and Jungle Book (1894)—that began to change the themes of morality and manners that dominated children’s books. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, for example, was a very popular fantasy story with no obvious moral. Children’s books began to look more like the books for children we see today.

Children’s books continued to evolve during the century following Kipling’s Jungle Book, and the genre is now far from the didactic fear-inducing lessons that were once the staple. So our next question is about the change in the purpose of children’s books during the 20th century. If they’re not for teaching manners and morals, what do we see as their purpose today? Stay tuned for our next conversation on the evolution of children’s books!

In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about all the changes in children's literature through the centuries, here are some resources to explore:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Peachtree Spotlight: Nicki Carmack

The spotlight continues! We have spent the last several weeks highlighting some of the very talented people who work at Peachtree. In case you missed it, you can check out last week's post from Farah Gehy, our Special Sales Manager and Subsidiary Rights Director. Today we get to hear from Nicki Carmack, our Creative Director. 

Nicki answered some questions so that we could get to know her a little better. Check out her responses. 

Tell us about your history with Peachtree.

I worked as a freelance designer with Peachtree back in the 1990s and then pursued a design/marketing career in the financial industry. However, I returned to Peachtree on a full-time basis in 2012. I think my position is constantly evolving since I have to be aware of ongoing trends and technologies in the creative industry. I also work with a lot of different authors and illustrators each season so that creates new opportunities. Now I’m going to sound old! Next year it will be 30 years since I graduated from art school! Yikes! I first met Peachtree at a local book fair in Atlanta, shortly after moving to the U.S. from England. Since I had just left a publishing job in London, I was excited to find a local publisher.

What are your top three favorite books, any genre?

I’m not sure I can list just three, but probably any historical biography or murder mystery. My favorite all time book is Thérese Raquin by Emile Zola.

If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be?

Some kind of detective. Probably Sherlock Holmes!

Who is your hero or role model and why?

My parents! They have been together for over 60 years and still enjoy life to the full. They have kept me well grounded too.

What is your favorite thing about working at Peachtree?

I work with such a talented group. It’s a pleasure to brainstorm new ideas and projects, and I feel we all have mutual respect for each other. You can’t ask for more than that.

In your position, what do you consider to be your secret weapon?

Multi tasking and diplomacy! I juggle many, many projects every day and have to stay on track to avoid missing deadlines. I also interact with a lot of artists, and giving constructive criticism and art directionwhilst still respecting the author and editors’ wishescan sometimes take a little diplomacy.

Do you have any big interests or hobbies that you focus on outside of work?

I love to travel! I start planning my next trip before I’ve returned home from my current trip and love to build complicated itineraries and spreadsheets! Vacations are never a time for relaxation!

If, in an alternate reality, you were to have gone a completely different career route, what would you have done?

Definitely something in the fashion industry. During my days in art school I considered being a textile designer before focusing on graphic design. No matter what, I was always destined to pursue a career in creativity.

Feel free to write any questions or comments for Nicki below!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Summer Reading

Everyone is gearing up for summer, andof courseworking out summer reading lists. If you need ideas for good summer reading, we've got some suggestions! For kids and young adults, we have everything from beach life to summer road trips.

Board Books

At the Beach
by Elizabeth Spurr
For very young readers, Elizabeth Spurr and Manelle Oliphant show all the fun of a day at the beach.

Little Rabbit Lost
by Harry Horse
The fun and excitement of an amusement park is brought to life by Harry Horse as Little Rabbit spends the day exploring with his family. 

Picture Books

Camp K-9
 by Mary Ann Rodman
This lighthearted story from Mary Ann Rodman is all about summer, secrets, and fun. Nancy Hayashi's warm illustrations are a comfort throughout this camp life tale. 

Mrs. Armitage, Queen of the Road
by Quentin Blake
For summer road trips, Quentin Blake has just the thing! Join the offbeat Mrs. Armitage in her liberating adventure on the road with new friends. 

The Sound of All Things
by Myron Uhlberg
Enjoy the sights and sounds of Brooklyn and Coney Island through the eyesand earsof a hearing boy and his deaf parents. Myron Uhlberg and Ted Papoulas transport readers to the experience of roller coasters, fireworks, and the beach on a summer day in the 1930's.

Middle Readers

The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine
by Henry Cole
Join Sammy Shine on an adventure discovering new friends and a whole new world. For all you summer field and forest explorers, Henry Cole has the perfect story. 

Summer on the Moon
by Adrian Fogelin
Summer vacation takes a turn when Socko and his family move away from the neighborhood he knows so well. Fogelin weaves this summer read with family, loyalty, and community.

Some Kind of Magic
by Adrian Fogelin
It's the summer before freshman year of high school for Cass, Jessie, Ben, and Justin. They are way too old to believe in magic, but an old fedora might just change that. 

Young Adult

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
by Melissa Keil
Under the hot Australian sun, Alba and her friends are enjoying summer, Christmas, and the end of high school. When a doomsday prophet names their town as the only place that will survive the upcoming Armageddon, Alba's life is thrown into even more chaos as she anticipates the end of her world as she knows it. 

Flash Point
by Sneed B. Collard III
Wildfire season in Montana is threatening Luther's home, his stepfather's livelihood, and the raptors he has come to love. Through the voice of this high school sophomore, Sneed B. Collard III illustrates the difficulty of balancing competing environmental and economic interests.

What are some of your favorite summer reads? Share them with us in the comments!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Peachtree Spotlight: Farah Gehy

We're back at it, spotlighting some of the wonderful people who work here at Peachtree! Last week we heard from our Senior Editor, Vicky Holifield, and today we are excited to introduce our Special Sales Manager and Subsidiary Rights Director, Farah Gehy!

She answered some questions so that everyone could get to know her a little better.

Tell us about your history with Peachtree.

I have been working here almost 6 years, and I can’t believe that this summer will mark 21 years working in the industry. I was planning a move to Atlanta and wanted to stay in publishing, and luckily found Peachtree. I met with our publisher at BEA the year before moving, and as luck would have it, everything lined up and I started at Peachtree shortly after moving to Atlanta from New York.

What are your top three favorite books, any genre?

This is a tough one, as I LOVE to read! I don’t think I can limit it to just 3. Here goes, in no particular order:
        - The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (or as I like to call him—             God's gift to humanity)
        - The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (I LOVE him!)
        - Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
        - The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
        - Captain Corelli's Mandalin by Louis De Bernieres
        - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
        - Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat
        - Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
        - Lord of the Flies by William Golding
        - The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky
        - Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
        - Kindred by Octavia Butler
        - The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
        - A Song of Ice and Fire series (AKA Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin
        - Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be?

This is another hard one. I don’t think I can choose.

Who is your hero or role model and why?

This one is easy. My Mom is my hero. She put herself through nursing school, after her father passed away when she was 16. She always instilled in her daughters the importance of education and self-sufficiency.

What is your favorite thing about working at Peachtree?

I love that I wear many different hats. While it can be overwhelming at times, I love that I’m learning so much about the industry as a whole. I worked in subsidiary rights for 15 years before coming to Peachtree, and it will always be my first love. Although I still handle rights, I’m also handling special sales, international sales and eBooks here. I feel a lot more well-rounded in my knowledge of the industry because of this.

In your position, what do you consider to be your secret weapon?

I don’t know that it’s a secret, but I aim to be fair in all of my dealings. I hope that my reputation over the past 20+ years reflects that.

Do you have any big interests or hobbies that you focus on outside of work?

My hobby, outside of work is… reading! I know, it’s crazy. I’m surrounded by books every day, and I go home and surround myself with more! It’s not unusual to find me up until at least 12:00 reading a book.

If, in an alternate reality, you were to have gone a completely different career route, what would you have done?

Perish the thought! I’ve always worked in the field of words—my very first job in high school was at our local library. If I did not work in publishing, I would hope that I could still work with words, somehow.

Feel free to write any questions or comments for Farah below!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Peachtree Spotlight: Vicky Holifield

We have our second Peachtree Spotlight today! These spotlights are an opportunity for everyone to get to know all the amazing people who work on the inside and behind the scenes at Peachtree. In case you missed it, two weeks ago we heard from Courtney Hood—make sure to check out that post!

Today, our senior editor Vicky Holifield is in the spotlight. She has been a huge part of making Peachtree the company it is today, and we're excited to share a little more about her.

Tell us about your history with Peachtree.

I have been working at Peachtree for a little over twenty five years. I began as what you might call an office assistant, working part-time in various departments, and now I am a senior editor. I’ve been a copy editor or editor for more than twenty years. My first career was in teaching; I taught French to junior high and high school students for several years before retiring to raise a family. Not long after Margaret Quinlin bought Peachtree Publishers in 1990, a mutual friend introduced me to her. At the time, my children were in college and I was looking for an interesting job. When I learned that Peachtree needed some part-time workers, I applied and joined the company in January 1991.

What are your top three favorite books, any genre?

I have lots of favorites, but these three spring to mind immediately as books I would happily reread
once a year:
Children’s books—Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Nonfiction—Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Fiction—just about any novel by Charles Dickens

If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be?

As long as I knew it was only for one day, it would be fascinating to be Robinson Crusoe, surviving by his own wits and skills on that remote island.

Who is your hero or role model and why?

I deeply respect and admire all those women out there who manage to excel in their chosen career, raise a family, and remain gracious and witty through it all. Of course I don’t know her personally, but maybe someone like Tina Fey?

What is your favorite thing about working at Peachtree?

Without a doubt, the best thing about being at Peachtree Publishers is working with such an amazing array of talented colleagues, authors, and artists.

In your position, what do you consider to be your secret weapons?

Patience, a love of language, and a pretty good sense of humor.

Do you have any big interests or hobbies that you focus on outside of work?

During my first two years of college I was an art major, and I continued my studio courses until graduation. Over the years I have spent a lot of time painting and drawing, including doing the botanical illustrations for several of Peachtree’s hiking books. I still love to draw.

If, in an alternate reality, you were to have gone a completely different career route, what would you have done?

From time to time I have wondered what it would have been like to study with one of the top botanical artists of the day, someone like Anne Ophelia Dowden, for example, and then to follow in her footsteps, creating beautiful botanical studies. To make my fantasy even more exciting, perhaps I would have also liked to be one of those pioneer botanist/explorers who hiked around in newly discovered territories drawing and cataloguing the exotic plants of the area.

Feel free to write any questions or comments for Vicky below!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Children's Book Week

Children’s Book Week is finally here! Thanks to the International Literacy Association and the Children’s Book Council, all of us book lovers are able to come together to celebrate the wonderful children’s books that come out every year. We have loved being a part of Children’s Book Week each spring, and we wanted to share the books from Peachtree that have been on the Children’s Choices reading lists in the last several years.

It’s always an honor to be among the fun and beautiful titles that make up the reading lists each year. Enjoy these titles, and make sure to check out the rest of the amazing books on the lists!

Churchill's Tale of Tails
by Anca Sandu
Friends try to help Churchill replace his missing tail. But Churchill’s fun makes him forget his friends. Will Churchill put friends first and find his lost tail along the way? Children will enjoy the delightful friendship tale.

Claude at the Beach
by Alex T. Smith
 A small dog named Claude and his animated sock companion, Sir Bobblysock, head to the beach for their latest adventure that includes rescuing a swimmer, winning a sand castle contest, and searching for treasure. Claude’s silly antics keep readers laughing.

Lion vs. Rabbit
by Alex Latimer
Lion is mean to everyone! Various animals try to stand up to Lion, but fail. And then a rabbit arrives. Can such a small, gentle animal defeat Lion?

Three Hens and  a Peacock
by Lester Laminack
A peacock shows up at the farm and lures visitors to the farm stand. The hens get jealous so hound dog suggests they swap duties. The peacock and the hens find the tasks more difficult than they thought.

Quarterback Season
by Fred Bowen
A clever boy-focused story about middle-grade Matt playing for a football team. The story is clever because it integrates the trials of playing a sport through a boy’s journal and e-mail messages. Football is the hook, and the journal provides authenticity.

Mr. President Goes to School
by Rick Walton
When Mr. President needs a break from solving world problems, he disguises himself and joins Mrs. Applegate’s classroom. Kids will hang on every word and picture as the President enters their world, learning to solve world problems kid-style!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

National Arbor Day

National Arbor Day is this Friday! This important day has been around since the very first Arbor Day was celebrated on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. A pioneer named J. Sterling Morton, who had moved to the Nebraska territory in 1854, had the greatest influence in creating the holiday, and he worked hard to establish the importance of planting and maintaining trees throughout the country.

For pioneers in the Midwest, planting trees was incredibly important for fuel, building materials, and even just having some shade amidst all the flat plains. On the first Arbor Day, it is believed that over one million trees were planted in Nebraska. Now, National Arbor Day is celebrated on the last Friday of April, but each state has its own special Arbor Day to plant trees at the most opportune time for their growth and health.

If you are interested in the history of Arbor Day and the story of J. Sterling Morton, you can find out more here. If you want to get involved with Arbor Day in your own state or town, learn about planting and growing trees here. To see when your state celebrates Arbor Day, check out this map. Keep in mind that for many Southern states, state Arbor Day is celebrated earlier in the year!  

Arbor Day Square is a great book to teach your child the importance of helping the environment, and it also comes with the additional free resource of a teacher's guide

Katie and her papa are among a group of settlers building a town in the middle of the dusty, brown prairie. Every week the trains bring more people and more lumber to build houses, fences, and barns. New buildings go up including a church with a steeple, a store with glass windows, even a schoolhouse with desks for all the children.

But one thing is missing: Trees!

When the townspeople take up a collection to order trees from back east, Katie adds her own pennies and Papa's silver dollar. When the tiny saplings finally arrive, Katie helps dig holes and fetch water. Then in a quiet corner of the public square, Katie and Papa plant a flowering dogwood in memory of Mama. 

Look for Arbor Day Square at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble.

Let us know how you chose to celebrate Arbor Day!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Peachtree Spotlight: Courtney Hood

Peachtree Publishers is made up of some wonderful, talented people. We get to be around each other, working together every day, but everyone else is missing out! So for the next few weeks, we are going to be highlighting some of the people that make Peachtree what it is today.

The first person to enter the spotlight is Courtney Hood. She answered some questions so everyone could get to know her and her position at Peachtree a little better.

Tell us about your history with Peachtree.

I started as an editorial intern 10 years ago before being hired to work full-time in the sales and production departments. My initial responsibilities included order entry and customer service in sales, as well as assisting our Production Manager. I now oversee the entire order process and manage school and library author events for the sales department. I am also in charge of reprints (analyzing stock, getting pricing, initiating purchase orders, etc.) for the production department, and am the Awards Coordinator (shipping review copies and coordinating with awards committees). It’s not uncommon for employees to work in multiple departments at small publishers like Peachtree, but I might take it to the extreme.

What are your top three favorite books, any genre?

I don’t think that I can choose just three, so let’s narrow it down a bit. My three favorite children’s books are The Westing Game, Number the Stars, and the Harry Potter series.

If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be?

I want to live in the Harry Potter wizarding world, even for just one day. I don’t even care which character (ok, maybe not a Death Eater), I just want to hang out in Diagon Alley and do magic.

Who is your hero or role model and why?

My Aunt Rebecca worked in publishing for a long time and was the first one to encourage me to channel by love of books into an actual career.

What is your favorite thing about working at Peachtree?

The books. I love the books that we create and I’m proud of the work that I do, getting such wonderful titles into children’s hands. We also get signed copies of every title Peachtree publishes, which is fun.

In your position, what do you consider to be your secret weapon?

The ability to multitask is a big plus when you technically work in three different departments.

Do you have any big interests or hobbies that you focus on outside of work?

I wish I could say something interesting like treasure hunting or synchronized skydiving (is that a thing?), but my life is pretty simple outside of work. I mostly spend my free time hanging out with friends and family, reading, and watching Netflix.

If, in an alternate reality, you were to have gone a completely different career route, what would you have done?

I was very into dance when I was younger. If I had had a bit more talent and a thicker skin, I would have loved to dance for a living.

Write your questions or comments below!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Make Your Own Kite!

So Big Wind Day is a thing. And it's today! It certainly comes at the right time of year, with all the lovely spring breezes ushering in some warm weather. Of course, with lots of windy days, kite-flying should be at the top of everyone's to-do list.

If you need some literature to get you in the mood for windy days and kite-flying, be sure to check out Elizabeth Spurr's latest board book In the Wind. Perfect for toddlers, the simple, evocative language describes a girl's experience on a windy day; the lovely illustrations by Manelle Oliphant could even give you some design ideas for your next kite project or kite-flying outing!

In case you don't happen to have a kite handy, we've collected a few kite-making tutorials so that everyone can join in the fun of Big Wind Day.

This one is for the kite-flyers who like the more natural, neutral look for their kite.
Style Me Pretty

This one has streamers galore, with more simple ingredients for a bright and beautiful end product.
Inner Child Fun

This one removes all excuses for not being able to fly a kite. All the components are right under your nose!
2 Little Hooligans

This one is for any kite-makers who want to break out of the usual kite box with some fun designs!
Red Ted Art

This one leaves the design up to the kite-flyer but provides all the necessary blueprints for the perfect kite.
Squawk Fox

Find In the Wind at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

National Poetry Month

The warm weather is here to stay. The trees are blooming, and the flowers are out. With bees buzzing and the sun shining, springtime just might be the most poetic time of year. We're in the mood for poetry, and April is National Poetry Month!

We hope you've caught the poetry bug as well, because we not only have some great poetry, but we also want to share a story about a great poet. So whether you want to read poetry or read about poetry this month, we've got you covered. Enjoy!

Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton

George loved words. But George was enslaved. In this powerful biography of poet George Moses Horton, the first Southern African-American man to be published, Don Tate tells an inspiring and moving story of talent and determination.

At the Sea Floor Café
Witty poems and elegant artwork let us know what's on the menu for some unusual undersea creatures. Leslie Bulion gives readers a clever collection of poems that describes the devious and sometimes surprising methods ocean denizens use to forage for food, capture prey, trick predators, and protect their young.

Random Body Parts
Take a free-form trip through the human body with these humorous riddle poems. Which body part, if spread out flat, would cover a tennis court? Stretched end to end, which body parts would wrap four times around the equator? What's the hardest substance in the human body? Leslie Bulion has put together anatomical, poetic, and visual clues that will help readers discover the answers to these questions -- and many more!

Bring on the Birds; Stripes of All Types;
Spectacular Spots; and Fabulous Fishes
With simple, rhyming text and brightly colored, richly textured illustrations, author-illustrator Susan Stockdale introduces young readers to some of the distinctive qualities in animals. These board books are a great way to introduce rhythm and rhyme found in poetry to children just beginning to learn about language.

Grow: A Novel in Verse
This verse novel by Juanita Havill for young readers uses rich, evocative language to deliver a powerful story of the extraordinary magic that occurs every day when ordinary people work together.

The Book of Shadowboxes
Take a step into Laura Seeley's enchanting world of shadowboxes, where the ABC's spring magically to life with vibrant illustrations and bouncing verses that will delight and instruct readers.

Cats Vanish Slowly
Meet the cats on Grandmother's farm as they wind their way through these twelve poems. Poet Ruth Tiller captures the personalities and moods of each of her cats in clear, concise language easy enough for young readers, but with evocative imagery and varied rhythms that will engage the interest of older readers as well.

Find these books and more at your local library, indie bookstore, or Barnes & Noble!