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Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Eerdmans Books for Young ReadersEngag­ing.  Diverse. Page-turn­ers. Spir­i­tu­al.  Sur­prise! Gen­tle. Com­pas­sion. Old – over 100 years old! and Classic.

Wm. B. Eerd­mans Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny has been, and still is, an inde­pen­dent, fam­i­ly-owned pub­lish­er since 1911. Their new imprint—Eerd­mans Books for Young Read­ers—began in 1995 and has been pro­duc­ing over a dozen new children’s books each year.  Each year many of their books are top award-winners.

There is a rea­son why this press has sur­vived and con­tin­ues to pub­lish impor­tant books — books of diver­si­ty, com­pas­sion, and authenticity.

Kathleen Mertz, Eerdmans Acquisitions and Managing EditorI asked Kath­leen Mertz, Acqui­si­tions and Man­ag­ing Editor:

What is the passion that gives you the courage to continue publishing books? Her reply reflects the passion many editors feel about creating exciting, wonderful, and important books for young readers.  One book in the hands of one child can make a difference—in one child’s world, in one entire nation’s world. It happens.

Kathleen answered, “Publishing books does take a lot of courage. It’s a tough industry—the profit margins are often narrow, the market is always changing. And there are so many good books—and great books—being published that it can be easy for even a wonderful title to get lost in the shuffle and not find its way into the hands of the readers who would fall in love with it.

Most of us in pub­lish­ing do what we do because we love it, and I’m no excep­tion. I’m grate­ful to work with a small team of incred­i­bly pas­sion­ate peo­ple who care deeply about the books we pro­duce. I’m grate­ful to be able to have a hand in bring­ing so many books from oth­er coun­tries to a U.S. read­er­ship that might not oth­er­wise ever encounter them. I’m grate­ful to work for a pub­lish­er that tries to pub­lish brave, hon­est books that speak tru­ly about the world. These are the things that sus­tain my pas­sion for the work I do.”

RainKath­leen describes two new­ly released books that reflect this pas­sion and also the inclu­sion of books from oth­er countries: 

Rain—This col­lec­tion of haiku was orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Swedish, and is struc­tured around a very broad con­cept of “rain” — includ­ing not only the driz­zle that might first come to mind, but also flur­ries of snow, show­ers of ash­es, gen­tle drifts of cher­ry blos­som petals. It’s an evoca­tive book that cel­e­brates nature, poet­ry, and cul­tures from around the world — and it’s a book that looks beyond the obvi­ous for the unex­pect­ed com­mon threads.

I'll Root for YouI’ll Root for You—A wit­ty and whim­si­cal book of poems about sports of all sorts, but with a unique focus. This one is for all the folks who don’t come in first: “Today we’ll root for the losers. / Today we’ll cheer the oth­er way round. / Today we’ll love every­body / whose som­er­sault / nev­er got off the ground.” It’s a joy­ful and encour­ag­ing reminder that win­ning isn’t everything.”

Inspired by Kathleen’s description of the passion that fuels the publication of books, I then asked Kathleen “What is most rewarding about working in publishing?” I was again inspired to hear Kathleen speak about community, collaboration, and the excitement of shared creation.

Kathleen said,  “I still remember what it felt like to receive the finished copy of the first book I edited—a book whose every word I’d pored over, a story that would go out into the world and find readers who would fall in love with it themselves.

One of the great­est joys of being an edi­tor is get­ting to watch (and have a hand in) how a sto­ry grows from man­u­script to fin­ished book. It’s incred­i­bly sat­is­fy­ing when I can help an author hone their sto­ry in a way that will help it reach an audi­ence even more effec­tive­ly. And then I get to see the artist take that sto­ry and bring their own bril­liance to it — those days when we get sketch­es or final art in for a project are tremen­dous­ly exciting. 

To work on children’s books is to be part of some of the most won­der­ful com­mu­ni­ties — the dri­ven and end­less­ly cre­ative peo­ple who dream up words and art to tell the world new sto­ries, the pas­sion­ate and thought­ful peo­ple who invest their lives in pub­lish­ing, the teach­ers and librar­i­ans and read­ers of all ages who find end­less joy in sto­ries and are always on the look­out for the next book to fall in love with.”

I wanted to hear more about Eerdmans' new books. Kathleen, tell us about a few of your recent publications and why they are unique.

“Here are two more of our fall books that I’m particularly excited about:

Paul Writes (a Letter) and The Little BarbarianPaul Writes (a Let­ter)—Chris Rasch­ka is just bril­liant. Each spread of this book depicts Paul writ­ing to his friends, cap­tur­ing a core idea or two from each of the epis­tles. It’s earnest and warm and sur­pris­ing­ly fun­ny — a more human depic­tion of Paul than I’ve ever seen before.

The Lit­tle Bar­bar­ian—This is the first com­plete­ly word­less pic­ture book we’ve pub­lished. It might be short on words, but it’s not short on adven­ture or imag­i­na­tion! With the help of his trusty steed, our fear­less lit­tle bar­bar­ian must bat­tle one ter­ri­fy­ing adver­sary after anoth­er. I love the dis­tinc­tive for­mat of this book, and the look of delight on people’s faces when they get to the sur­prise twist of an ending.”

I have always enjoyed re-reading many of Eerdmans’ books. So many are excellent ways to begin meaningful conversations with readers or to enrich the study of many topics with "story." I asked Kathleen, “What recent ‘older’ books of yours would you especially recommend to teachers and librarians?"

Nile Crossing, Hidden City, Story Like the Wind

"Nile Crossing—I describe this book as a back-to-school story set in ancient Egypt. It’s about a young boy named Khepri who is leaving his life as a fisherman to start scribe school. It’s lyrically written, the art is stunning, and it’s got a ton of additional information at the back—perfect for any class doing a unit on Ancient Egypt.

Hid­den City—A col­lec­tion of poems cel­e­brat­ing the ways that nature exists even in the mid­dle of our cities. The poems are acces­si­ble, the art is col­or­ful and fun, and there’s some real­ly good addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion at the end of the book. This is a great way to encour­age kids to keep an eye out for the flo­ra and fau­na that they might encounter in their own lives.

Sto­ry Like the Wind—This is a beau­ti­ful­ly illus­trat­ed mid­dle-grade nov­el about a group of refugees adrift at sea in a tiny raft. One of them, a boy named Rami, takes out his vio­lin (the only thing he’s man­aged to bring with him) and with it tells a sto­ry about an indomitable stal­lion — a sto­ry that helps them all remem­ber the past and find some hope for the future. It’s a pow­er­ful book that tack­les hard sub­jects and also reminds read­ers how impor­tant sto­ries can be.”

Check out an Eerd­mans’ title at your local library or inde­pen­dent book­store.  You will enjoy a fresh way of see­ing, a deep­er way of thinking.

2 Responses to Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

  1. jenbryantauthor September 28, 2018 at 1:37 pm #

    Great ques­tions and thought­ful answers! I enjoyed read­ing this inter­view – thank you for shar­ing it with us!

  2. nancyboflood September 29, 2018 at 2:35 pm #

    Thank you, Jen, and thank you for the amaz­ing books you have cre­at­ed with Eerd­mans. A RIVER of WORDS con­tin­ues to be one of my favorites. The poet­ry of William Car­los Williams inspires and engages, what­ev­er my mood, what­ev­er the age of the per­son who is listening.

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