Sleeping Bear Press

Sleeping Bear PressA is for Alpha­bet! Sleep­ing Bear Press is known for their intrigu­ing and infor­ma­tion­al alpha­bet books. But Sleep­ing Bear also pro­duces a vari­ety of both non­fic­tion and fic­tion books for read­ers young and not so young. Like me. Every time I read a Sleep­ing Bear book with a stu­dent, I learn so much and “see” a top­ic with a new perspective.

For exam­ple, a mon­strous­ly mag­nif­i­cent book, M is for Mon­ster, writ­ten by J. Patrick Lewis, for­mer U.S. Children’s Poet Lau­re­ate, fol­lows the alpha­bet but is mar­velous­ly full of men­ac­ing mon­sters that lurk in many sur­pris­ing places (except under your bed at night). In this delight­ful book for the any-age read­er, one learns about the ori­gins of Franken­stein as well the Loch Ness Mon­ster, Baba Yaga, Xing Tian, the giant, and oth­er mon­sters from around the globe and across gen­er­a­tions. What a way to learn geography!

 Anoth­er favorite of mine is D is for Desert, a World Deserts Alpha­bet by Bar­bara Gowan and illus­trat­ed by Gijs­bert van Franken­huyzen. Imag­ine “cap­tur­ing water” in one of the dri­est places on earth, the Ata­ca­ma Desert, by erect­ing enor­mous fog nets.

Sleep­ing Bear’s long list of out­stand­ing books also includes biog­ra­phy. I recent­ly dis­cov­ered a new favorite, Nature’s Friend: The Gwen Fros­tic Sto­ry, by Lind­sey McDi­vitt and illus­trat­ed by Eileen Ryan Ewen. Gwen Fros­tic did not let phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ty or social prej­u­dices keep her from going to school,  achiev­ing her goals and express­ing her pas­sions in words and images. Nature’s Friend inspired me to learn more about this publisher.

Sleeping Bear Press books

I asked Barb McNal­ly, their senior children’s edi­tor, to describe why she is excit­ed about the books cre­at­ed by Sleep­ing Bear Press.

Tell us about a few of your recent publications and why they are unique.

One of the things I enjoy most about the Sleeping Bear publishing program is that, even with a relatively small list (we publish 28-30 titles per year), we have offerings for almost every age—from board books up to middle grade. It’s wonderful to have a hand in creating books for these different ages. That said, we are known for our beautiful picture books and we have some titles on our fall ’19 and spring ’20 seasons that are standouts. One book in particular, A Boy Like You, is on trend both in art and message, and has gotten a fabulous response from reviewers and consumers. It’s a beautiful celebration with a focus on pushing back against some of the confusing and toxic messages boys are often sent on what it means to be a male. It’s always a joy when you feel an author is coming into their own and we have an author on the spring ’20 list who has two titles: Bread for Words and Fly, Firefly! Both titles were inspired by true stories yet are very different in their approach and execution. I’m excited to see the response from young readers.

Sleeping Bear Press books

What is most rewarding—and challenging—about being an editor or publisher?

I have been in the book industry for almost 30 years and I continue to be surprised and amazed by the sheer volume of wonderful stories that are published each year. There is a never-ending well of talent, both from new voices as well as long-established authors and artists whose work continues to inspire, entertain, and engage the young reader. That sense of excitement and discovery is what brings me to the office each day. I think the challenge for any publishing program is to ensure that every reader is able to connect with something on your list and make sure that you are offering opportunities for diversity in stories, voices, and perspectives. I think the more we know and share with one another, the richer our lives become.

What are your visions and hopes for the future of children’s literature?

Having been in this industry for many years, I remember when we all groaned and wrung our hands about what would happen to printed books when eBooks came about. Well, eBooks came and still the printed book remains strong. In my opinion, there is no replacement for the unique experience of a parent and child holding a copy of a book and reading together, and research supports the value of reading aloud to a child. My hope is that, despite the many distractions of devices and demands on their time, parents will continue to see the importance of developing their children’s lifelong reading habits. I’m not worried about educators and librarians—they already know this. But habits and routines start in the home and parents set the example. The importance of reading with a child cannot be overstated.

Thank you, Barb, for your insights about books and read­ers. I strong­ly agree with your state­ment, “The impor­tance of read­ing with a child can­not be over­stat­ed.” And, besides being so impor­tant, read­ing with chil­dren is fun.

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