As I grew up, I loved art and was taught that “bored” was a bad word and that one should always try to make something with what they already have - perhaps by finding the magic of what is right in front of you. I often found joy in imagining the world to come alive in wonder the way that children’s books portray (like looking at a tree in the wind and seeing the leaves dance, or thinking that perhaps the stars at night are singing us a lullaby). However, when it was time to think about what career path I wanted to follow, these things never crossed my mind. All I knew was that I wanted to do something that helped others. So, naturally, I decided I would go to school to become a doctor. Within my first year of school I came to realize, despite my best efforts, that I did not enjoy the sciences nearly as much as art. And how would I help others if I was not inspired? I thought to myself, why can’t I help people through art? And there the story really started to take off.
I always loved the way children see life as full of possibility, so I began early on in school designing materials for non profits geared toward helping children in need. As I was nearing graduation as an art major, I knew I wanted to do something that involved design, art, and children, but what? Teaching? It was then that my aunt, Diane Greenseid, introduced me to the magical world of actually making children’s books. She was and still is a children’s book illustrator. She kindly gave me a list of art directors she knew and I immediately contacted them. Several of them graciously agreed to see me! I recall taking my giant, unwieldy portfolio through the wind and rain in NYC back in the winter of 1999, meeting so many lovely people but alas, however, none that could offer me a job. I did find a job at a small design studio in NYC, which was great, but now I had my heart set on working in children’s publishing.
As life will have it, you never know what turns your path will make unknowingly — 2 weeks later, I got a call from the very first art director I met, Joann Hill, saying she had a position open for a design assistant at Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin). And it was there that my career really began. I spent several years learning under her wing and having such a great time. I then moved on to the Knopf imprint at Random House, where I continued to learn every day for just shy of a decade, meeting so many amazing creators from authors to illustrators, editors of all styles including Janet Schulman who showed me how a book can be serious and funny at the same time, fellow art directors and designers, and of course Isabel Warren-Lynch, who taught me to always focus on powerful expression (and yes, I mean that in more ways than one).
When we moved out to the North Bay of California after my daughter was born, I never thought I would be able to find what I have found now which is the incredible team of Cameron + Company — a small boutique publisher that embraces the love for story, design, books and creative collaboration. I am definitely one of those lucky people who can say they love their work.
Here, at Cameron Kids, I feel my job is less about directing the art than inspiring artists and idea makers to inspire our children as they acquire language and gain a deeper understanding of the world around them and their part in it. To help bring stories to people through books. Because in the end it is our stories that make the world human. I guess I finally found my role after all.
Although Cameron + Company has been publishing children’s books for a few years, we really started to establish and grow this past year with the official launch of the Cameron Kids imprint. The team consists of our children’s publisher, Nina Gruener, our children’s book editor, Amy Novesky, (both amazing authors in their own right), myself — the art director, our production manager, CJ Hemesath, who is stellar at making all our crazy ideas tangible, Emma Kallok, our Marketing and Publicity manager (also a published author), and Jan Hughes, managing editor and copyeditor extraordinaire.
We are an imprint of Cameron and Company -- where Iain Morris is the creative director, who is always inspiring with his expertise -- making sure none of our books got to print being anything shy of perfect and Chris Gruener is publisher. And of course, the heart of our work -- all the authors and illustrators! So, you see, we are all here because we truly love the art of making stories for children and pretty much everyone does a little bit of everything. There is a definitely a lot of joy in our work, but we take it seriously. We publish about 6-8 titles a year on our list, as well as publishing our Cameron Studio projects on our Roundtree list, which is an exciting new endeavor.
To me what that means is that our books are stories begging to be heard in a way that only a tangible book can do (you know that feeling that comes from reading and holding an actual book? the smell of the paper, the feel, the quiet...)
I’ll have to refer to our blog about this as I couldn’t put it better myself.
To us there is a place in today’s digital media-driven culture for the printed word and the print design that goes with it. We seek out those books that need to be held, and appreciated for their tangible value. The books that call to us to be just that, books.
Following the Cameron tenet of publishing books that need to be books – FOR KIDS, has been a thrilling and rewarding journey for our team. Whether it be a picture book biography or a board book about trucks, we choose stories that need to be told, and told well. Our hope is that when given the chance to visit some other world in the pages of our books, children will glean wisdom, compassion and empathy. The dance between words and art in a picture book, executed with thoughtful design, has the power to not only entertain a child, but engage them in a way no other medium can. Books can expose kids to beauty they may have otherwise missed in our fast paced world. Even among the youngest of us, beauty is a great and underrated tool for cultivating change and inspiration.
Truthfully, they all stand out in their own little way. Each project I have worked on has taught me something new. It would be fun one day to make a list of what they have taught me!
I will say, that one of my most treasured experiences, that stands out in a big way, was working on THE BOOK THIEF by Markus Zusak. I remember being handed a huge stack (real paper!) of a manuscript to read and turn into a physical book. I read those very pages on an airplane ride across the country, unable to put it down. I was haunted by the imagery and power of Markus’s story and have been ever since. How on earth was I going to capture that in a cover?! His words were life changing and the project was humbling. And then to watch it over the last many years reach so many other people. It has been an honor to see how much one little book really can help the world.
There are most definitely so many wonderful books I have had the pleasure of working on, it is almost impossible to choose as what has meant the most, is the process of creating a book for children together with other creative people whether we are like-minded or not. What a delight it is to work with other artists, constantly hearing and seeing new ideas. I actually just finished working on a project, called ODE TO AN ONION written by Alexandria Giardino, illustrated by Felicita Sala, that is to be published in the Fall of 2018, that I am simply thrilled about all around: the words, the pictures, the content, the design, the process of collaboration between publisher, editor, author, artist and production — truly lovely.
Absolutely! One of the most fascinating things to me is watching artists grow to reach their potential while working on making a book reach its highest potential. I love looking through an artist’s work and finding that little nugget of art that is just begging to be explored, and subsequently working with an artist to develop that in a way that is unique to them.
As an art director, I can look at sketches and help with pacing, emotion, expression, perspective, composition, etc. once we get into the book making – but the artist is the artist, and that is what we are looking for – that unique artistic expression that will turn a story into a tangible magical world.
I am lucky that I can say all of them! Our Spring 2018 list which just published at the end of April, features a The Great Chicken Escape by Nikki McClure, for which we had fun creating a giant die-cut of a chicken in the case to echo her signature cut paper style, Red a 2 color wordless book by first time author/illustrator Jed Alexander, a bright and bold book about Los Angeles by Elisa Parhad, illustrated by Alexander Vidal, and the second installment of the WALNUT ANIMAL SOCIETY, Magnolia’s Magnificent Map written by Lauren Bradshaw, illustrated by Wednesday Kirwan....that is 4, but I can’t choose.
Being a small publisher, it is always a collaboration. We receive a story submission, and decide if we love it. Since we do so few books, we always search for that absolute yes moment! Once that is settled (often after several rounds of edits to the text), we begin the search for an illustrator who can bring the words visually to life. This sometimes happens quickly and sometimes takes a really long time.
While we do have a certain aesthetic we gravitate towards, what excites us most is when we see something different than what has been done before. We believe the art for children’s books can be sophisticated yet still childlike. So, often, we may work with artists who are amazing artists but have never done a children’s book before.
Once the team for the book is made, we go through anywhere from 1 to 4 sets of sketches, with the level of involvement differing due to the nature of the project and how the artist works. The design happens simultaneously as we begin to think about the production aspect of the book from the get go.
Design plays a huge role in our books, but it has to be thoughtful. No bells and whistles! So we think about the format, the paper, and any other added elements we may want to explore. Then the final design comes in to play once the art is done, we go through several rounds of edits to make it perfect. Then we proof the book to get the look and feel just right, then it becomes a book! That is an extremely simplified version of the process (not including all the materials and plans made to get the outside world excited about the book, the number crunching, the marketing and publicity,...)
WHAT A MESS! by Frank Muir illustrated by Joseph Wright is still one of my favorite books, as well as Who Took the Farmer's Hat? by Joan L. Nodset, illustrated by Fritz Siebel, Harold and The Purple Crayon, and The Little Prince.
We are looking for artists who can visually capture childlike wonder–artists that have a unique expression that can turn a story into a tangible magical world and fill the spaces the words leave open with more. It inspires me when an illustrator shows the reader what he/she can’t already see.
I am moved when I can see an artist’s passion and potential through their work. A good balance of fresh use of line, white space, and poignant expression of character—whether that is portrayed through the setting of the stage or the characters themselves . . . I love to see an artist open to trying new things within his or her own style to make the story come to life.
Our emphasis is on beauty, simplicity, and story.
To continue to find stories that inspire and teach children about empathy and an open minded understanding of the world around them and inside them, to see the beauty in the simple things that are really the big things. And to turn those stories into books.
Yes! I am so excited for OH, BEAR. It will be illustrated by Ruth Hengeveld - this is her first picture book and she is a true talent. I am over the moon at the art I have seen so far. After all these years of being on the art director side of picture book making it is invigorating to see someone else put visuals to a story that came directly from my heart. And Ruth couldn't be a more perfect fit. She is brilliant! The story is simple, yet deep. It's about a dear bear, a beloved kite, loss and renewal, and friendship. The art is realistic yet magical and my hopes are that this book will inspire children to find the magic in nature, the magic of connection, and the magic that can emerge when you change the way you look at something. It will be published in the spring of 2019.
If I do have to pick, a couple of projects that come to mind, I’d mention Lunch Lady and Punk Farm by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, who I am simply thrilled has had so much success in publishing.
The Sleepy Little Alphabet by Judy Sierra, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
A Splash of Red, by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet.
See the City by Matteo Pericoli.
Modern Fairies, Dwarves and Other Goblins by Lesley M.M. Blume, illustrated by David Foote.
Thelonius Monster's Sky High Fly Pie by Judy Sierra illustrated by Ed Koren.
...and a recent book, Play? by Linda Olafsdottir.
I’ve been in love with print for as long as I can remember but I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make art or write. In the end I did an art degree, but while I was there I wrote for magazines and interned at a couple of publishers. I had an Aunt in Romford who let me kip on her sofa. When I graduated I had a body of work to show, so I was able to get a job with a local publishing consultancy in the production department. From there I worked my way up, writing bits whenever I had the opportunity, to production editor, where I was in charge of coming up with ideas for new titles. I love that bit the best, so this job is perfect for me. I get to come up with a whole raft of new ideas every month.
We’re a small in-house team. Benita Estevez and I share the editor’s role and manage a large group of freelance writers and illustrators. Then we have Sophie Bryant Funnell who is a very talented art director an in-house illustrator, and Tim, who manages layouts.
My day begins at about 8.30, directly after I’ve finished the school run. I check my emails, maybe commission for a few things later in the year and then I’ll take a look at the spreads for the current issue and start proof reading, copy editing, image research and approving roughs. I might be involved in kicking around concepts for an important cover or talking a museum into lending us their expertise on a feature. Last week I spent some time building a pinball machine out of cardboard. It’s so varied, I am really lucky.
The world may have changed quite a lot over the last 25 years but fundamentally the kids who read AQUILA have not. They respond to the same things you and I responded to at that age. They’re incredibly switched on, well informed and eager to learn, so as long as the content is colourful, interesting, intelligent and packed with fun, it remains relevant and engaging. We try not to think too much about this trend or that. Our aim is that the AQUILA going out this month will still be being passed around, used and enjoyed two or three years from now.
That’s a tricky one. I like the covers with little hidden jokes or details in them but I know they don’t necessarily please marketing. A cover has to do so much! It has to work at loads of different sizes and communicate a very precise message. I LOVED Ed Brown’s Grow Your Own cover for our March issue. I felt it really conveyed the nuttiness of AQUILA.
8-12 is a really diverse age group and within that there are kids of all different abilities and with a whole host of different interests. It’s an organic process. We don’t run anything that we don’t find interesting, and when we run something that is very challenging we have a few tricks up our sleeve – we can pair a very tough maths feature with a really fun and colourful illustrator, we can use a very bright and friendly colour palette or I can write jokes and splice them into the text. Animals and ecology always go down well.
Repeat pattern artwork (below) by Ed Brown.
I can’t speak for Sophie, our art director, but personally I look for these things:
A fairly consistent style running across all the work. I should be able to tell instantly that all this work has been made by the same person, and it should tell me something about the person who made it.
Ideally I want to see a good mixture of subjects including people (adults and children), town and country scenes, food, diagrams (a good diagram illustrator is worth their weight in gold), hand-rendered text and large illustrations and spots.
A mixture of personal and professional projects. It’s really interesting to see what an artist chooses to work on, as opposed to what they’re given to work on.
I LOVE sketchbooks. Show me your sketchbook work. It will tell me so much about your process and your practice.
I like to be surprised by a topic. Often my favourites are things I think I’ll get nothing out of, but then suddenly I’m fascinated. A while back we ran a feature on slime moulds and their ability to solve mazes, and that just blew me away!
Slime mould artwork (below) by Rachel Tunstall.
Personally I think it’s absolutely crucial. For a start I think it helps people retain information but a shared joke also makes you feel like part of a gang. That’s what AQUILA really is – it’s a club for kids who are creative, kind, curious and a bit mad.
I just hope my jokes are actually funny.
The boy who was so inspired by our interview with a coracle maker that he made his own boat and sailed it down a river.
The kid who made our Dig for Victory garden with his granddad and ended up learning all about his experiences during world war two.
The boy who can’t go to school because of ill-health and disabilities, but who enjoys learning and feeling part of a community of kids because of AQUILA magazine. And then the replies to him from other children on the letters page telling him how proud they are of him and what he is achieving.
These are the stand outs, but I get great letters from kids every day. Each one makes me feel really privileged to be able to come to work and do this job.
After graduating with a degree in English and American Literature, I interned at several children’s publishers before I landed a job as editorial assistant at Andersen Press. While there I had the pleasure of working for the inimitable Klaus Flugge and had a hand in producing picture books created by David McKee, Tony Ross and Quentin Blake, to name a few. I’d long admired Nobrow’s books so when I heard they were starting a children’s list I knew I had to get in touch, and soon after I was hired. There wasn’t actually an editorial department when I started at Nobrow, so it’s been amazing to create a new department which has grown to a team of three within the four and half years that I’ve been here.
Nobrow and its children’s list, Flying Eye Books, was founded by two graduates of Central Saint Martins, Alex Spiro and Sam Arthur. For a while they were the only ones producing the books, but the UK office has since grown to a team of thirteen people, passionately working across editorial, design, publicity, marketing, accounts and foreign rights. We also have a sales office in the US where a team of three work to market and publicize our books in America while also liaising with our US distributor, Penguin Random House.
As a small and fairly young company we are still learning our way, but we have had some successes of which we are proud. One in particular that comes to mind is when Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill won the Kate Greenaway Medal in 2015. More recently we’ve had success with The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton, which won this year’s Waterstones Best Illustrated Book. But success for us isn’t just about winning awards, it’s about creating good quality books that sell well domestically and all over the world.
This can be true, but we do often notice a correlation between our bestselling titles in the US and the UK and I think this comes down to the globalization of publishing. However, the US market is much bigger so our sales expectations are higher, especially in certain areas such as Graphic Novels. This area is still quite niche in the UK, but we appear to be having a golden age in illustration which is opening the UK market up to different types of visual storytelling.
Arthur and the Golden Rope by Joe Todd-Stanton, of which we recently published the paperback edition, is an example of how we have experimented with visual storytelling. It’s a hybrid between a children’s picture book and graphic novel, which is set in the world of Norse Mythology. It’s been particularly successful for us as it reaches an age group of 5-8 year olds and schools have loved using the book in class. At its core it tells the tale of an unexpected hero, in the form of shy and awkward Arthur who manages to battle gods and beasts to save his village. We paired text and illustration in a slightly unusual way but it’s worked out well and it is accessible to children who might be reluctant readers.
This month we’re celebrating ten years of Nobrow, and have released a special anniversary 10th edition of the Nobrow magazine. The magazine was one of the very first projects to be published by Nobrow. In this edition 70 contemporary illustrators from all over the world have responded to the theme of ‘Studio Dreams’, and it’s printed in four spot colours. It’s been incredible to see the range and variety of art styles and interpretation of the theme by all the artists, and I could look through the book for hours!
In June, we are publishing a creative non-fiction book called Skyward: The Story of Female Air Pilots in WWII by Sally Deng. It’s a stunning book that tells the unrecognized story of female pilots from Great Britain, USA, and Russia. Set during the Second World War, Sally Deng sensitively tells the story of three women who all had a passion to fly and faced enormous obstacles along the way. This is a book I would have loved to have read as a child myself, especially as I had no idea women flew during WWII.
This can vary from project to project and it’s hard to describe exactly. Mostly we work with illustrators who are visual storytellers, but don’t find the writing part so easy. We’ll often work on the overall arc of the story and help the illustrator to write the text and make sure the book works as best as it can. Or sometimes I’ll send an illustrator a story or a visual reference for inspiration. Creating stories can be a long process, as sometimes original ideas by new voices take time to develop.
Shackleton’s Journey by William Grill is our most successful creative non-fiction title. It pairs inventive visuals and a fascinating historical story about survival and teamwork. When it was published in 2014, there were very few books out there like it – so it’s been wonderful to see how successful it has been.
I think the best children’s picture books are about universal experiences, whether that is something funny and silly or emotional and heartwarming. At their core children’s books have to appeal to children, but that doesn’t mean an adult can’t enjoy the book either, especially if they are going to be reading the book aloud every night to a young child!
Like most children, I was read to, and read a lot of illustrated books. These books have always stayed in my memory because they were some of my very first experiences of reading. However, it wasn’t until I started interning at children’s publishers that I realized my skill set was much more suited to working on illustrated books.
My taste in illustration styles is hard to define, as for every editor it is quite a subjective thing. I would say it’s often when an illustration provokes a response from me. I tend to like illustration styles that are warm and full of character and expression, like Emily Hughes’s art. Lately, I’ve been drawn to lots of diverse subject matters, but in particular I like simple stories with important and relevant themes, be they social or environmental.
I’m particularly excited by a non-fiction book we are publishing in October called Everest. It tells the story of the world’s tallest mountain, from its early beginnings, to the flora and fauna which survive on it and the legends that surround it. It’s written beautifully by the talented Sangma Francis and illustrated by the incredible Lisk Feng, whose illustrations are bold and mystical. It’s been an ambitious project, but it’s truly breathtaking – in my humble opinion!
I've always gotten a buyers high from buying a new book, and 90% of the time I've bought the book because of the cover. My love for books and illustration made me very determined to get a job in publishing my senior year of college, but I took a slight detour first. I graduated from University of the Arts with a BFA in illustration and one month after graduation I hopped on a retro-fitted school bus and travelled around the country for six months. The trip was for a non-profit I co-founded that taught workshops on gardening and sustainability out of a barn-red school bus. (To this day it's one of the craziest, hippiest things I've done.) When I returned back to my home in North Carolina, I was flat broke and picked up a catering job at a local restaurant. However, my heart was still set on publishing. After several failed job applications (no one wanted to hire a girl with no experience, living in North Carolina), I got a design internship at Penguin. With only the brashness of someone with nothing to lose, I packed my bags and moved to New York. I wasn't sure if I would get a job from the internship, but I knew I needed to be in New York to get my foot in the door. Thankfully, a friend from Uarts told me about a junior designer job at Sterling Publishing and that became my first job in publishing. After Sterling, I worked at Scholastic and then a couple years later ended up at Imprint.
The design team at Imprint is always looking for ways to push the limits of what we can do with the packaging on our books to best match the story inside. A few recent titles we're proud of are The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo, The Joy of Cookies by Cookie Monster, and The Wicker King by K. Ancrum.
With The Language of Thorns, we knew we wanted to create a lush package that matched the dark, magical stories inside. Natalie Sousa had the brilliant idea of creating an illustrated frame around the text of each story that slowly grew as you turned the page. Sara Kipin illustrated these amazing frames that revealed one new sinister piece of the story. We wanted the cover to feel like those classic antique cloth bound books, so we designed the cover as a piece of embroidery, that later was beautifully embossed to make it feel real. Overall, this book is beautiful and tactile, and feels like it's straight out of the Grishaverse.
The Joy of Cookies was an IP project we dreamed up during a weekly meeting. We had all just watched a hilarious video with Cookie Monster and started brainstorming fun book ideas. The Imprint team LOVES puns, so after "The Joy of Cookies" was shouted out as a title idea, the whole project just snowballed from there. The design team really tried to channel what we thought a book would look like if Cookie Monster had made it himself. My favorite part about the book is the die-cut bite mark that cuts through the whole book. Cookie Monster gets so excited, we imagined him taking a bite out of his own book in all his enthusiasm.
The Wicker King was a debut book for K. Ancrum and when I read the manuscript I completely fell in love with her writing. It's a moody story about a teen boy who tries to save his best friend from this hallucinatory world he's spiraling into. The first draft was written with artifacts between specific chapters that told missing pieces of the story. As a designer, I loved the idea of artifacts telling a piece of the story, so with the interior design I went crazy making these pieces feel as authentic as possible. In the final book there are many handwritten notes, photographs, journal entries and drawings that integrate into the story. The pages slowly become water damaged and darker, finally fading into black pages with white type when the characters hit rock bottom. One unplanned design outcome was that the page design created an ombre effect on the edge of the book and readers loved it.
The illustrator in me is always looking for new artists that have clever concepts or use of images (The New Yorker cover always has some of the most clever illustrations). Like most people, I spend way too much time on Instagram (@childrensillustrators) finding my way down the rabbit hole to new artists. However, when I'm not getting lost in the social media web, I find a lot of inspiration just interacting with the city on a daily basis.
The Imprint design team tries to take monthly design outings to art exhibits, book stores or anything funky in the city. Our outings started as a way to get inspiration for book designs, but has turned into a fun way to seek out new content and think outside the box. I love going to unexpected places or exhibits, because you never know what's going to spark an idea.
The cover creation process varies from book to book. My favorite process is to read a manuscript and then hone in on the essence of the book. I often will ask myself a few questions: What is a strong message or theme that is being conveyed in the book? How can I represent that with imagery that doesn't feel too literal? One good example of this process is the book Winner Take All by Laurie Devore. This is a young adult novel about a driven, type-a girl who cares so much about being the best in school and sports, that she ruins all her relationships. When coming up with concepts for this cover I thought about being an over achiever to the point of destruction. Some images that came to mind were matches (burning everything down), gold stars (acknowledgment for high achievements) and burnt prize ribbons (ruined awards). In the end we went with a matchbook that looked subtly like a middle finger as a way to show her attitude towards the world. I love how edgy and fun this cover is, because it truly reflects the attitude of the main character.
The Language of Thorns and The Joy of Cookies are two of Imprint's best selling books so far. Both books are beautiful and fun to read in their own way, which is why I think readers were so drawn to them.
I'm very interested in #OwnVoices stories right now. I find it's very important to work with artists who can relate to the stories they are illustrating and also bring some of their own experience to the narrative. The feminist in me is also loving all of these badass female illustrators making work that celebrates women and all their strengths.
No one wants to work with a jerk. Making friends and being kind to those you work with has been one of the most powerful pieces of advice in my career. All of the opportunities I've had, have either happened because a friend has recommended me or they've introduced me to someone new. Being kind to others makes them remember you and want to work with you again. Plus, it's always fun to make new friends.
One of my favorite projects to work on while I was still at Scholastic, was George by Alex Gino. This was one of the first middle grade novels about a trans character written by a genderqueer author and was such an important book when it came out. I fell in love with the story and the main character Melissa. It was an honor to be able to design and illustrate the cover.
Oh man, this is a hard one! A lot of my favorite books as a kid were mainly because of the art and humor. I was a huge fan of William Joyce's Bob the Dinosaur and A Day with Wilbur Robinson. I also loved the Lane Smith & Jon Scieszka books The Stinky Cheese Man, Math Curse, and The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!. Another favorite, mainly for the artwork, was The Velveteen Rabbit illustrated by Donna Green. As I got older I fell in love with the Harry Potter series and like most kids I would doodle scenes from the book and create my own versions of the cover.
I would LOVE to work on a book that is a compilation of fully illustrated advice for middle grade readers. Being in middle school can be such a hard time as a kid and I think it helps to hear encouragements from those who survived that awkward time. In a dream world, I would hire multiple illustrators to draw and write out each piece of advice, so the final book would be beautiful and helpful!