Keith Garton & Jeff Dinardo
Publisher / AD - Red Chair Press
Could you talk us through your role at Red Chair Press & explain the company's core mission?
Keith: My role as Publisher is to set the direction for each season’s list and often to look for the authors who can bring the list to life. Our core mission has been to help children learn new things and feel empowered while having fun with the stories, whether in fiction or nonfiction formats.
Red Chair Press operates a number of different brands & imprints. Could you give a brief overview of each?
Keith: Red Chair Press Books for Young Readers is our core line with both fiction and nonfiction series and picture books for children ages 6 to 10. Our LOOK! Books line features an early introduction to nonfiction tied to topics children will study in school. Rocking Chair Kids has been an imprint for interactive picture books intended to be read to children by adults. Our newest imprint One Elm Books features single title middle grade novels staying true to the mission of helping readers feel empowered.
Could you select one of your favourite recent books from each imprint to highlight to our audience?
Keith: One of my favorite LOOK! Books has to be from the Beginning Biography set, Ruby Bridges: A Brave Child Who Made History because I think it really speaks to the reader in a personal way. From our Books for Young Readers line, a favorite is Mrs. Paddington and the Silver Mousetraps, an historically accurate and gorgeously illustrated picture book about women’s hairstyles in the 18th Century. One Elm Books has my new favorite title releasing in August, Second Dad Summer, an Own-Voices novel about a young boy’s growth in accepting his father’s sexuality and new partner.
With your focus on the educational market, how is Red Chair Press responding to the current Covid-19 crisis?
Keith: Well we’ve been a remote staff already with people working from various locations, so as far as the offices), we haven’t had to adjust much. We have received quite a few requests from teachers and librarians who wish to record videos and readings of our books to use within their community, which we’re more than happy to grant.
Tell us about some of Red Chair Press' most successful titles.
Keith: Some of our most successful and longest-lived titles have come from our early readers dealing with character traits and bullying. But our most successful newer titles include those from our Scary Tales Retold series of retold fables and fairy tales.
Are there particular illustration styles that work best for the educational market?
Jeff: No, not at all. We actually prefer to try and use a variety of artists using their own unique styles, more in keeping with trade books. We like to mix it up!
When browsing an artist's portfolio, what are some of the things you look for?
Jeff: I prefer to see an artist really work in one style rather than a mix up of all different techniques. I prefer to see samples that show a reoccurring character so I know they can redraw the character throughout a whole book. I want to see what you like to draw not what you think is needed for a portfolio!
Describe one of the most rewarding projects you've been involved in.
Keith: One of the most rewarding experiences has been working on a book about an autistic boy and his brother coming out from One Elm in April 2021.
What has been some of the most treasured feedback in response to your books from children, teachers and parents alike?
Keith: Our new Helper Hounds series about emotional support dogs and the children they support has been wonderful experience and we’ve heard such nice things from readers who have sent emails telling us how much they appreciate our inclusiveness featuring a girl with Down’s syndrome or mixed-race families, and same-sex couples. It always touches my heart when we hear from readers who were impacted.
What exciting titles are in store for the coming year?
—Finding S.A.M. mentioned above about an autistic teen.
—Silent Journey about a young deaf boy whose greatest challenge is to prove he’s as capable as any other person.
And from Books for Young Readers we have a STEAM-focused chapter book mystery series coming in Fall 2020 that is fun, colorful, — and educational.