Looking Back: 25 Years of Children’s Publishing at Chronicle Books
25 years ago, Chronicle launched its first children’s book list. The list was small—7 books. Heck, the company was small—I think I was employee #20. But our belief that books were magical was strong. As was our belief that a dedication to striking design and quality production—hallmarks of Chronicle’s adult list—would lead us to create children’s books that also stood out on the shelves.
Our glasses logo didn’t yet exist, but I knew the moment I arrived in San Francisco from New York that I had landed someplace that really did “see things differently.” I also found that the company had grown so much (20 people!), it didn’t have room in its offices for me. So I was escorted down a hall to a little extra office it had rented until all of us could move to a bigger space. In it was a phone, a copy machine and a bookshelf. That was it. But it turns out that belief, dedication and enthusiasm trump office furniture at every turn.
This year the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (the preeminent trade show for, and celebration of, children’s books) launched a new initiative—The Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year—created to honor publishers who are at the forefront of innovation. The recipients were selected by publishers and cultural institutions worldwide. And Chronicle received the award for North America. In children’s book parlance, we feel a little bit like “The Little Publishing Company That Could.”
We’re also particularly proud of that award because the roots of our list lie with many of our fellow publishers across the world. Our first list was comprised of a handful of titles originally published outside the United States. However, in just a few short years, we were developing our own projects and launching the debut works of many other amazing authors and artists, and many of those books in turn have been published in languages around the globe.
Now there are too many books to count. But I thought I would list 25* that in their own ways have helped us become the list and the company that we are today. That company has grown as well. There are more than 20 people in our children’s book group alone and to a person they continue to be dedicated to putting magic, in all is myriad of publishing forms, into the hands of children. And perhaps some child out there who is at this very moment reading one of our books or playing with one of our kits will one day join our ranks and put his or her touch on what that we publish in the next 25 years. And that possibility is truly the very best anniversary gift a publisher could want.
*One of these books is an adult book, but by an artist who was at that time a children’s book illustrator. While it wasn’t part of the children’s list, it came in through the children’s group. And it definitely had an impact on the company. Can you spot it?
Founding Publisher, Chronicle Kids
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