Tell us about Wide Eyed Editions… I started Wide Eyed Editions with a friend of mine, Jenny Broom, a little over two years ago. We wanted to create a list of non-fiction / information books that expanded the genre for children, and made non-fiction as interesting to read and look at as picture books. Today, so many of children’s publishing’s best books are about transporting readers to another world of fantasy. We wanted to make books that brought the same sense of wonder and magic to the real world. We also wanted to bring the same sense of design and quality of production to the books that adult’s books have. Our belief is that there’s no reason a children’s book can’t have the same physical feeling as an art book, or a travel book.
Did you have any prior publishing experience? Yes, both Jenny and I had worked as editors for over a decade commissioning and editing illustrated books. Once we had the idea for Wide Eyed Editions we set about working with great designers, authors and illustrators to create the books, from established artists like Aino-Maija Metsola and Kristjana S Williams, to emerging artists and authors. We then approached The Quarto Group, a global distributor and publisher of illustrated books, to be our parent company, and today they distribute and sell our lists in more than 30 languages. Today Jenny and I oversee a small team of editors and designers. It’s a very collaborative business, and I’m lucky to have such a stellar partner in someone like Jenny, she is good at all sides of the business. And we have our awesome designer Nicola Price. I’m a firm believer that the best books are made from collaborating with people who love good design and believe in excellence.
Who are your books for? We publish non-fiction books for children and families. I say ‘and families’ because I mean that our books are created with more than one reader in mind. We believe that family time spent around an open book is one of the most interesting and relationship-building moments in a child’s life. Our books are made to prompt questions and start discussions. All our books are highly illustrated, and in our first two years we have focused on books about the natural world, geography and art, and are now extending our list into science and technology as well. We make books for children as young as 18 months with our Learning Garden brand which we created with Aino-Maija Metsola. This is a developmentally-led series of books for preschoolers, in all sorts of different formats. Our next age range is ages five to seven which is ‘light’ non-fiction with minimal text and lots of pictures, designed to help kids feel like they’re reading a picture book. Our final age range is aged seven plus, which is really our all ages category.
We believe that family time spent around an open book is one of the most interesting and relationship-building moments in a child’s life
What differentiates your books from other children’s books? We’re not the only ones making great non-fiction for children, but we do try to make our books unpatronising, full of visual flair and authoritative. We gravitate towards authors and illustrators who haven’t necessarily made a children’s book before but are passionate about a certain subject. Jenny and I then work with contributors to make sure their work is really relevant and well-pitched for the young readership.
Why is reading with kids so important? Time spent orienting yourself between the four corners of the printed page is a basic human need. It allows us to think critically, and slowly, and have a conversation with ourselves. Our list of books celebrate the art of ‘slow reading’, and we have spent a lot of time looking at research into how children absorb texts and image, ensuring that none of our books are too text heavy or unfriendly in their design approach.
How can we get kids away from screens and into books? I don’t have children yet, although I am expecting my first later this year, but I do spend a good amount of time with kids looking at how they read. I don’t think it’s one or the other, both screen and book time should be special in their own right. For me though it’s all about the magic of what a static page can give you that the internet cannot – authority, tactile responses to printed paper, and a chance to explore something with a parent and/or second reader. Our books ask you to pull them out and spread them on the floor. They’re made for reading by more than one person.
What about girls vs boys when it comes to reading? Statistically, boys are often more avid non-fiction readers than girls, but I often wonder whether this is because us publishers haven’t yet found interesting enough ways to reach girls who are dreaming of fairies, and princesses, and faraway lands. Our non-fiction needs to feel and read as any other magical picture book does, and that’s the challenge. The gender divide is narrowing, and I would say that our books need to become more narrative, whilst staying true to their subjects, encouraging kids to think about how fascinating and wonder-filled our world really is.
For more on Wide Eyed Editions see www.quartoknows.com/Wide-Eyed-Editions