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Publisher Profile: Astra Books for Young Readers

New Q&A series with CBC member publishers. This time, we hear from Kerry McManus, Senior Marketing Manager, Astra Books for Young Readers

Where in the country is your house based? What do you love about being based there?

Astra Books for Young Readers is based in New York City. We have many employees who live right in NYC, and many more who live nearby in Westchester County, New Jersey, and Connecticut. We even have employees living in Pittsburgh, Colorado, Florida, and California!

Has your house ever gone through a merger? If so, with who and when?

Yes – of sorts! Prior to the establishment of Astra Books for Young Readers, we were Boyds Mills & Kane, which was founded when Highlights for Children sold Boyds Mills Press to Thinkingdom, the parent company of a small NYC-based publisher called Kane Press. After a couple of years and a lot of growth, Boyds Mills & Kane was re-branded as Astra Books for Young Readers in September 2021.

Since the pandemic, have you all returned to in-office work, are you still fully remote, or do you have a hybrid system?

We have a very flexible, hybrid system. We have an office in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, but it honestly can’t accommodate our rapidly growing staff all at one time. Employees come into the office when they want to for meetings or for other reasons. But I’d say the majority of our staff are still working mostly from home.

What conventions and conferences does your publishing house usually attend?

We attend ALA Annual each June and we’re looking forwards to traveling to the new LibLearnX (formerly known as ALA Midwinter) conference in New Orleans this January 2023. In February 2023, we have staffers who will attend EBMA in the Bahamas (now, that’s a great conference location!) April will bring the Texas Library Association in Austin, TX. We’ll also attend the ABA’s Children’s Institute, which typically takes place right before ALA Annual in June—we just found out that it will be held in Milwaukee.  NCTE is on our schedule each November, with this year in Anaheim, CA. Throughout the year, we also take part in many online conferences including the School Library Journal Day of Dialog, and we frequently exhibit at smaller shows like the National Council of Social Studies and American School Counselor Association conference with Publisher Spotlight.

Which formats does your house prefer to publish?

We pretty much do it all at ABFYR! We publish books for kids from birth to teens. That includes board books, picture books, easy readers, early chapter books, middle-grade, YA, and graphic novels.

Which genres does your house prefer to publish?

Astra Books for Young Readers publishes varied and vast genres of books and we have seven distinct children’s book imprints: Astra Young Readers, Calkins Creek, Hippo Park, Kane Press, mineditionUS, Toon Books, and Wordsong. For example, Calkins Creek only publishes books about American history—nonfiction and historical fiction—spanning many different ages and grade levels. Wordsong is the only poetry imprint in the US for children and this imprint publishes fiction and nonfiction. Toon Books only publishes graphic novels.

Which of your frontlist titles would be great for a school or public library?

I think ALL of our titles are perfect for a school or public library! If I had to pick two from our Fall 2022 list, I’d say American Murderer: The Parasite that Haunted the South by YALSA Nonfiction Award-winning author Gail Jarrow is ideal for libraries—it’s a fascinating nonfiction book that reads like a thriller and is ideal for kids interested in science and “gross” American history. Also, Infinity: Figuring Out Forever is a picture book that demystifies and explains the very complex mathematical concept of infinity—kids (and adults!) will really understand after reading the book.

Which of your frontlist titles would be great for a classroom? Which grade?

Garvey In The Dark by Nikki Grimes is the sequel to her award-winning Garvey’s Choice. It revisits the story of Garvey, who is doing better with his life—until COVID-19 hits. It’s a beautifully told story of resilience and hope. I think it’s perfect for young readers in Grade 4 and older. Mr. McCloskey’s Marvelous Mallards: The Making of Make Way for Ducklings is a fantastic nonfiction picture book all about the creation of the 1941 Caldecott-winning classic book for kids. It’s a story of persistence and creativity and is a fascinating story behind the story. It’s great for kids in grades 2 – 5.

Which of your frontlist tiles would be great for an at-home library?

Come On In, There’s a Party in this Book! by Jamie Michalak and illustrated by Sabine Timm is perhaps the ultimate at-home library book.  It’s about a lemon who is heading to a party where she finds cats wearing boots, fruits dressed in suits, dogs made of bread, and a pigeon named Fred. It’s such a fun book that begs repeated readings, and it also celebrates creativity and imagination. The illustrations are all made of found objects (the lemon in the artwork is an actual lemon!) and I know kids will have the best time looking at each spread.

Thank you, Astra Books for Young Readers!

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