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Publisher Profile: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

The CBC asks Kathleen Merz, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Acquisitions and Managing Editor, questions about the publisher.

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers began in 1995 as an imprint of Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, which has been in business since 1911.

Which genres does your house prefer to publish?

We publish both fiction and literary nonfiction. Our books span a wide range of subjects and themes, including contemporary social issues, multiculturalism, faith and religion, biography, STEM topics, and history. A large portion of the books we publish are international titles—books that we’ve brought to the U.S. from other countries and translated into English from their original languages.

Which formats does your house prefer to publish?

We publish primarily picture books, with some middle-grade fiction.

What are some of your house’s publishing priorities over the next few years?

We hope to continue publishing thoughtful, beautifully illustrated books from a diverse range of voices and perspectives. We’re particularly excited about stories that help young readers foster empathy and understanding for those with different life experiences. And we want to continue publishing books that find creative, beautiful, and compelling ways to introduce readers to cultures, ideas, and concepts that may be unfamiliar to them. 

Which upcoming titles is your house buzzing about?

We’re very excited about the titles we have coming out on our Spring 2023 list. To highlight just a handful: How the Sea Came to Be (And All the Creatures In It) is a poetic look at the history of the ocean—from its evolutionary past to its biodiverse present. The Miracle Seed is a graphic novel that tells the true story of the Judean date palm, which was reborn in the modern era through the hard work of two female scientists. 9 Kilometers offers a glimpse of what the school experience looks like around the world, following a Chilean child as he crosses mountains and rain forests to get to school. The Sky Is Not the Limit is a poetic odyssey through space, describing the journey of the groundbreaking Voyager 2 probe.

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

I Hate Borsch! is a witty, poignant love letter to Yevgenia Nayberg’s home country of Ukraine—and it’s got lots of say about how history, heritage, and food can shape our identities. 

Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War is an illustrated middle-grade story, told through the voices of two siblings, that covers a period of world history that U.S. readers seldom get to learn about. 

Yellow Dog Blues is a lyrical road trip through the Mississippi Delta, exploring the landmarks that shaped one of America’s most beloved musical traditions. With hand-stitched art from Chris Raschka and Alice Faye’s Duncan’s singular narrative voice, this is a book like nothing else out there.

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

A Head Full of Birds is a school story about an unexpected friendship across the neurodiverse spectrum. It’s a celebration of the ways that different perspectives can foster creativity and joy. Perfect for students in kindergarten through second grade. 

A Perfect Spot is the story of a ladybug searching for a safe place to lay her eggs—and encountering a fascinating range of other insects along the way. It would be a great resource for children in grades 1 – 3 who are learning about camouflage, metamorphosis, and other natural wonders. 

Building an Orchestra of Hope: How Favio Chavez Taught Children to Make Music from Trash is the true story of how an ingenious idea helped bring music to a community built on a landfill. It’s a story about creativity, resilience, and the transformative nature of hope. This would be a great story for children in grades 1 – 3.

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

I’ll Always Come Back to You is a sweet story about a parent’s promise that they’ll do whatever it takes to make it back to their child. It’s colorful, whimsical, and perfect for any children who are struggling with separation anxiety or a change in family life. 

The Box is a gentle story about a group of woodland animals who encounter a mysterious creature hidden in a box. It’s a perfect book for discussing how to meet others where they are emotionally. 

Madani’s Best Game is a fun story about a neighborhood soccer team and its determined young star player. It features a sweet relationship between Madani and his mother—and a very satisfying narrative twist at the end of the book.

Name a few of your favorite backlist titles that people should check out.

Some of our classic titles are A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams and The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus. Our book Four Feet, Two Sandals—about two young refugee girls—continues (unfortunately) to be as relevant as it was when we first published it over a decade ago. 

Some of our favorite titles from more recent years include Hello, Earth! Poems to Our Planet (a gorgeous celebration of science and art, with poetry from Joyce Sidman), I Can Help (a story about facing peer pressure and learning from past mistakes), One Million Oysters on Top of the Mountain (a beautifully illustrated, accessible introduction to paleontology and earth science), and A Plan for the People: Nelson Mandela’s Hope for His Nation (a picture book biography that focuses on Mandela’s long fight for equality and the courage that enabled him to lead his people).

What else would you like to tell us about your house and the amazing work you all do?

We’re a small independent press that’s been publishing children’s books for over two decades. We don’t publish a huge number of books each year, but we’re deeply invested in every single title that we publish. We love the eclectic range of titles on our list, and are always looking for unexpected new voices and stories that open up wider worlds for our readers and us.

Thank you, Eerdmans Books for Young Readers!

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