Posts tagged ‘Publishing’

August 12, 2011

Books for Babies: All the World

Some of you kind reader folks know that before Jacob was born, I worked in children’s publishing. Actually, I still work in children’s publishing, but now I am a freelance editor and writer rather than an assistant at a publishing house or a literary agency.  (Shameless plug: check me out.)

Children’s publishing is a happy, wonderful world of adorable illustrations, sweetly rhyming texts, and—in my experience—brightly colored office doors and lax dress codes.  It’s place where incredibly intelligent, funny, and well-meaning people get together to say “cute” seventeen thousand times a day—and mean it every time.

As incredible as my time in the more corporate side of things was, I didn’t have a complete perspective on what makes a children’s book work before Jacob was born.  Sure, I had books I loved as a child, and I’d read to kids while babysitting and during story time at Borders, but before I was a mother, before I held Jacob in my arms, before I watched him react to the stories I read him, I was missing a very important piece of the puzzle.

Most people take “children’s publishing” to mean simply board books or picture books.  Those are part of the industry, but not all of it.  Middle grade novels (like Diary of a Wimpy Kid) and young adult novels (Twilight and so on) fall under this umbrella as well.  But considering Jacob’s less than a year old, I’ve really only had experience as a mother with picture books.  So now, finally, we can get to the point of this post.

When I was more thoroughly entrenched in the midtown-Manhattan-based part of the industry, I knew which books I appreciated as an adult.  Of course I was more familiar with those published by my house, Simon & Schuster, than any other, so as much as I wanted to make recommendations to friends, I knew I was kind of biased when I did.

Now with some distance (almost a year!) from my time in that office and many, many snuggles with my own little Peanut, I feel ready to make some tried and true suggestions for good books to read to babies.  I hope my recommendations will help moms grab some good reads at the library or the bookstore, or maybe even help someone find a baby shower gift or two.

The first book I recommend is All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon and illustrated by Marla Frazee. (Did you know that in German books, the illustrator of a picture book is often listed first?  It’s not relevant here, just a fun fact I thought I’d share).



Anyway, All the World is, I admit, published by Simon & Schuster, but not a part that I worked for.  It was also awarded a well-deserved Caldecott Honor, which is one of the highest honors for illustrated children’s books, so there’s proof that more people than just me think this book is something very special.

I knew this book was gorgeous when I was at S&S.  I had a couple of sample pages taped to my desk wall.  I wasn’t the only one.  All of us were in love with the lyrical, ultimately spiritual tone of the book and the perspective that it brought each of us, wherever we were in our lives.  But even with all that, it wasn’t until I read it to Jacob the other day that I just about cried.

All the World follows a family through an ordinary day and takes note of all the simple things that make our world what it is—the good things and the bad, the joys and the mistakes along the way.  There is playing at the beach and sharing of meals, and in the end, it’s all about family and friends, and what we mean to each other.  The text rhymes, but beautifully and richly.  Take one peek at the illustrations and you’ll want to buy an extra copy (or six) to wallpaper your house.  And I don’t even like wallpaper.

I sometimes wonder why we focus on sharing things this pure and true with little ones, and not with older people, who are more likely to be jaded and bitter about the tough stuff.  This book puts things—all the things of this world—in a very true and very accessible light.

Moral of the story:  Read this book.  Then buy a copy for yourself and anyone else you know—baby or adult—who needs a little reminder of all the good that’s in the world, all the love that exists, all the wonderful things that make our world the blessed place that it is.

May 4, 2011

Daily BSI

John and I are lucky in that we have a lot in common in terms of values, food, furniture aesthetic, and so on.  Of course, there are plenty of ways in which our tastes usually don’t align: books, movie genres, the pleasure attainable from running and other extreme sports (yes, running is an extreme sport in my book).  For the most part, the things we have in common are what make our relationship work and the things we don’t agree on are what add interest.

Despite all that we do have in common, one major difference between the two of us is what we do for work (besides parenting).  John works in finance, and I, as you’ve seen, am a freelance writer and editor, fresh from a publishing house.  We like to say that John works with the numbers and I handle the words.  Thankfully, in getting to learn about John’s job over the past few years, I’ve seen that both our jobs require a good deal of intelligence, hard work, and creativity.

Despite all I’ve learned, though, I still don’t understand most of the finance jokes that come my way.  So it took some explaining when John suggested the idea of a “Daily BSI.”

Let’s rewind for a moment.

When John went back to work after his paternity leave, I told him I’d do my best to send him a photo of Jacob every day.  I’d planned to take a photo of the little dude every day in at least his first year, anyway, and John was excited to get a photographic update on the little guy each day.

What began with John forwarding the photos to a couple of his colleagues turned into a mini-listserv that I eventually took over.  Turns out no matter what industry you’re in, cute baby photos simply make a day better.

Thus was born the “Daily BSI” or “Baby Schlegel Index.”  For those as financially-illiterate as I am, there are all kinds of indices finance folks use to gauge what’s going on in the market.  They too have crazy acronyms, but unlike the BSI, they are monthly or quarterly (or something, I don’t know; they’re just not daily.  Ask John.).

Anyway, moral of the story, I now send a daily email to my husband and a dozen of his co-workers, all of whom, for the record, I have met and very much like.  And as an added bonus, Jacob already has a leg up in finance, should he choose to pursue that as a career path.  Maybe I shouldn’t send out photos of baby bathtime?

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