Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Peachtree Spotlight: Matt Gray

It's the last spotlight of the season! This past month we've spent some time introducing all the wonderful people who make up the Peachtree team. If you missed last week, we heard from Nicki Carmack, our Creative Director. 

Today we have Matt Gray in the spotlight. He is our IT and Operations Manager as well as a consistent life saver. 

Tell us about your history with Peachtree.

I started at Peachtree ten and a half years ago as a marketing intern.  About a month into my internship, one of the ladies that worked at the front desk at the time left the company to move back home to be closer to her family.  I was asked to pull double duty: at first by working part time answering phones while spending the rest of my time continuing my internship, and then after my internship ended, I was asked to spend that time helping the sales department with stuff like order entry, invoicing, and trade shows.  Before too long I was moved over to the sales department full time.  Since I had graduated from an engineering school and know my way around computers, I started to be involved in technical projects; at the same time, my work with trade shows got me more and more involved with logistics.  That led me to a bunch of different roles over the years, ranging at times from being an information specialist to a project manager, and even running the warehouse for a bit before ending up in my current role as the IT and Operations Manager.

What are your top three favorite books, any genre?

I’m so glad you asked for three.  I couldn’t pick just two, and four would have been a nightmare, but in no particular order:

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
The Stand by Stephen King
Shogun by James Clavell

If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be?

It might be a bit of a cop out answer, but Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next.  She’s able to move in and out of any story or book ever written at will, so I could visit all of my favorite books and characters that I wanted.

Who is your hero or role model and why?

I’d have to say my parents.  I’m extremely lucky to have them in my life providing the example and guidance that they have.

What is your favorite thing about working at Peachtree?

I’ve loved reading since as far back as I can remember, and it’s an amazing feeling getting to help bring something you loved so deeply as a kid to today’s children.

In your position, what do you consider to be your secret weapon?

Does restarting a computer count?  ;)

Do you have any big interests or hobbies that you focus on outside of work?

Reading is and always will be the main one, but lately I’ve been trying to improve more hands-on skills like home improvement and cooking.

If, in an alternate reality, you were to have gone a completely different career route, what would you have done?

Believe it or not, I was actually this close to majoring in physics in college.

Feel free to write any questions or comments for Matt below!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Children's Books: Then and Now

Here at Peachtree, we eat, drink, and breathe children's books (many of you may relate to this). If we’re not talking about and working on our latest titles, we’re discussing recent award-winning children’s books, or a title that we all enjoyed in our personal reading. A particularly fun conversation started as a result of a blog post we were writing in honor of children’s book authors and illustrators; everyone was listing favorite childhood books.

With the younger staff, we recognized all the favorites. However, a discussion sprang up when our Senior Editor and Creative Director started explaining that the books they were given in childhood were vastly different than those we publish today (check out Der Struwwelpeter, pictured on the right: a book about bad consequences for bad kids). The product of that conversation inspired an exploration into the purpose and mindset behind children’s literature in former generations, compared to current generations. This is what we found:

Children: The Shift in Thinking

The emergence of children's books began centuries ago when the notion of “childhood” started taking shape.

In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding published in 1690, enlightenment thinker and philosopher John Locke introduced the idea of humans being a “blank slate” at birth. Children were not just miniature adults, as previously understood; instead, with no ideas imprinted in them, children slowly learned and developed thoughts and ideas as they grew.

This theory about humans and human understanding was one of the first stones that started the avalanche of development and change when it came to children, children’s education, and children’s books. Ideas, morals, and manners did not come innately. Children needed to be instructed, and the children’s books of the 18th and 19th centuries reflected that.

What the Grown-ups Thought

Locke's theories about children and learning remained prevalent years later. An article entitled "On Novel Reading," published in The Guardian or Youth’s Religious Instructor in 1820 reflects John Locke’s 150 year-old (at this point) idea: “At this period, the mind as well as the body, is forming, is progressing toward the maturity of adult age; and, in this immature state, is peculiarly susceptible of impressions; and these impressions, whether good or bad, usually last, and have great influence on the future character” (p. 46).

Similarly, in an article entitled “Books for Children” and published in 1828 in The American Annals of Education, we see Locke's theory impressing upon adults the importance, and potential danger, of books on a child's mind. In particular, the article shows how adults worried that a single bad idea or habit in a book could affect children for the rest of their lives, their impressionable brains never being able to recover if an immoral habit took hold.

With the fear of immoral future generations, it makes sense that books given to children were carefully monitored. In particular, the frivolity and non-reality of novels was rejected by many adults because of the possibility that their susceptible children might not to be able to differentiate fact from fiction. Once a novel or children’s book taught a child a certain behavior, it might not be unlearned!

 from A Little Pretty Pocket-Book (1744)
“On Novel Reading” also spells out another danger of children’s books. The article explains that “The great profusion of children’s books protracts the imbecility of childhood. They arrest the understanding, instead of advancing it” (p. 48). Here, the issue is not that their kids would become immoral adults, but that they would not mature into adults at all if given the wrong type of literature to read.

With all the fears and dangers of “childish” or fictitious books, many of the American grown-ups (and adults throughout the world), focused the attention of children’s books to teaching morals, manners, and rules. Books were not meant solely for entertainment; they had a very practical purpose. However, this began to shift at the end of the 19th century.

Children’s Literature as a Genre

Children’s books as a genre really began in the 1700s; A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, written by British publisher John Newbery (after whom the Newbery Medal is named) in 1744, is widely considered the first children’s book. The genre was made up mainly of rhyming stories and fairy tales meant to entertain youth, but they also provided moral lessons. So, children’s books existed as a genre, but the books themselves were not necessarily for children for enjoyment's sake; they were for children to become responsible adults. They were to fill the empty void that was a child’s blank mind and give direction to a non-existent moral compass.

Modern attitudes toward children emerged during the late 19th century when the Victorian middle and upper classes started emphasizing, protecting, and celebrating the sanctity and innocence of a child’s imagination instead of stressing morals. With this new mindset, we began to see a very distinct shift in children’s books, which led to the Golden Age of children's literature.

In her overview of children’s literature entitled “Picturing Childhood,” Cynthia Burlingham gives us a list of genre-changing books—including Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865); Little Women (1868-1869); Treasure Island (1883); Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884); and Jungle Book (1894)—that began to change the themes of morality and manners that dominated children’s books. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, for example, was a very popular fantasy story with no obvious moral. Children’s books began to look more like the books for children we see today.

Children’s books continued to evolve during the century following Kipling’s Jungle Book, and the genre is now far from the didactic fear-inducing lessons that were once the staple. So our next question is about the change in the purpose of children’s books during the 20th century. If they’re not for teaching manners and morals, what do we see as their purpose today? Check out our next conversation on the evolution of children’s books in Part 2!

In the meantime, if you're interested in learning more about all the changes in children's literature through the centuries, here are some resources to explore:

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Peachtree Spotlight: Nicki Carmack

The spotlight continues! We have spent the last several weeks highlighting some of the very talented people who work at Peachtree. In case you missed it, you can check out last week's post from Farah Gehy, our Special Sales Manager and Subsidiary Rights Director. Today we get to hear from Nicki Carmack, our Creative Director. 

Nicki answered some questions so that we could get to know her a little better. Check out her responses. 

Tell us about your history with Peachtree.

I worked as a freelance designer with Peachtree back in the 1990s and then pursued a design/marketing career in the financial industry. However, I returned to Peachtree on a full-time basis in 2012. I think my position is constantly evolving since I have to be aware of ongoing trends and technologies in the creative industry. I also work with a lot of different authors and illustrators each season so that creates new opportunities. Now I’m going to sound old! Next year it will be 30 years since I graduated from art school! Yikes! I first met Peachtree at a local book fair in Atlanta, shortly after moving to the U.S. from England. Since I had just left a publishing job in London, I was excited to find a local publisher.

What are your top three favorite books, any genre?

I’m not sure I can list just three, but probably any historical biography or murder mystery. My favorite all time book is Thérese Raquin by Emile Zola.

If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be?

Some kind of detective. Probably Sherlock Holmes!

Who is your hero or role model and why?

My parents! They have been together for over 60 years and still enjoy life to the full. They have kept me well grounded too.

What is your favorite thing about working at Peachtree?

I work with such a talented group. It’s a pleasure to brainstorm new ideas and projects, and I feel we all have mutual respect for each other. You can’t ask for more than that.

In your position, what do you consider to be your secret weapon?

Multi tasking and diplomacy! I juggle many, many projects every day and have to stay on track to avoid missing deadlines. I also interact with a lot of artists, and giving constructive criticism and art directionwhilst still respecting the author and editors’ wishescan sometimes take a little diplomacy.

Do you have any big interests or hobbies that you focus on outside of work?

I love to travel! I start planning my next trip before I’ve returned home from my current trip and love to build complicated itineraries and spreadsheets! Vacations are never a time for relaxation!

If, in an alternate reality, you were to have gone a completely different career route, what would you have done?

Definitely something in the fashion industry. During my days in art school I considered being a textile designer before focusing on graphic design. No matter what, I was always destined to pursue a career in creativity.

Feel free to write any questions or comments for Nicki below!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Summer-Themed Round-Up

Everyone is gearing up for summer, andof courseworking out summer reading lists. If you need ideas for good summer-themed reading, we've got some suggestions! For kids and young adults, we have everything from beach life to summer road trips.

Board Books

At the Beach
by Elizabeth Spurr
For very young readers, Elizabeth Spurr and Manelle Oliphant show all the fun of a day at the beach.

Little Rabbit Lost
by Harry Horse
The fun and excitement of an amusement park is brought to life by Harry Horse as Little Rabbit spends the day exploring with his family. 

Picture Books

Camp K-9
 by Mary Ann Rodman
This lighthearted story from Mary Ann Rodman is all about summer, secrets, and fun. Nancy Hayashi's warm illustrations are a comfort throughout this camp life tale. 

Mrs. Armitage, Queen of the Road
by Quentin Blake
For summer road trips, Quentin Blake has just the thing! Join the offbeat Mrs. Armitage in her liberating adventure on the road with new friends. 

The Sound of All Things
by Myron Uhlberg
Enjoy the sights and sounds of Brooklyn and Coney Island through the eyesand earsof a hearing boy and his deaf parents. Myron Uhlberg and Ted Papoulas transport readers to the experience of roller coasters, fireworks, and the beach on a summer day in the 1930's.

Middle Readers

The Somewhat True Adventures of Sammy Shine
by Henry Cole
Join Sammy Shine on an adventure discovering new friends and a whole new world. For all you summer field and forest explorers, Henry Cole has the perfect story. 

Summer on the Moon
by Adrian Fogelin
Summer vacation takes a turn when Socko and his family move away from the neighborhood he knows so well. Fogelin weaves this summer read with family, loyalty, and community.

Some Kind of Magic
by Adrian Fogelin
It's the summer before freshman year of high school for Cass, Jessie, Ben, and Justin. They are way too old to believe in magic, but an old fedora might just change that. 

Young Adult

The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl
by Melissa Keil
Under the hot Australian sun, Alba and her friends are enjoying summer, Christmas, and the end of high school. When a doomsday prophet names their town as the only place that will survive the upcoming Armageddon, Alba's life is thrown into even more chaos as she anticipates the end of her world as she knows it. 

Flash Point
by Sneed B. Collard III
Wildfire season in Montana is threatening Luther's home, his stepfather's livelihood, and the raptors he has come to love. Through the voice of this high school sophomore, Sneed B. Collard III illustrates the difficulty of balancing competing environmental and economic interests.

What are some of your favorite summer reads? Share them with us in the comments!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Peachtree Spotlight: Farah Gehy

We're back at it, spotlighting some of the wonderful people who work here at Peachtree! Last week we heard from our Senior Editor, Vicky Holifield, and today we are excited to introduce our Special Sales Manager and Subsidiary Rights Director, Farah Gehy!

She answered some questions so that everyone could get to know her a little better.

Tell us about your history with Peachtree.

I have been working here almost 6 years, and I can’t believe that this summer will mark 21 years working in the industry. I was planning a move to Atlanta and wanted to stay in publishing, and luckily found Peachtree. I met with our publisher at BEA the year before moving, and as luck would have it, everything lined up and I started at Peachtree shortly after moving to Atlanta from New York.

What are your top three favorite books, any genre?

This is a tough one, as I LOVE to read! I don’t think I can limit it to just 3. Here goes, in no particular order:
        - The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (or as I like to call him—             God's gift to humanity)
        - The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (I LOVE him!)
        - Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling
        - The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson
        - Captain Corelli's Mandalin by Louis De Bernieres
        - To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
        - Brother, I'm Dying by Edwidge Danticat
        - Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken
        - Lord of the Flies by William Golding
        - The Basque History of the World by Mark Kurlansky
        - Between Shades of Gray and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
        - Kindred by Octavia Butler
        - The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
        - A Song of Ice and Fire series (AKA Game of Thrones) by George R.R. Martin
        - Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be?

This is another hard one. I don’t think I can choose.

Who is your hero or role model and why?

This one is easy. My Mom is my hero. She put herself through nursing school, after her father passed away when she was 16. She always instilled in her daughters the importance of education and self-sufficiency.

What is your favorite thing about working at Peachtree?

I love that I wear many different hats. While it can be overwhelming at times, I love that I’m learning so much about the industry as a whole. I worked in subsidiary rights for 15 years before coming to Peachtree, and it will always be my first love. Although I still handle rights, I’m also handling special sales, international sales and eBooks here. I feel a lot more well-rounded in my knowledge of the industry because of this.

In your position, what do you consider to be your secret weapon?

I don’t know that it’s a secret, but I aim to be fair in all of my dealings. I hope that my reputation over the past 20+ years reflects that.

Do you have any big interests or hobbies that you focus on outside of work?

My hobby, outside of work is… reading! I know, it’s crazy. I’m surrounded by books every day, and I go home and surround myself with more! It’s not unusual to find me up until at least 12:00 reading a book.

If, in an alternate reality, you were to have gone a completely different career route, what would you have done?

Perish the thought! I’ve always worked in the field of words—my very first job in high school was at our local library. If I did not work in publishing, I would hope that I could still work with words, somehow.

Feel free to write any questions or comments for Farah below!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Peachtree Spotlight: Vicky Holifield

We have our second Peachtree Spotlight today! These spotlights are an opportunity for everyone to get to know all the amazing people who work on the inside and behind the scenes at Peachtree. In case you missed it, two weeks ago we heard from Courtney Hood—make sure to check out that post!

Today, our senior editor Vicky Holifield is in the spotlight. She has been a huge part of making Peachtree the company it is today, and we're excited to share a little more about her.

Tell us about your history with Peachtree.

I have been working at Peachtree for a little over twenty five years. I began as what you might call an office assistant, working part-time in various departments, and now I am a senior editor. I’ve been a copy editor or editor for more than twenty years. My first career was in teaching; I taught French to junior high and high school students for several years before retiring to raise a family. Not long after Margaret Quinlin bought Peachtree Publishers in 1990, a mutual friend introduced me to her. At the time, my children were in college and I was looking for an interesting job. When I learned that Peachtree needed some part-time workers, I applied and joined the company in January 1991.

What are your top three favorite books, any genre?

I have lots of favorites, but these three spring to mind immediately as books I would happily reread
once a year:
Children’s books—Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Nonfiction—Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
Fiction—just about any novel by Charles Dickens

If you could be a literary character for a day, who would you be?

As long as I knew it was only for one day, it would be fascinating to be Robinson Crusoe, surviving by his own wits and skills on that remote island.

Who is your hero or role model and why?

I deeply respect and admire all those women out there who manage to excel in their chosen career, raise a family, and remain gracious and witty through it all. Of course I don’t know her personally, but maybe someone like Tina Fey?

What is your favorite thing about working at Peachtree?

Without a doubt, the best thing about being at Peachtree Publishers is working with such an amazing array of talented colleagues, authors, and artists.

In your position, what do you consider to be your secret weapons?

Patience, a love of language, and a pretty good sense of humor.

Do you have any big interests or hobbies that you focus on outside of work?

During my first two years of college I was an art major, and I continued my studio courses until graduation. Over the years I have spent a lot of time painting and drawing, including doing the botanical illustrations for several of Peachtree’s hiking books. I still love to draw.

If, in an alternate reality, you were to have gone a completely different career route, what would you have done?

From time to time I have wondered what it would have been like to study with one of the top botanical artists of the day, someone like Anne Ophelia Dowden, for example, and then to follow in her footsteps, creating beautiful botanical studies. To make my fantasy even more exciting, perhaps I would have also liked to be one of those pioneer botanist/explorers who hiked around in newly discovered territories drawing and cataloguing the exotic plants of the area.

Feel free to write any questions or comments for Vicky below!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Children's Book Week

Children’s Book Week is finally here! Thanks to the International Literacy Association and the Children’s Book Council, all of us book lovers are able to come together to celebrate the wonderful children’s books that come out every year. We have loved being a part of Children’s Book Week each spring, and we wanted to share the books from Peachtree that have been on the Children’s Choices reading lists in the last several years.

It’s always an honor to be among the fun and beautiful titles that make up the reading lists each year. Enjoy these titles, and make sure to check out the rest of the amazing books on the lists!

Churchill's Tale of Tails
by Anca Sandu
Friends try to help Churchill replace his missing tail. But Churchill’s fun makes him forget his friends. Will Churchill put friends first and find his lost tail along the way? Children will enjoy the delightful friendship tale.

Claude at the Beach
by Alex T. Smith
 A small dog named Claude and his animated sock companion, Sir Bobblysock, head to the beach for their latest adventure that includes rescuing a swimmer, winning a sand castle contest, and searching for treasure. Claude’s silly antics keep readers laughing.

Lion vs. Rabbit
by Alex Latimer
Lion is mean to everyone! Various animals try to stand up to Lion, but fail. And then a rabbit arrives. Can such a small, gentle animal defeat Lion?

Three Hens and  a Peacock
by Lester Laminack
A peacock shows up at the farm and lures visitors to the farm stand. The hens get jealous so hound dog suggests they swap duties. The peacock and the hens find the tasks more difficult than they thought.

Quarterback Season
by Fred Bowen
A clever boy-focused story about middle-grade Matt playing for a football team. The story is clever because it integrates the trials of playing a sport through a boy’s journal and e-mail messages. Football is the hook, and the journal provides authenticity.

Mr. President Goes to School
by Rick Walton
When Mr. President needs a break from solving world problems, he disguises himself and joins Mrs. Applegate’s classroom. Kids will hang on every word and picture as the President enters their world, learning to solve world problems kid-style!