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November 10, 2014

Guest Post by Greenwillow Publisher Virginia Duncan

Greenwillow Books is famous for publishing many beloved children’s books since 1974, including picture books aplenty. In honor of National Picture Book Month, Greenwillow vice president and publisher Virginia Duncan talks about why she loves her job, and about a new book she’s particularly excited about working on: RED: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall.


“He was red . . . but he wasn’t very good at it.”









We love picture books at Greenwillow Books, and we publish a wide range of them, from classics such as LILLY’S PURPLE PLASTIC PURSEby Kevin Henkes; “MORE, MORE, MORE,” SAID THE BABY, by Vera B. Williams; FREIGHT TRAIN by Donald Crews; and TEN, NINE, EIGHT by Molly Bang; to more recent titles such as TAP THE MAGIC TREE by Christie Matheson; MY BUS by Byron Barton; THE LITTLE YELLOW LEAF by Carin Berger and SNOW MUSIC by Lynne Rae Perkins. We began working with Michael Hall a few years ago and published his debut picture book, MY HEART IS LIKE A ZOO, in 2009, followed by PERFECT SQUARE, CAT TALE, IT’S AN ORANGE AARDVARK! and the upcoming RED: A Crayon’s Story (February, 2015).  








Michael has worked as both a graphic designer and a scientist, and that combination is an interesting one --- his background and training allow him to approach a picture book dummy from a truly original and constantly questioning perspective. We were still working on IT’S AN ORANGE AARDVARK! when Michael sent me the first few pages of what would become RED.

A page from one of the earliest dummies for RED












Michael creates many book dummies during the book-making process (see above) --- sometimes as many as 20, and those are just the versions that he shares with me! We tend to bounce the dummies back and forth very quickly via e-mail. We also try to meet in person (along with art director Paul Zakris) at least once during the process, because it’s just easier to talk everything through and make detailed design decisions in person. We ask a lot of questions at every step: big-picture questions (What is this book really about? What makes it for kids?), basic book-making questions (Does the pacing work? Who is the narrator?), and detailed questions (Are the pencil’s lines legible enough? Is the font the right size?). We turn over every stone and it’s a lot of fun.





 A final page from the book








I love editing picture books for many reasons, but mostly because I love working for the kid who will discover something for the first time in its pages, and I love working with the author, illustrator, art director and copyeditor to make sure that child’s experience is the best it can possibly be.