A Brief History of Philomel

Philomel Books was created in the early 1980s from World Publishing Books for Young People, by Editor and Publisher Ann Beneduce. The World list lived up to its name, drawing in titles from around the globe—such as Mitsumasa Anno'sJourney series and Satomi Ichikawa's Nora books. Ms. Beneduce was a pioneer as far as books that would sell to both trade and institutional markets, so for the new list she chose the name Philomel, a term for an English nightingale that means literally "love of learning." The name implied that these books would be distinguished, beautiful in concept and form, fine enough to be sought as gifts, and original and handsome enough to be bought by libraries and schools. The early lists included such future classics as Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which has sold millions of copies worldwide and was even honored with its own U.S. postage stamp; Virginia Hamilton's Newbery Honor-winning Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush; Tasha Tudor's nineteenth century-based tales; and Ed Young's Caldecott Honor-winning The Emperor and the Kite.

Patricia Lee Gauch, an author and teacher, came to Philomel in 1985. Sharing Ms. Beneduce's vision, she built on the ideas that had already begun to flower at Philomel, and added to the distinguished list Caldecott-winners Owl Moon by Jane Yolen and John Schoenherr, Lon Po Po by Ed Young, and So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George and David Small, as well as the Caldecott Honor-winning Seven Blind Mice, also by Ed Young. Philomel became the primary publisher of popular author/artist Patricia Polacco, who created Pink and Say, Chicken Sunday, and many other biographical folktales. Philomel was honored with New York Times Best-Illustrated Awards for Cats Are Cats by Ed Young, Fox's Dream by Tejima, and Gulliver's Adventures in Lilliput by Gennady Spirin.

Headed these days by President and Publisher Michael Green, who joined the imprint directly from graduate school in 1991 and never left, eventually taking helm of the list in 2003, Philomel has continued its tradition of quality picture books for the youngest of readers while simultaneously growing as one of the industry's leaders in commercial fiction for middle-grade and young-adult readers. Philomel takes pride in its ability to reach the reluctant reader, especially the boy reader. Among its success stories are Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider novels, #1 bestsellers the world over and catalyst for a whole new generation of spy fiction lovers; Mike Lupica's sports-centered novels, such as Million-Dollar Throw, that capture the purity of the 14-year-old sports fanatic in everyone, young or old; and John Flanagan's Ranger's Apprentice epic, the worldwide bestselling fantasy/adventure series that brings readers into the hearts and minds of those who defend a kingdom through courage, skill, and cunning. The Philomel list includes many timeless fantasies. In the late 1980s it became a leader in the field with Brian Jacques's Redwall Tales, a series now more than twenty books deep—including an illustrated cookbook and a graphic novel. T.A. Barron's popular fantasy epic The Lost Years of Merlin sowed the seeds for two companion trilogies, The Great Tree of Avalon and Merlin's Dragon. New to our fantasy list is Andrea Cremer's paranormal reinvention of werewolf mythology, Nightshade, the first in a richly textured, wildly romantic, and action-packed series.

Other worlds, of one form or another, have always been of interest to Philomel. Hence its publishing of historical fiction, such as Jane Yolen and Robert Harris' The Queen's Own Fool, a story featuring Mary, Queen of Scots and her court jester; Janet Taylor Lisle's prohibition-era mystery Black Duck; and Nancy Springer's much-lauded, Edgar Award nominated Enola Holmes Mysteries set in Victorian England. Talented newcomer Ruta Sepetys sheds light on a dark period of history through one girl's eyes in Between Shades of Gray, set against the Siberian backdrop during Stalin's little-known extermination and imprisonment of hundreds of thousands of innocent Lithuanians during World War II.

Of course, Philomel still looks toward the picture book as the primary vehicle to bring reading to children and to make the experience a shared one with parents. Recent additions to the Philomel canon include Loren Long's re-illustrated edition of the classic Little Engine that Could along with his new classic, Otis, the first in a series. Few books celebrate the love between parent and child the way Maryann Cusimano Love and Satomi Ichikawa's You Are My I Love You; Pulitzer-Prize winner Berkeley Breathed's Mars Needs Moms!, or Barbara Joosse and Jan Jutte's Roawr! do. Friendship, in all its many guises, is celebrated in Oliver Jeffers' Lost and Found, Sandy Asher and Keith Graves' Too Many Frogs, and Patricia Polacco's January's Sparrow. Philomel strives to foster a love of reading in children and young adults. It is a love of story, of language that captivates, of art that makes both a parent's and child's eyes open wide with delight, of books that beckon to be read over and over and yet lose none of their magic, that drives the people of Philomel to make quality books.

Publishing books and ideas that celebrate a child's potential—indeed, human potential—in worlds past and present is Philomel's goal.


Caldecott Medal

2001: So You Want to Be President? by Judith St. George, illustrated by David Small

1990: Lon Po Po: A Red-Riding Hood Story from China translated and illustrated by Ed Young

1988: Owl Moon by Jane Yolen, illustrated by John Schoenherr

Caldecott Honor Medal

1968: The Emperor and the Kite by Ed Young

1993: Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young

Newbery Honor Medal

1983: Sweet Whispers, Brother Rush by Virginia Hamilton

The New York Times Best-Illustrated Books of the Year

1993: The Bracelet by Yoshiko Uchida, illustrated by Joanna Yardley

1993: Gulliver's Adventures in Lilliput by Jonathan Swift, retold by Ann Kay Beneduce, illustrated by Gennady Pirin

1988: Cats are Cats compiled by Nancy Larrick, illustrated by Ed Young

1988: Swan Sky by Tejima

1987: Fox's Dream by Tejima

1982: Anno's Britain by Mitsumasa Anno

New York Times Bestselling Titles/Series

The Great Tree of Avalon by T. A. Barron

Mars Needs Moms! by Berkeley Breathed

You Are My Miracle by Maryann Cusimano Love, illustrated by Satomi Ichikawa

The Adventures of Vin Fiz by Clive Cussler

Toy Boat by Randall DeSeve, illustrated by Loren Long

Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan

The Alex Rider Adventures by Anthony Horowitz

Redwall by Brian Jacques

Travel Team; Heat; Miracle on 49th Street; Summer Ball; The Big Field by Mike Lupica

The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper, re-illustrated by Loren Long

Edenville Owls by Robert B. Parker

Ginger and Petunia; The Graves Family by Patricia Polacco

The Longest Season by Cal Ripken, Jr., illustrated by Ron Mazellan