Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Wednesday, July 25 Dedicated Issue: blue manatee press

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Editors' Note

blue manatee press, Publisher and Bookstore

With the help of the publisher, Shelf Awareness shines a spotlight on blue manatee press, a publishing house and award-winning independent bookstore, founded in 2011 with the mission to create meaningful, enduring books that help bring grown-ups and children together.

Blue Manatee Press: Fiona's Friends by Dr. John Hutton, photographs by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Gardens

Books & Authors

Dr. John S. Hutton: Creating Meaningful, Enduring Books for Children

Dr. John S. Hutton is a pediatrician and researcher at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Reading and Literacy Discovery Center, owner of blue manatee children's bookstore, founder of blue manatee press and SpokesDoctor for the national campaign Read Aloud 15 Minutes. His research uses functional MRI to explore the effects of home reading environments and shared reading on brain development and was the first to find proof of and document these effects prior to kindergarten. "Dr. John" is passionate about better understanding the rising influence of electronic media on young children and the importance of a solid foundation in language, human connection and creative play. He lives with his family, dogs, cat, rabbit, fish and a whole bunch of bees, in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Blue manatee press's mission is to create meaningful, enduring books that bring grown-ups and children together. How did this become a mission for you?

I was fortunate to grow up in a family household that valued reading. Books were everywhere, and I always loved the tradition of the bedtime story, a tradition I have continued with my own daughters. All of these experiences reinforced a ritual that created that special parent-child bond through reading moments. Later, as a pediatrician at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, it became clear that books can serve as a catalyst for bringing parents and children together, which has been shown to impact social-emotional development, stress reduction and cognitive development. So, blue manatee press was created with the intention of creating quality books that families can read together.

How has your literacy development and role as a practicing pediatrician driven the mission and focus behind the press?

Around 10 years ago, I refocused my time to spend more of it in the bookstore--I was becoming more aware of the importance of early childhood reading and I saw the connection between parents and children every day in the store as they read books together. At the same time, I was also seeing the rise of screen-time, which seemed to be interrupting that connection.

This was the inspiration for my Baby Unplugged series, which encourages limiting screen-time and focusing on experiences that lead to learning through imaginative play and exploring the real world. In my medical residency, we were to create an advocacy project meant to educate families on a health issue, and I chose limiting screen time. Because of my connection to books and the bookstore, I decided to get the message across in books rather than the standard brochure. The first three books in the series--Pets, Yard and Blanket--were well received, but we had a limited market. So, through a grass-roots effort by reaching out to other independent stores like blue manatee and eventually partnering with IPG for national distribution, we were able to bring a more positive, accessible health message to families through children's books.

Blue manatee's books are conceptually driven and often created based on research findings. Could you tell us a little bit more about the concepts behind your books?

We published a study through Cincinnati Children's in 2015 that showed, through the use of FMRI, the connection between early reading exposure in the home environment and how this impacted brain development, particularly in the regions of imagination and connecting words with images. It also suggested that the frequency of how often a child reads or is read to is important. This led to concepts in our early childhood board books, like Read Baby, Every Day, that provide the reminder that children should be read to early and often.

What does it mean to/for you and to/for the press that blue manatee is also a children's bookstore?

For me, as the former buyer for the bookstore, I am very much aware of how finicky bookstore buyers are and how they expect the highest quality. This experience has enhanced our ability to understand what would appeal to book buyers. Furthermore, our own high standards for what we carry in the bookstore have informed the types of books we publish--we are always striving to publish books that have the potential to endure as favorites. We are proudly both an independent press as well as an independent bookstore, so we know the joy and struggle of running an independent bookstore and feel strongly connected with our fellow indies.

Blue Manatee Press: Share This Book by Dr. John Hutton, illustrated by Christina Brown

Amy Dean: Wearer of Many Hats

photo: Robert W. Disbennett

Amy Dean is the editorial and marketing director for blue manatee press. Amy's background as an educator and bookseller provided the perfect foundation for developing children's literature, and there is nothing Amy loves more than creating enduring and meaningful content that encourages lifelong learning and the joy of reading. Amy holds an M.Ed. from Xavier University and a B.A. in English Literature from Miami University and is also a graduate of the Yale School of Management Book Publishing Course and the Denver Publishing Institute.

You wear a lot of hats at blue manatee, working as editorial and marketing director and nonprofit accounts manager. What does your work for the press include?

To some degree, my many roles for blue manatee press stem from the nature of working for a small, collaborative company. No day is ever the same--in one day I may be working on contracts, reviewing the latest cover art designs with an artist, editing several written drafts of various projects, reading through some recent new book submissions, working with our designers to develop ad and marketing campaigns and working with nonprofits to help make sure they are getting resources to support their important literacy and family care programs. That's a busy day to be sure, but the truth is, that's often a typical day. I love it.

You help define the editorial and art direction of blue manatee. What do you look for in a book?

Blue manatee press is driven by the mission to provide meaningful and enduring children's books that are created with purpose. Our publisher, Dr. John Hutton, has a background in literacy research and is a practicing pediatrician; my background is in education and as a bookseller. Together, we look for books that are not only bright and fun, but also are mindful of developmental milestones, are educational without being preachy and are rooted in evidence-based best practices. For example, our Love Baby Healthy series conveys important health information to families of infants and young children in an approachable, nurturing way.

Which books on blue manatee's Fall 2018 list are you most excited to get in readers' hands?

This is a tough question. I believe our Fall 2018 list is our strongest to date, and I am genuinely excited for this entire list. The list features the final books in our ROYGBaby series by Sarah Jones as well as our Bilingual Seasons Series and includes returning favorite Fiona as well as a hilarious picture book about animals at a zoo having a late-night party.

One of our board books is SHARE This Book written by Dr. John Hutton and illustrated by Christina Brown. SHARE This Book was written with the idea of showing parents how to read to a very young, new baby. We also have a picture book coming out called My Papa Is a Princess, written and illustrated by Doug Cenko. I absolutely love this book! It features the loving bond between a father and daughter and emphasizes everything a dad can be in the eyes of a child. This book makes me laugh every time I read it, and it's heartwarming to boot. I can't wait to hear what readers think.

Is there anything else you'd like to tell Shelf Awareness readers?

I hope Shelf Awareness readers will take away the idea that books from blue manatee are created with purpose, are conceptually-sound and feature a colorful array of artwork. Our books encourage children and their families to explore their world through creative and imaginative play, away from the glow of a screen. Blue manatee press strives to create meaningful children's content that bring children and their grown-ups together.

Some of Our Favorite Books

Blue manatee press publishes original children's books that are both educational and fun, with an emphasis on turning off screens and experiencing the world through hands-on, creative play. Below are some favorites from blue manatee's backlist.

Board books

Letters Are for Learning by Andrew Neyer (blue manatee press, $9.99, board book, 22p., ages 0-3, 9781936669370)

In Andrew Neyer's concept book, Letters Are for Learning, designed to help build early literacy skills, the alphabet is introduced through boldly-colored, lively illustrations of animals performing alphabet-related activities. An anteater uses an abacus to add; a blue bird bounces a basketball; and a crab cooks (chicken!) for a dining dog. Every animal has an easily grasped first alphabet connection--the iguana invites and the llama listens--with more layers in the art for readers to explore. That inviting iguana is using a quill and ink and has ice in its beverage; the listening llama is holding both a lollipop and a lemonade. Neyer's inviting illustrations are bright and full of movement creating a visually engaging experience.

Orange Triangle Fox by Sarah Jones (blue manatee press, $7.99, board book, 14p., ages 0-3, 9781936669219)

Sarah Jones's board book Orange Triangle Fox combines three concepts in one to make learning extra fun. Every double-page spread includes a color, a shape and a critter that match each other. The left page has all the words ("brown circle hedgehog") while the page facing displays the adorable animal with the first two attributes. "[R]ed square owl" has sleepy, suspicious eyes; "yellow star frog" is crouched in the shape of a star, pride beaming from its mustard yellow face. Jones's illustrations are cute, fun and funny, each shining with its own distinct personality.

Picture books

Your Red Shoes by Dr. John Hutton, illus. Leah Busch (blue manatee press, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 305, 9781936669196)

In Dr. John Hutton and Leah Busch's Your Red Shoes, a girl begins taking her first steps toward independence. "I tied your red shoes for you today. Where will you go in them? How many steps will you take?" This celebratory work, illustrated in gentle, comforting watercolors, focuses on the proud moments of early childhood and reinforces universal themes of independence, exploration and unconditional love.

Lloyd Llama by Sarah Jones (blue manatee press, $17.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 5-7, 9781936669325)

Sarah Jones brings the same energetic, personality-filled illustrative style shown in Orange Triangle Fox to Lloyd Llama, a story of friendship that explores how our differences can bring us together. Pink llama "Lloyd loves many things. Lloyd loves rollercoasters, Lloyd loves lollipops, Lloyd loves s-p-e-l-l-i-n-g, and cello!" Azure blue Al Alpaca also loves many things including "apples, art, and air guitar." But even though they both have lots of love, they have difficulty getting along. Luckily, fun wordplay that teaches spelling and alliteration helps them settle their differences.

Fall 2018 Titles

Board books

Ears, Nose, Eyes... Surprise! by Sarah Jones (blue manatee press, $7.99, board book, 14p., ages 0-3, 9781936669622, September 4, 2018)

This final book in the ROYGBaby series will have young readers eager to learn what their own senses can help them discover.

Fiona's Friends by Dr. John Hutton, photographs by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden (blue manatee press, $7.99, board book, 14p., ages 0-3, 9781936669684, September 1, 2018)

Fiona's Friends shares Fiona the famous hippo's story and spotlights other adorable animals who need care or are critically endangered.

In Winter/En Invierno by Susana Madinabeitia Manso, photographs by Emily Hanako Momohara (blue manatee press, $7.99, board book, 14p., ages 0-3, 9781936669660, September 1, 2018)

This beautiful book celebrates all the joys of the winter season, with text in both English and Spanish.

SHARE This Book by Dr. John Hutton, illus. by Christina Brown (blue manatee press, $7.99, board book, 14p., ages 0-3, 9781936669677, September 1, 2018)

Dr. John Hutton uses the research-backed SHARE STEP method in this work to help babies and their grownups get the most out of every reading opportunity.

Picture books

My Papa Is a Princess by Doug Cenko (blue manatee press, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781936669707, September 1, 2018)

When Papa braids her hair, he's a hairdresser; when he hangs her drawings on the wall, he's an art collector. My Papa Is a Princess celebrates the bond between a father and daughter.

Zzzookeeper by Dr. John Hutton, illus. by Doug Cenko (blue manatee press, $17.99, hardcover, 32p., ages 4-8, 9781936669691, September 1, 2018)

In this entertaining and humorous picture book, lions and alligators, penguins and giraffes and creatures from all habitats sneak out for some late-night mischief.

Blue Manatee Press: My Papa is a Princess by Doug Cenko

Blue Manatee Press: Zzzookeeper by Dr. John Hutton, illustrated by Doug Cenko

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