Also published on this date: Shelf Awareness for Thursday, June 27, 2019

Thursday, June 27, 2019: Dedicated Issue: Make Me a World

Make Me a World: Mama Mable's All-Gal Big Band Jazz Extravaganza! by Annie Sieg

Editors' Note

Make Me a World

With the support of the publisher, Shelf Awareness highlights Make Me a World, the Random House Children's Books imprint headed by Christopher Myers.


Books & Authors

An Introduction to Make Me a World from Christopher Myers

Christopher Myers

Make Me a World is an imprint dedicated to exploring the vast possibilities of contemporary childhood. We strive to imagine a universe in which no young person is invisible, in which no kid's story is erased, in which no glass ceiling presses down on the dreams of a child. Then we publish books for that world, where kids ask hard questions and we struggle with them together, where dreams stretch from eons ago into the future and we do our best to provide road maps to where these young folks want to be. We make books where the children of today can see themselves and each other.

So why this imprint? Why these stories?

When we make books for young people, we have a special responsibility. We asked our creators to tell a story that would have inspired them when they were kids. To write what they would have needed, whatever that may be. We challenged them to create a world with new possibilities and escape into that world... so that when you come out of these books, you bring a little of that possibility with you.

I am so proud of this launch list, because the stories we are telling realize this mission. When presented with fences, with borders, with limits, with all the kinds of chains that hobble imaginations and hearts, we proudly say--no.

We will think beyond those limits; instead, Make Me a World.

Make Me a World: Discover a world where everything is possible!

Akwaeke Emezi: Imagining a New World

Akwaeke Emezi

Akwaeke Emezi is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Freshwater. They make their young adult debut with Pet ($17.99 hardcover, 208p., ages 12-up, 9780525647072, September 10, 2019), a riveting and timely novel that asks difficult questions about what choices you can make when the society around you is in denial.

"There are people who would set limits on our children's imaginations.... We are not those people." How does this mission statement from Christopher Myers make you feel about his new imprint, Make Me a World?

It makes me feel hopeful for a better future for our young people. Chris is so clear about his vision for this imprint that the possibilities become contagious and as a writer, it's very exciting to be part of it.

What does your book do to counteract the work of those who would set limits on a child or teen's imagination?

It exists. That is the first step--simple but radical--to have these stories exist in a world that would prefer them silent. Pet is a book set in a future that surpasses the limits of the world we live in now, and young readers having access to this story means that they will be able to engage with possibilities beyond what we see now. When you can imagine a new world, then you can make it.

Make Me a World is "dedicated to exploring the vast possibilities of contemporary childhood." How does your project exemplify this goal?

With Pet, I wanted to tell a story about a young person being brave, a young person challenging and questioning what they've been taught, doing what they feel is right even though it terrifies them. I'm deeply inspired by young people today, how courageous they are in demanding a more just world, in pushing for change, and that was something I wanted to explore with this book.

How did working to create a title for Make Me a World's inaugural list push you to "think beyond" the above-mentioned limits?

It wasn't so much that it pushed me to create beyond the limits, more that it allowed me to write without thinking about the limits in the first place. As a storyteller, I didn't have to worry if people would consider what I was writing "realistic" or "marketable"--I had the freedom to make the world the way I wanted to. I think Pet is an example of the literature we can access when we're not being restricted by the limits set on young people's imaginations, when we can create without being contained.

What has most excited you about your book and its place in this new imprint?

Pet is my first time writing YA, so that was thrilling for me, writing for a different audience. To have it published with Make Me a World and to get to work with Chris Myers is really just perfect. I'm so glad to have my work be the inaugural book from the imprint, representing the mission Chris has, and I cannot wait for it to reach all the readers! I hope it resonates with the young people I wrote it for.

Make Me a World: Meet our debut list for fall 2019!

Annie Sieg: Unity, Possibility, Bravery and Hope

Annie Sieg

Annie Sieg is a debut illustrator, writer and sometimes ballroom dance instructor, who provides the steady backbeat for this picture book. Mama Mable's All-Gal Big Band Jazz Extravaganza! ($17.99 hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9781524718084, October 8, 2019) brings readers on an inspiring trip to the music halls of the 1940s, when groups of young female musicians broke racial and gender barriers--and forever changed the face of jazz.

How does the Make Me a World mission statement make you feel about the imprint?

I remember how much the books I read as a kid shaped me and I am beyond proud to play a role in bringing Chris's vision for MMAW into reality. We are living in a world that still struggles with prejudice, exclusion, cruelty and injustice and I, for one, can't wait to make a new one. I want the kids of today to have access to stories of unity, possibility, bravery and hope.

How do you think your book works against those who would "set limits" on a child or teen's imagination?

So many stories rely on stale archetypes: damsels in distress, wicked witches, brave knights. These characters don't evolve or grow--they are flat and consistent, which real people aren't. My book is a story about women who broke the mold. They lived a different life than what was set out for them, challenging boundaries and forging their own trails. I want to send the message to kids that you get to choose your own path, even when it seems like one has been picked for you.

In what ways is your book "dedicated to exploring the vast possibilities of contemporary childhood?"

The women in my book faced bias based on the music they made, the color of their skin and their gender, but they refused to let those prejudices win. Sadly, those issues are all still alive and well in today's society. It's important to remind kids that they are more than the labels that are put upon them. 

How did working to create a title for Make Me a World's inaugural list push you to "think beyond" limits?

Truly, this was a story I had wanted to tell for a long time. It was less that I was asked to create a story that fit the message behind MMAW and more that I always wanted to tell these types of stories, and was lucky enough to find a home for them with MMAW.

Is there something about your book and its place in this new imprint that particularly excites you?

I think the most exciting part of this for me has been knowing that the leader behind it all is Chris. In addition to being a master storyteller and artist, he is one of the most thoughtful and compassionate people I've ever met. If there is anybody I trust to make a new world for the youth of today, it's him. 

Sarah Deming: Taking Risks

Sarah Deming

Sarah Deming is a Golden Gloves boxing champion and instructor, as well as a premier sports journalist. Her young adult debut is Gravity ($17.99 hardcover, 400p., ages 14-up, 9780525581031, November 12, 2019). Gravity "Doomsday" Delgado is always breaking things and thinks her life is broken, too. But if she can stay focused, she may have a chance to achieve her Olympic dreams and find true family in a gym full of fighters.

How do you connect with the mission statement of Make Me a World?

Kids read with such voraciousness that the stories they consume almost become part of their bodies. I want to give my young readers stories that will nourish their growth, even if that growth is in directions I cannot envision. Chris's mission statement makes me feel brave. It makes me feel like I can make books that are bigger and better than I am, so that the kids who read them will be inspired to be bigger and better, too.

How does Gravity work against those who might put limits on a child or teen's imagination?

As a teenager, I remember being angry all the time: angry at my mom, angry at my school, angry at the injustices I saw in the world.

Gravity lets kids know it's okay to be angry. Especially girls, because girls are so often censured for anger and aggression. Gravity is a girl who loves contact. She throws her whole self into everything she does, striking a blow against narratives of female helplessness and victimhood. Because girls are so often forced to choose between work and love, I wanted Gravity to get both. It was also important to me to portray strong female friendships, showing that rivalry can coexist with respect.

In what ways does your book explore "the vast possibilities" of childhood?

My book is a love song to the young boxing champions I have covered as a journalist and to the free community gym where I coach. My gym is a microcosm of Brooklyn: Jamaicans sparring Albanians while Mexicans yell advice, cops training former gang members, puppies tied to the ring barking over the blaring hip hop. Boxing can be a brutal sport, but there is so much beauty in it if you know how to look. Gravity invites readers into that world without taking a single punch.

What was it like to write for Make Me a World's inaugural list?

I wanted to write a book inspired by my own fighting (I won the NYC Golden Gloves in 2001) and by Claressa Shields, a teenager from Flint, Mich., who won two Olympic golds. I had a hundred pages of a draft when Chris reached out.

The editors at Make Me a World helped bring Gravity to life. Chris encouraged me to take risks with my writing, to create a character that the young people I coach can relate to and to take the reader into Gravity's mind as she fights inside the ring and out. 

What are you most excited about with the publication of this title?

The best part of having Gravity published by Make Me a World has been bringing it into the gym, showing it to the young boxers I coach and telling them it's all about us! 

Make Me a World: Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

Make Me a World: Mama Mable's All-Gal Big Band Jazz Extravaganza! by Annie Sieg

Make Me a World: Gravity by Sarah Deming

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