Next up in our Meet the Publisher series, we are pleased to introduce you to Creston Books. Creston was founded in 2013 by Marissa Moss, who had a vision for giving diverse voices a place to shine in picture books. Enjoy this interview with Marissa.
What is Creston Books?
Creston Books was featured in The Horn Book as “a small press with a purpose.” We focus on diversity and outside-the-mainstream books, with a large share of our books by debut talent, featuring African-American, Asian-American, Latino, Philippino, and more creators, all telling their stories. Since 2013, our titles have garnered many starred reviews from Kirkus, Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. In a Village by the Sea by a debut author and illustrator was on the shortlist for the Caldecott, and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine garnered four starred reviews along with several awards, including the Cook Prize Honor.
Tell us how Creston Books started?
I started Creston Books after Tricycle Press was bought by Random House, leaving one fewer small press in the publishing landscape. When I first started in publishing as an author-illustrator, there were many small presses, each with a unique vision. Tricycle had the foresightedness to publish my book, Amelia’s Notebook, back in the 1990s, long before any books looked like it. In fact, bigger publishers rejected it, saying it wasn’t a picture book, nor a chapter book, so it would just be confusing to readers. Librarians wouldn’t know where to shelve it, and booksellers wouldn’t know how to sell it. Tricycle didn’t care about these “rules.” They just saw an engaging story, a unique blend of words and pictures that looked like an actual kid’s notebook. Amelia’s Notebook became a best-selling series and spawned a host of imitators, including The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Dork Diaries. It took a small press to take a chance on such an oddball format, and when Tricycle disappeared, I felt the need to give back to the publishing community, to create a small press that would do for other authors and illustrators what Tricycle had done for me.
How would you describe your publishing vision?
We do books where what matters most is old-fashioned story-telling. We don’t want a heavy-handed message or moral. Rather, we want to get kids excited about reading. Each book has to bear repeated readings; it has to get richer and deeper each time, not boring and trite. We only publish a few books a year, eight at most, so we can give them our full support and attention. Each list is carefully curated, with texts repeatedly revised, and only books we truly love make the cut.
Any upcoming projects you’re particularly excited about?
Both of our spring 2024 books are wonderful treasures, both with authors and illustrators we’ve worked with before. Lola Says Goodbye is by Marcia Goldman who has already given us a little library of Lola books which are much loved by their readers. Lola is a therapy dog with an expressive face and heart-warming personality. Young readers relate to her, and she’s a favorite in the pre-school crowd. In this book, her friend, Morris the goldfish, has disappeared, gone the way of many goldfish. Lola shows children how to grieve, how to deal with loss, how to remember those they love. There are other books about death, but Lola is especially gentle and loving.
Who’s Writing the Story? is by Robin Newman, illustrated by Deborah Zemke, a talented duo who have done the Wilcox and Griswold early reader series with us. Those books are about mouse detectives who solve mysteries on their farm. This book is a new take on The Three Little Pigs. The writer thinks she’s in charge of the story, but the characters have their own ideas. As each of the three little pigs makes changes, the reader learns the main elements of every story. The Big Bad Wolf has an opinion too, of course, and the story the writer thought she was making turns out to be a very different adventure indeed. Zemke infuses her illustrations with witty humor. The book feels like a long joke but ends up teaching a surprising amount about basic plot elements. Who knew learning could be so much fun?
Anything else you’d like to add?
Our main goal is to get books out there that kids will love to read. We believe strongly in the magic of physical books, with pages you turn, over and over again.
To learn more about Creston, browse their complete catalog on lernerbooks.com!