In 1974, one of the great editors in the history of children’s books, Susan Hirschman, launched Greenwillow Books. She had left Macmillan (a long-ago and vastly different company from the one that exists now) for reasons of principle, and was asked by William H. Morrow (a long-ago and vastly different company from the one that exists now) to create a new children’s line.
The name of the imprint came from a picture book by Elizabeth Coatsworth (called Under the Green Willow); the logo was inspired by the book and created by art director Ava Weiss; and the inaugural list, in 1975, included many of the giant talents Hirschman had published elsewhere—Ezra Jack Keats, Anita Lobel, Tana Hoban, and others—making Greenwillow’s debut one of the richest and most fully-formed the industry has seen before or since. (I am cribbing freely from the masterful Minders of Make-Believe by Leonard S. Marcus, which, if you care at all about the history of children’s books, you should go out and read. Seriously, it’s worth the ducats.)
And the publishing program hasn’t slacked off since that first list.
Greenwillow’s author roster reads like a Who’s Who of notable children’s books creators since the seventies: Kevin Henkes, Lynne Rae Perkins, Paul Fleischman, Anita Lobel, Peter Sîs, Aliki, Douglas Florian, Chris Crutcher, Diana Wynne Jones, Jack Prelutsky, Naomi Shihab Nye, James Stevenson, Arnold Lobel, Paul Zelinsky, and on and on. There are so many beloved books, by so many adored creators, that it is hard to believe that Greenwillow is only thirty-five years old.
Morrow was later purchased and absorbed by Harper Collins, who, recognizing a perfect thing when they saw it, kept Greenwillow Books as a very nearly autonomous imprint within the company. These days, Virginia Duncan runs the imprint, with a half-dozen brilliant people on her team, and they maintain Hirschman’s dedication to publishing tomorrow’s classics.
To celebrate the anniversary, the group has created an anniversary blog with tons of fascinating and informative guest posts. Well worth bookmarking to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of just what goes into many of the very best books in the business.