Award Winning Books from Dawn
Dawn Publications’ titles have been recipients of multiple awards throughout the years, including 12 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards.
Marianne Berkes’ Over in the Forest: Come and Take a Peek, illustrated by Jill Dubin, was awarded a 2012 Moonbeam Children’s Book Silver Award in the Alphabet/Counting Book Category, along with a slew of other awards this year. The title was awarded by Mom’s Choice, Belett Burgess, Purple Dragon, and IBPPG Next Generation Indie book awards, and it received the Izaak Walton League of America Book of the Year Award at the elementary level.
Over in Australia: Amazing Animals Down Under, written by Marianne Berkes and illustrated by Jill Dubin, was awarded a Moonbeam Children’s Book Gold Award in the Picture Book–All Ages Category in 2011. The title was also awarded a Learning Magazine Teacher’s Choice Award, a Mom’s Choice Award, and a Florida Publishers Association Presidents Award, among many others.
In 2010, Writer Marinanne Berkes and Illustrator Jennifer DiRubbio were awarded a Moonbeam Children’s Gold Book Award, a Green Book Festival Honor Award, a Mom’s Choice Award, and other accolades for Going Home: The Mystery of Animal Migration.
In the Trees, Honey Bees, by Lori Mortensen and Cris Arbo, illustrator, was awarded a 2009 Moonbeam Children’s Silver Book Award. In 2010, the same title received a Mom’s Choice Gold Award, a Skipping Stones Honor Award, and a CBC/NSTA Outstanding Science Trade Book award.
These Dawn Publication titles are just some of the many that have been finalists or award-winners in the recent years. Hovemann acknowledges the importance of awards for Dawn Publications: “It’s very helpful [to win awards]. It’s nice for authors and illustrators to get that kind of feedback...” Though Dawn Publications only publishes a few titles per year, the quality of their published works, for both written and illustrative work, hardly goes unnoticed.
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Celebrating the Environment and Creating Inspiration
Dawn Publications is married to its mission to “inspire in children a deeper understanding and appreciation for all life on earth.” From award-winning illustrations to informative yet playful text, the company strives to pair its readers with books that will inspire them not only to learn but also to explore what’s around them. Dawn Publications is working to present children with appealing texts, which are all about the environment—a mission driven by a passion for the earth that has pushed the company through economic hardship to its current profiting stance.
With the publication of a single title, Dawn Publications was put on the map for environmental enthusiasts in the late 70s. Glenn Hovemann, editor at Dawn Publications, described the company’s early history: “In 1979, we published the very first book called Sharing Nature With Children [by Joseph Cornell]. Sharing Nature With Children was a big success. It was a powerful approach to nature education, and the first edition sparked a worldwide revolution in nature education. We have half of a million copies sold, and it has been translated into 15 languages.”
Between its first and second published titles, Dawn Publications went through a change of hands. The company had branched out into cookbooks and health books but began losing money in the early 80s. When Glenn Hovemann and his wife purchased the company in 1986, they took a gamble on their purchase and, since then, have been able to turn things around.
With the success of its earliest title, Dawn Publications “stayed a one-book company for many years” until an unexpected author and illustrator approached them over a decade later. “It was really only in 1990 that we received a manuscript from a fourteen-year-old girl by the name of Kristin Joy Pratt,” Hovemann explains. Pratt had created a project about the rainforest for her social studies class in her junior high school in St. Louis, Missouri. “She was writing about the rainforest, but she was also quite an illustrator, an artist…Her school project became the first picture book that we did for children, called A Walk in the Rainforest, and it sold fabulously.”
Pratt’s contribution as a young teenager inspired Dawn Publications to continue publishing coloring books. “By the way, [A Walk in the Rainforest] was illustrated with magic marker,” Hovemann adds.
After her first title was published in 1992, Pratt was published again in 1994 when she contributed A Swim through the Sea, which she illustrated in watercolor at age 16. “Those were the first picture books we did,” says Hovemann. “Since then, we’ve focused mostly on the younger children and picture books for them.”
The writing of a very young author and illustrator is what truly shaped the focus of Dawn Publications’ mission under Hovemann. “Kristen’s writing is what set us in the direction of children’s nature books, along with Joseph Cornell’s,” Hovemann stated. “It’s a fairly narrow niche, but it works for us.”
Dawn Publications has remained a small company since its inception. “We’re a small group. My wife and I are the publishers. I am the editor, and she is the art director. We have just a handful of employees here,” Hovemann says. He points out the benefits of being a smaller company, saying, “We’re not trying to be a big company. We’re happy to be big enough to survive, but also small enough to have fun, to enjoy our work, have quality products, and work with really good authors and illustrators.”
Though their staff is small, Dawn Publications works with many others outside their California office to get their titles into the hands of educators and to facilitate learning through the use of their published works. They sponsor Carol Malnor’s blog, Inside Outside Nature: Carol’s Teaching Treasures, as a way to give teachers “a way of engaging kids easily and quickly in the classroom in some nature activity. Every week she posts a blog for teachers and it provides them with two activities: one indoors, and one outdoors,” Hovemann explains.
Malnor’s blog includes a “Mystery Contest,” a quiz in which several clues about a certain object or animal is given and the answer must be guessed and submitted online. Correct answers place individuals in a monthly drawing for an entire classroom set of nature books from Dawn Publications. In this way, the company is giving back to different communities to inspire educators and students to explore the life that can be found on the pages of their many titles.
In addition to facilitating the learning process, Dawn Publications strives each year to donate a portion of their profits. “What we try to do is to make contributions every year. We donate a percentage of our profit to organizations of our choice, and they’re always nature-related,” Hovemann states.
To involve their readers in a more tangible way, besides reaching out to their communities, Dawn Publications includes instructions for teachers and parents to help their students and kids create similar illustrations as the ones found in the books. Their titles also often include nature activities that can be found online or in the books themselves. The inspiration for loving the earth and living things jumps off the pages and into the hands of kids and community members through Dawn Publications’ efforts to reach into the lives of its readers.
There is a careful coupling of storytelling with the use of factual information, as Hovemann explains. “Typically, our books are in this twilight zone between fiction and nonfiction. Traditionally, most children’s picture books are fiction. They’re stories, and they’re usually fun, and they may have animals, but they’re usually talking animals. We don’t do that.” Dawn Publications encourages its authors to use elements of fiction by telling stories through narrative or song, but it also emphasizes nonfictional portrayals of the represented habitats, cycles of nature, food chains, and more within their works. Experts are brought in on every title to ensure the accuracy of the information in each work.
Some of Dawn Publications’ titles, such as How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate, by Environmental Writer Lynne Cherry and Photographer Gary Braasch, are on hot topics of discussion. When asked about publishing works on the heatedly discussed issues of climate change and evolution, Hovemann recalls the benefits of having a smaller, independent company. “If we feel motivated, we can throw caution to the wind,” he says.
Since the release of their earliest titles, Dawn Publications has begun publishing a greater number of works at a much more regular rate. “I receive over 2,000 unsolicited manuscripts every year, and we choose usually about six per year to publish. It’s a big job to go through them all, but it comes to our advantage because we have a very nice supply of writing that’s been contributed,” Hovemann comments.
While the company features a select few titles per year, the ones they do select do not go unnoticed. Dawn Publications was awarded a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award in 2012 and has won many for other books in the past. Its titles are consistently recognized for their high-quality writing and artistry.
The company continues to move forward under the direction of a passionate couple who encourage others to find their same appreciation for living things. We feel that we are all deeply embedded to the earth and we want to inspire people to, first of all, for children, to bond with the earth so that that which they learn to love and learn to observe, they will learn to protect,” Hovermann concludes.
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Ariel Bronson is a senior at the University of Michigan studying as a dual concentrator in English and Communication Studies. She worked as an editorial intern at Sleeping Bear Press in 2011 and is currently an Online Content Editor at LEAD Magazine on Michigan’s campus. Please contact her with any comments, questions, or criticisms at email@example.com