A friend of mine recently shared an experience he had while teaching some years ago. One day, he took a group of inner city kids on an outing to the James River and was astounded to learn that not one of them had ever swum in a river, or even seen one up close. They had only read about rivers, herons, and woodlands, or seen them in pictures—even though they lived only a few blocks from the James.

Over the last few years, Brandylane has been proud to publish dozens of children’s books, including illustrated picture books, chapter books for advanced readers in late elementary school, and middle grade novels for preteens. As I considered my friend’s story, I realized that for too many children, and particularly those living in big cities, books like these were their only insight into the magic provided only by natural landscapes, wildlife, and the outside world—especially as more and more children participate in a digital world, glued to their smartphones, video games, or tablets, and pausing only to text their friends or reload their Xboxes.

The dancing bears, strange flying creatures, trees and moons that sing and speak, and other characters that populate children’s books may be fantastical—but they often introduce children to a natural world they’ve never seen or known. As publishers, we want to give kids excellent, informative books at a young age, so that every child can read about, learn about, and experience—albeit vicariously—the beauty and majesty of our planet.

written by Robert Pruett, publisher