Viking Children’s Books was founded in 1933 as a department of the prestigious Viking Press, known for publishing such authors as Sherwood Anderson, James Joyce, John Steinbeck, and Rebecca West. The first editor of Junior Books, as it was known, was May Massee, who soon established herself as a leader in children’s books. Her first list included The Story About Ping, and under her stewardship such classics as Make Way for Ducklings, The Story of Ferdinand, The Twenty-one Balloons, Pippi Longstocking, and the Madeline books were published.
Ms. Massee was succeeded by Annis Duff, Velma V. Varner, George Nicholson, Linda Zuckerman, Regina Hayes, and Kenneth Wright—seven publishers in seventy-five years.
Throughout Viking’s history, it has been known for innovation as well as for a dedication to quality that has created the rich backlist the house enjoys. Viking has published ten Newbery Medal winners and ten Caldecott Medal winners, more than any other publishing house, as well as twenty-seven Newbery Honor books, thirty-three Caldecott Honor books, and an American Book Award winner. Sixteen Viking books have been recognized as New York Times Best Illustrated Books. Two Viking books have received the Coretta Scott King Award, three have been Batcheldor Honor books, five have received the Christopher Medal, and two authors, S. E. Hinton and Richard Peck, have received the Margaret A. Edwards Award for bodies of work that included Viking titles. Among the ground-breaking titles published by Viking are The Outsiders (1969), still the best-selling young adult book ever published; The Snowy Day (1963), which brought multicultural books mainstream recognition; and The Stinky Cheese Man (1992), widely hailed for its innovative design. Two Viking titles, Book of the Lion by Michael Cadnum (2000) and This Land Was Made for You and Me by Elizabeth Partridge (2002) were chosen as finalists for the National Book Award. In 2006, John Lennon: All I Want is the Truth by Elizabeth Partridge was named a Michael L. Prinz Honor Book.
In 1985, Viking won the Carey Thomas Award for creative publishing, the first children’s list to receive this award. Viking has been nominated twice for the LMP Award for Best Children’s list.
Viking publishes approximately sixty titles per year, ranging from books for very young children such as board and lift-the-flap books to sophisticated fiction and nonfiction for teenagers.
The current Viking list is known for such classic characters as Madeline, Corduroy, Pippi Longstocking, Roald Dahl‘s Matilda, Rosemary Wells‘s Max & Ruby, The Stinky Cheese Man, Llama Llama, Angelina Ballerina, Cam Jansen, and Froggy. Viking publishes the entire works of Ezra Jack Keats, including The Snowy Day, winner of the Caldecott Medal, and Robert McCloskey, author of Make Way for Ducklings, a Caldecott winner, and Homer Price. In addition, Viking is the publisher of several bestselling YA authors, including Laurie Halse Anderson and Sarah Dessen.
Kenneth Wright is the president and publisher of the Philomel Books and Viking Children’s Books imprints. After graduating with a BA in English from the University of Colorado at Boulder, he worked his way up the editorial ladder to become an editorial director at Scholastic in 2001. In 2006 he joined Writers House as a literary agent, where he represented many award-winning and bestselling creators, including the award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors Ruta Sepetys, Steve Sheinkin, and Deborah Heiligman. After six years as an agent, he returned to the editorial side of publishing as the VP and associate publisher of Viking Children’s Books. In 2018, he became the president and publisher of both Viking and Philomel. While running these groups, Ken also makes time to edit a few select authors, including Oliver Jeffers, Arvin Ahmadi, and Gayle Forman. When he’s not working on books, you can find him gardening, traveling, and reading back issues of The New Yorker. You can follow him on Instagram @kenwright212.