We weren’t sure what the mood was going to be like when we arrived at the Feiwel & Friends holiday party Tuesday night—it was only one day after Macmillan‘s pre-holiday layoffs, but in a simultaneous restructuring of the company’s assets in children’s book publishing, Jean Feiwel had been promoted to senior vice-president and co-director of what’s now known as Macmillan Childrenâ€™s Publishing Group. When we caught up with her, Feiwel was enthusiastic about the developments. “This has been a long time coming,” she said, adding that executives at Macmillan’s various children’s imprints had been clamoring for such a move, arguing that their corner of the book market had potential for strong growth if their separate assets could be harnessed to work in tandem: “We kept saying, ‘You need to support us, you need to put us at the head of the line.’ We’ll still fiercely guard our independence, but… this is really an opportunity to grow and be challenged.” She likened the new infrastructure to a “Star Wars federation” of imprints, where each editorial team will be able to pursue its own agenda while drawing upon the shared resources of other departments.
And so, while mindful of departed colleagues, the mood throughout the room was festive, with authors whose work paid tribute to Illinois presidents past and (near) future—Garen Thomas (left) signed copies of her middle-grade biography of Barack Obama, Yes We Can at one end of the bar while Barry Denenberg (center) signed copies of Lincoln Shot, an oversized “commemorative edition” of a fictional newspaper from 1865 recounting the life of the slain commander-in-chief. When we learned that Thomas had begun writing her Obama bio in February, we were impressed that it was out so soon after the election… and then we learned, no, this was the revised edition, updated to reflect his electoral victory; the first version had come out in May. Did she watch the primary results nervously, we wondered? No, she assured us, she knew that whoever secured the Democratic nomination, there would be strong interest in Obama and young readers who would want to know more about him.