StoryRobin Books: Inspired by Digital, New Publisher Moves Into Print

In Children's by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

SUNNYVALE, CA: It seems ironic that a woman who looked around her house and saw too many books, who has ordered her family that no more books can be purchased unless they’re absolutely “necessary,” that a woman who has bought iPads for her entire family in an attempt to maintain some sort of control over the number of books coming into the house, would, in turn, become a publisher. But life can take some very odd twists and turns, and for Sue Chen of StoryRobin Books, her road went something like this:

After working for HP for seven years in software development, Chen, now married with children, realized that her interest wasn’t in technology. So she walked away from her career with the dream of doing something with children and children’s education, a subject in which she holds some very strong opinions.

“What is needed in the 21st century,” she insists, “instead of teaching facts, kids need to be taught to be interested and motivated to learn.” Based on what she’d seen working in internet technology industries, she came to the realization that things have changed – the time had passed when a person would have one job and need just one skill set for their entire working life. Jobs change, the skills needed change, careers change at the blink of an eye. “People,” she noted, “become dinosaurs too quickly.”

To prepare a new generation for this, Chen believes that it is essential that children learn early on to adapt to change, to learn to be motivated to learn, to have the desire to learn, and to learn how to apply that curiosity in every aspect of their lives. And what better way to do that than through books?

She began by setting up, with an initial strategy of allowing children to post their own works the site and share stories. Both children and their parents loved the idea, but, it turned out, both groups suffered from what Sue calls a “knowledge gap” that kept them from fully utilizing the site and uploading their works. Clearly Chen would have to adapt her own strategy, which led her to an unanticipated turn back into print.

Chen, despite her origins online, acknowledges that when it comes to children’s books, the need for physical books is still there. And so with two titles scheduled to be published on November 1, Piko the Penguinaut, “which teaches kids to solve problems and to work well with others,” and Tie a Wish, a how-to book that teaches children the art of Chinese knot tying and how to create their own designs, StoryRobin Books was born.

Plans are in place to expand their list next year, and yes, plans are also in the works to publish in e-book editions as well. But in either case, what matters most to Sue is to publish books that inspire kids to want to learn more; to publish books that are “fun and nurture their creativity.”

For more information about StoryRobin Books, please contact Sue Chen.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.