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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Highlights Magazine, Boyds Mills Press, and How Not to be Eaten by a Bear

Please select the correct answer from below as it applies to the following sentence:

Highlights Magazine . . .

(A) Still exists and is popular (and not just in dentist offices either)

(B) Owns the publisher Boyds Mills Press

(C) Sponsors writing retreats and cool projects

(D) Should totally publish a Goofus and Gallant book.

If you answered “all of the above” you’d be correct (always assuming that you knew you could choose more than one option).

Recently I was given an offer I couldn’t refuse.  Carolyn Yoder, editor of Calkins Creek Books, basically gave me a chance to exchange a night in my grimy city for a night in the Poconos instead.  You see Boyds Mills Press (Calkins Creek Books is one of its imprints) runs a few writing workshops in Honesdale, Pennsylvania for the Highlights Foundation (a bit more info here, if you’re interested).  So it was that I was invited to speak as an invited guest for a night at a week-long writer’s retreat for seasoned children’s authors, most working in the field of non-fiction. I would get to talk about whatever I wanted.  They would feed me good food.  I’d get my very own cabin (woot!).  And best of all they’d pick me up from work and drop me off at work so that all I’d have to do was sit in a car for two and a half hours each way.

Yeah.  So basically I jumped all over that offer.  Next thing I knew I was in a car with a huge Suzanne Bloom decal on the side (think A Splendid Friend Indeed) which was fantastic.  Children’s literature cars are the best (I’m adding this one to the list that includes The Knight Bus, the Wimpy Kid ice cream trucks, and the Eric Carle Museum bug).  And that night I talked for long periods of time on topics that I can handle (read: not football).

But the most interesting part of all this was getting a glimpse into the inner sanctum of Highlights Magazine.  I wasn’t a subscriber as a kid (I had Owl Magazine and that was pretty much it) but I still knew what Highlights was.  Who didn’t?  If you were a child it was fairly ubiquitous.  As it happens, Highlights has been around for over a whopping 60 years, and has pretty much been kept within the same family all that time.  In fact, I saw a framed copy of the original June 1946 edition of Highlights that began everything.  The mag was begun by Garry Cleveland Myers and Caroline Clark Myers and the retreat I attended was actually held around the Myers’ own house.

The crazy part for me is that I had no idea that Highlights owned Boyds Mills Press.  This isn’t entirely my fault since the publisher doesn’t exactly stamp a huge HIGHLIGHTS sticker on the front of every book.  I’m sure you’re familiar with Boyds Mills.  Even if that name doesn’t ring a bell, imprints Calkins Creek, Front Street, Lemniscaat, and Wordsong might.  By the way, as a nice additional note to our recent discussion about whether or not ALA should create a children’s poetry award, Wordsong is the sole poetry-only imprint in the United States.  Interesting, no?

At any rate, I had just a great time.  If I were a non-fiction writer, I’d certainly try to weasel my way into this retreat as well.  Good food and your own cabin to write in (with Wi-Fi but no cell phone service).  Heaven.  Admittedly, there are bears, but if you don’t go walking about at night draped in bacon you should be okay.

Thanks then to Carolyn Yoder and the good people of Boyds Mills Press / Highlights.  Now about that Goofus and Gallant book I wanna see published . . .

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. I second that Goofus and Gallant book. My little brother and I used to have secret discussions about what a jerk we thought Gallant was. We didn’t want the grown-ups to know we were Team Goofus.

    • Elizabeth Bird says:

      Michele, I think I may have to steal your “Team Goofus” idea. That’s brilliant. And yes, I think we ALL preferred Goofus to Gallant. Who wouldn’t? Goofus was one of us. Gallant (aside from his clearly biased parents naming him that over his brother) was a bit of a prude. And think of the potential spin-offs! Goofus for President. Goofus Goes Hawaii. Goofus: The Underwater Adventure Series. I could go on.

  2. You don’t have to write non-fiction to go. The Highlights Founders Workshops run all year on different topics, and many of us writers have been. It’s a terrific experience. See their website for the full schedule.

  3. Carolyn told me you were coming. Wished I were going. I always wish I am going to Carolyn’s retreats and all those other Highlighs Founder Home events. Isn’t that Myer’s Library the best! Also the cabins, the food, Calkins Creek…

    I always think about bears and never see them!

  4. I was thinking about Goofus and Gallant yesterday! Mr. Tim Gillner (the art director at Boyds Mills Press) came to speak at our MN SCBWI conference a couple years ago and he was just wonderful! Cool Post!!!

  5. Maybe they could have a little whiny sibling….”Grovel”.

  6. Mary-Alice Moore says:

    Thanks for visiting, we loved having you! Stay tuned re G+G book ideas….!

  7. Goofus is so reckless I’m honestly surprised that he’s still alive after all these years. “Gallant waits for the walk signal before crossing the street. Goofus is running through traffic!!!! SILLY GOOFUS!”

    ….Come to think of it, Gallant probably got beaten up at school every day. He seemed like the kind of kid that would remind the teacher that they forgot to give out homework.

  8. I missed you by a week! Carolyn is one of my editors and I attend her retreats twice yearly. Imagine writing side by side with an incredible editor and sipping wine. Heaven! The retreat you attended was the first I missed. I couldn’t leave my kids for two weeks. I was bummed when I heard you’d been there when I wasn’t, but when I got to my cabin I opened the guest journal and saw your entry. I was in cabin 16 too! Isn’t it the best? What a view! I’m glad you got to taste the “Boyds Mills Experience.” It took me years to get comfortable enough to try a cabin – I used to stay in the house with carolyn – but I love it now.

    Incidentally, I have a “children’s literature” car – and I suggest all children’s authors adapt their cars into one. Why not? I have magnets with my book cover images on my PT Cruiser’s doors and rear hatch. It’s inexpensive and eye-catching advertising.

  9. PS: Nobody knows that Highlights owns Boyds Mills. I think it’s the best kept secret in children’s literature. But what an incredible group of people they are! I count my blessings often, that I’m published by such a lovely, caring company.

  10. My first published work for kids was in Highlights. Did the dance of joy in my kitchen when that acceptance came! My kids were always wild for G and G (guess which one they liked better).

  11. My Boaz's Ruth says:

    *harumph* I liked Gallant. We had highlights as a kid. SCARED me to death about Africanized bees too — and look what happened. Also where I learned about global cooling — oops again. Most of our issues were hard-back. I remember when they went paperback. The paperbacks did not get reread as much 🙁

    Guess what my 3-year old is getting for Christmas this year! I wanted to do it last year but he just was not ready. Now he is!

    (no, but close. Highlights High Five!)