The Gryphon Press Teaches Children about Kindness to Animals

The Gryphon Press publishes books with a message.

For just over a decade, the Gryphon Press has provided what it calls “a voice for the voiceless” by offering children thoughtfully illustrated books which highlight the human-animal connection while fostering empathy in young readers for other living beings. “For me, the most important part is that Gryphon is known for fair witness and justice,” publisher Emilie Buchwald says.

Buchwald is a successful poet, fiction author and co-founder of Milkweed Editions, where she is publisher emeritus after retiring in 2003. A pause in her career allowed for more time at the Edina home she’s shared since 1960 with her husband of 62 years, Henry. “The first thing we did was get a dog,” Buchwald says, adding that she delved into blogs about canines, and what she discovered disturbed and moved her—into action. “There’s a real gap here,” she says of animal welfare awareness. Buchwald believed there was an open space in publishing for picture books, focusing on positive human-animal interactions. So she launched the Gryphon Press in 2006.

With more than 15 titles and 40,000 copies of books in print, Gryphon has already won awards from the Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, as well as from other organizations, in its relatively short tenure. Themes address the abuse and neglect of animals, pet overpopulation, the dangers of puppy mills, the responsibility of pet ownership, adoption, therapy and service animals, and much more. A broad range of animals are featured (cats, dogs, chickens, horses, parrots and rabbits), and the final page includes information for parents and educators related to issues highlighted in the story.

While she respects the value of strong writing, Buchwald notes the importance of quality illustrations. “No child will have anything to do with a picture book that isn’t beautiful,” she says, stressing the importance of children understanding a story through illustrations, as well as by listening. “We’ve always insisted on the best art we can find, and our illustrators come from all over the country,” she says.

Buchwald believes children can develop respect for others through modeling love and care for animals. “We try to get those books into schools and animal shelters,” she says. Educators around the country have found the titles useful. “They love our books, and they teach with them,” Buchwald says. Gryphon also bridges languages. It published a Spanish version of Buddy Unchained (Rufo Liberado). “It’s been very exciting to get feedback on the Spanish-language title, and people want us to do more,” she says. The Humane Society of the United States purchased 700 book copies as part of an outreach program in Puerto Rico, and it utilizes A Home for Dakota as part of its anti-puppy mills campaign, according to Buchwald’s daughter Dana, associate publisher and marketing director.

Dana appreciates the experience of working with and learning from her mother, though with a background in law, it wasn’t always her plan. Dana began volunteering with her mother, and it mushroomed into a career, which has rekindled an interest in law as it relates to animal welfare. “I think we work well together, and I feel really privileged to have this experience together,” Dana says.

About Emilie Buchwald

  • Received the McKnight Distinguished Artist of the Year Award, the Kay Sexton Award for service, the A.P. Anderson Award for service to literature and the National Book Critic’s Circle Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • Authored children’s novels, picture books and penned a poetry collection.
  • Graduated from Barnard College, has a master of arts in English from Columbia University, a Ph.D. in English literature and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from the University of Minnesota.
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