Monday, November 14, 2011

Barbara Brooks Wallace on editor Jean Karl

Ever since I read Dear Genius, Leonard Marcus's collection of correspondence between Harper and Row editor Ursula Nordstrom and her authors and illustrators, I've been intrigued by the experiences of writers, a few of whom I'm lucky enough to know, who got to work with some of the greatest editors in children's publishing. It seems to me that when I talk to Eleanor Schick, who worked with Ursula herself, I can in some way touch that experience. Vicariously, some semblance of it becomes a part of my narrative as well. In our time, when things are changing more rapidly than ever before, it seems important to me that we acknowledge our links with these editors who left their stamp on the field. Without them, somehow, we would collectively be diminished.

Jean Karl, founding editor at what is today Atheneum Books for Young Readers (one of my publishers) was one such.

When I was in the Washington DC area in September, I was lucky enough to visit for a while with my friend Barbara Brooks Wallace. Jean was Bobbie's editor. In an editorial letter, she described Bobbie's middle grade novel, Peppermints in the Parlor, as "marvelously funny" and "a true children's Gothic." Bobbie went on to win two Edgar Awards for The Twin in the Tavern and Sparrows in the Scullery. Thirty-one years after its publication, Peppermints is still in print.

In this brief video, Bobbie tells me about the process of submitting Peppermints in the Parlor to Jean Karl, and hearing about its acceptance.


  1. Oh, I love seeing you two together and hearing Bobbie talk about selling PEPPERMINTS! Very cool. So glad you posted this.

  2. It was fun to see you both on this video. I have fond memories of Jean Karl as well. She offered me an illustration job back in the 60's, but I was so naive I turned it down!

  3. What a wonderful video! I love Peppermints in the Parlor and how special to see Bobbie recount the experience of selling it.

  4. This is wonderful and has re-kindled my love of Ms. Wallace's wonderful works -- who knew that she is still actively writing ( a search on amazon pulls up a book published this year!) - what an inspiration!