On September 28th, The Carle Museum hosted The Carle Honors Annual Benefit Gala in New York City. The Carle Honors is “the Museum’s annual benefit gala. At the heart of the Honors are four awards celebrating individuals whose creative vision and dedication are an inspiration to everyone who values picture books and their role in arts education and literacy.” This year, Lee & Low Books, represented by publisher Jason Low, was one of the four honorees recognized at The Carle Honors. Below are author Gregory Maguire’s remarks on the work and legacy of Lee & Low Books.
“We’ve been trying to hover above, to take an aerial view of the lives and achievements of our honorees this evening. To manage the focal depth necessary to appreciate Lee & Low, the publishing company honored as Angel this evening, we nearly need to take an Angel’s point of view ourselves, to organize ourselves as high in the stratosphere as we can to take in the largest view possible. For what we most easily recognize in what Lee & Low is accomplishing is surely global, and it has the vision of angels to be able to sweep across the continents and consider so many populations, their needs and aspirations, as it helps bring their stories to young readers.
Jason Low is the publisher and co-owner of Lee & Low Books, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. It’s the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the United States. Betsy Bird, The Evanston, Illinois Public librarian and blogger for School Library Journal, writes that ’12 years ago, in a desert of multiculturalism, devoid of diversity, one lonely little outpost distinguished itself: Lee & Low Books. Consistently the only place to go for high-quality titles both by and about people from a diverse range of backgrounds.’
I go on to quote Betsy Bird further: ‘Fast forward to 2016. With a strong backlist of diverse titles, long established (no johnny-come-latelys they!) Lee & Low was well poised to aid the We Need Diverse Books movement. But it was their Diversity Baseline Survey that went above and beyond the call of duty. 8 review journals. 34 publishers. Can you imagine? I don’t want to engage in hyperbole here, but I think you’d be hard pressed to find 34 publishers participating in ANYTHING together willingly. And this was instigated by a publisher, of all things. A cog in the system, sure, but what a cog! Thanks to Lee & Low’s efforts, the Diversity Baseline Survey provided the first hard factual evidence about where we are in this industry and how far we have to go.’
Not a cog, I think, Betsy, but an Angel. An Angel is never a cog; an Angel is an instigator. An agitator. Lee & Low is an Agitating Angel. In partnership with Cathie Mercier at the Simmons College Center for the Study of Children’s Literature, Jason Low has spearheaded a scholarship to increase diversity in the world of children’s literature. The $100,000 scholarship fund was created through donations from Lee & Low Books and Simmons College alumni. It will, in Jason Low’s words, ‘address one of the most challenging obstacles in bringing more equity to publishing: the pipeline problem.’ Surely Lee & Low is an Angel, with its vision and its ocular superpowers, for it can see beneath the surfaces, between the cracks, below the bridges, right down to the pipeline level, and get to work to help fix the problem. Bringing the invisible to light. That’s angelic work indeed.”