Announcing the Retirement of Lee & Low Books Editor At Large Louise May

Lee & Low Books announces the retirement of Editor at Large Louise May, the longest tenured staff member of Lee & Low Books. May’s publishing career spans nearly fifty years, including more than two decades at Lee & Low Books where she was instrumental in developing diverse books and talent.

May started her publishing career in the 1970s at Harcourt and then Random House, where she edited Reading and Language Arts textbooks. From there she moved to Mondo Publishing, before landing at Lee & Low Books in 1999.

During May’s time at Lee & Low, she acquired and published more than 600 books across Lee & Low’s imprints, including leveled readers, picture books, and books for older readers. May was responsible for launching Lee & Low’s popular Bebop Books educational imprint, which has developed almost 300 beginning reader titles exclusively for the educational market. She also oversaw Lee & Low’s acquisition of Children’s Book Press and Shen’s Books, helping to bring many of their beloved books back into print.

Louise May
Louise May

As Vice President/Editorial Director, May focused the company’s list on diverse books that defied stereotypes and reflected a wide scope of stories, genres, and reader identities. Known as a meticulous and careful editor of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, May was committed to using targeted expert readers (sometimes called sensitivity readers) to ensure cultural authenticity. Her books could often be identified by their extensive, informative backmatter and extreme attention to detail, which has earned many of her titles widespread critical acclaim and a permanent place on classroom and library shelves. Books she has edited have been honored by the Coretta Scott King Award, Pura Belpré Award, Sibert Medal, Asian/Pacific American Literature Award, ALA Notable Books, and many Best Books of the Year lists. Notable titles include Parrots Over Puerto Rico, Sparkle Boy, Gracias~Thanks, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, the Marisol McDonald series, I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage, and most recently, Sharuko: El arqueólogo peruano Julio C. Tello/Peruvian Archaeologist Julio C. Tello.

Authors and illustrators with whom May has worked include Pat Mora, Monica Brown, Lulu Delacre, R. Gregory Christie, Don Tate, Ted and Betsy Lewin, Joseph Bruchac, Javaka Steptoe, Frank Morrison, Nikki Grimes, the late Lee Bennett Hopkins, and many more. Throughout her career, May made a special effort to discover and support the work of new authors of color and helped to establish Lee & Low’s New Voices Award, which has led to the past or forthcoming publication of more than twenty debut authors of color.

“Over the years we have all learned so much from her and often relied not only on her keen editorial eye but her deep well of knowledge about both the trade and educational publishing world,” said Jason Low, Publisher and co-owner of Lee & Low Books. “She has been the consummate team player who was always willing to step up and lend her expertise to help our books succeed.”

Jessica Echeverria, Senior Editor at Lee & Low Books, said, “So much of editorial is about apprenticeship and learning from your colleagues, and there was no greater teacher than Louise. Her meticulous attention to detail, exhaustive research, and passion for children’s books are unrivaled. But more than anything, she was always gracious and kind in sharing her knowledge and expertise within editorial and across other departments. She inspired us to dig deeper with our nonfiction titles and to never lose sight of bringing quality literature to children.”

Authors on Working With Louise:

We asked a few authors to share their experience working with Louise:

Author Lesléa Newman: “Louise May is a fantastic editor and I will miss working with her very much. She is intelligent, creative, and kind, and her passion for children’s literature is legendary. I have been lucky enough to work with her on several projects; her meticulous editor’s eye has made me a better writer. She is truly one of the greats.”

Author Monica Brown: “Louise is an incredibly talented editor, and over the course of five books together,  she’s become a friend. We have had the most wonderful conversations and friendly debates about children’s literature, which is always a pleasure, as I know I’m talking with someone of great integrity and vision! Though I’m selfishly sad she is leaving Lee and Low, I’m thrilled that she will have more time for the travel and adventures she loves. I also feel so grateful that she and I get to work on one more book, The Turquoise Room!!”

Author Marilyn Singer: “I loved working with Louise.  She was tough, thorough, and always kind.  She made sure my facts were accurate–and my poetry lyrical.  But of all the words of wisdom she gave me, perhaps this was the most best, which she offered prior to my trip to Rome, a place I’d never yet visited:

Have a safe flight and a great trip, Marilyn. I’m sure you won’t have trouble finding good places to eat in Rome. If you’re gelato fans, you may already have read this warning, but steer away from places with the pretty, puffy clouds of gelato. The fluffiness comes from artificial thickeners. Go only to places where the tubs of gelato are “flat” on the top. There are now lots of “artisanal” gelato shops as well, with seasonal, and sometimes weird, flavors!

In all seriousness, Louise is a fabulous editor and I will miss doing books with her.”

Author/illustrator Lulu Delacre: “Attention to detail, extreme organization, careful fact-checking, keen eye for design, are some of the traits I admire in Louise May. Working with her was like a well choreographed dance, as we both share the love for travel to far away places, and knew how communication is much restricted at times. May her travels continue! ”

May is known among coworkers for her fabulous vacations across the globe, and is looking forward to more time to travel once it is safe to do so. She officially retired on January 5, 2021 but plans to continue working on a few beloved projects on a freelance basis.

Thank you, Louise, for bringing so many beautiful diverse books into the world!

One thought on “Announcing the Retirement of Lee & Low Books Editor At Large Louise May”

  1. It is because of Louise May that I am a published author. She gave a workshop at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2006. It took all that I had to get up the nerve to get in line to talk to her after her inspiring talk. But I did. I told her that I was working on a picture book about Frederick Douglass. She said, “Finish it up and enter it into our New Voices contest.” I had never heard of the New Voices Award but I did what she said. And my book, Love Twelve Miles Long, ended up winning the Award that year. I can never thank Louise enough. Soon I will be publishing my fourth book with Lee and Low and my seventh book overall. Have a long, happy retirement, Louise!

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