- Invention and Discoveries:An Interview with Ann K. Beneduce
Ann K. Beneduce is editor-in-chief of Philomel Books, a division of the Putnam Publishing Group, a position she has held since May, 1980. She has worked in publishing in various capacities since 1967, and has previously been editor-in-chief of children's books at World Publishing, T.Y. Crowell, and Collins & World. In addition to being a member of or chairing several committees of the Children's Book Council, Beneduce has been the United States representative to the executive committee of IBBY (1974-78); founding member of the U.S. Friends of IBBY and president (1980 and 1981); corporate member of the U.S. Committee for UNICEF (1976 to present) and member of the Board of Directors of the U.S. Committee for UNICEF (1979 to present); jury member for BIB (1977); art jury member for the Bologna Book Fair's Exhibition of Children's Book Elustrations (1977); and Member of the U.S.A. National Committee for the International Year of the Child (1978-80).
The following interview is based on conversations with Beneduce in the latter part of 1983.
LSM: How did you get started in the children's book field?
AKB: Well, I was divorced quite young and had two young children and found I had to earn a living. Publishing was the thing I knew most about. Not publishing exactly, but books and literature in general. I had been writing book reviews for a local newspaper and had also been reading to children—I was the story lady at the library, just for pleasure. I went to Doubleday, asked for a job and they had one. So that was luck. I worked for three years in adult books, but found that it was in the children's book department that a woman was most likely to move forward, and so I started working in that side of publishing, but somewhat half-heartedly, feeling that intellectually it was perhaps a downward step. It was only after I began working on children's books that I saw it was something I loved doing, and that it was challenging and rewarding. In addition, I had done graduate work in developmental psychology, and I was passionately interested in literature and art, as well as in the intellectual development of children, and I found that editing children's books was the perfect combination of all these concerns. [End Page 47] My first job in children's books was at Lippincott.
LSM: Whom did you work under there?
AKB: Eunice Blake. I took the job at a reduction in salary because I wanted the experience of working with an outstanding editor. It was a wonderful decision. She knew every aspect of publishing, and was virtually a one-woman department when I arrived. She could design a book, had an eye for art, and cared about quality in the text. Eunice was interested in international picture books. She was one of the first editors who went around the world and looked for artists to bring to American children, which is something I've also found very worthwhile.
LSM: Which countries did she go most often to?
AKB: She brought many books from England; for instance the novel Tom's Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce. She went to Czechoslovakia and brought back several adorable picture books by Czech artists, and she discovered the work of Nicola Simbari from Italy. We did a beautiful book by him, a picture book called Gennarino. I guess my eyes were opened to a wider range of artists from the start than if I had just worked with Americans.
LSM: From Lippincott where did you go?
AKB: In 1963 Velma Varner asked me to come to World as her assistant. She really knew—but didn't divulge to me at that time—that she was going on to Viking. Very shortly afterward she left World and I took over the department there.
LSM: Velma Varner found a Japanese picture scroll by the twelfth century artist Toba Sojo, and made a children's picture book out of it called The Animal Frolic. In a general...