Pamela Paul has been named children’s books editor of the New York Times Book Review. Paul is a journalist and book critic, is the author of three nonfiction books, and is a columnist for the NYT’s Styles section. She has also been book critic for the Economist, and she began her career at Scholastic, where she was an editor and managed a book club. Paul replaces Julie Just, who left the Times in October to become an agent at Janklow & Nesbit. Paul starts at the Book Review on Monday, January 24.
One reason Paul says she is excited to return to children’s books is that “it’s a world I’m in involved with every day—I have three little kids [ages 5, 4, and 1]. I’m a huge fan of children’s literature. I would characterize myself as a compulsive children’s book buyer.” As a parent, Paul says she is “sensitive to the ways people look for books,” and she hopes to shape her coverage to provide help in the selection process, such as in thematic roundups. “As a parent,” she said, “I want to know what not to buy as well as what to buy.”
Having been a book author, she added, makes her all the more aware of how difficult it is to get attention for books. “A lot of great books go by each month, and I’d like to do whatever I can do to give them recognition.”
And she believes that her work as a journalist will prove advantageous in her new position. “I want to be on the lookout for what is going on in children’s books,” she said. “A lot of the cultural stories today are based in children’s literature. And there isn’t as much media and cultural attention paid to what’s out there.”
Paul said her new position is part-time, and her primary focus at the Book Review will be on children’s books, though she doesn’t rule out other kinds of reviewing. The amount of space allotted for children’s review coverage will stay the same, she said, at two pages a month, though “we’re always looking for ways to expand.” She hopes to review more books within those monthly pages, noting, “If a review is 600 words, it’s maybe better to review two picture books rather than one in that same space. A lot of people would appreciate having additional coverage.” The capsule reviews, she added, “are important and we’ll continue to do them.”
She hopes to give children’s books more attention on the Times’ Web site, through the Paper Cuts blog, through podcasts, and through showcasing more of a book’s illustrations online. “There’s a huge opportunity,” she said. “Children’s books is an area I think deserves a much higher profile.”
The challenge, she said, will be in the selection process, “figuring out how to cover the most books as thoroughly as possible given the limitations of space and people’s time and attention.” And while trying to be inclusive, Paul said that since parents and teachers are looking for guidance, “if you’re only going to have two pages a month, there should be a real reason that a book is reviewed.”
An exciting part of the job for Paul is the prospect of pairing reviewers with books. “There’s a lot of opportunity to get some interesting writers and critics,” she said. “A lot of writers are turning to children’s books, who would be great to critique children’s books. There’s no reason in my mind why children’s books shouldn’t get as much attention if not more than adult books. It’s where we get our adult readers.”