Jonathan Lanman, longtime children’s book editor and former v-p and editorial director at Atheneum Books for Young Readers, died on April 19. He was 62.
Lanman was born and grew up in Bellport, N.Y., on the South Shore of Long Island but for high school headed to New England, graduating from the Berkshire School in Sheffield, Mass., in 1971. He earned an A.B. in psychology from Brown University in 1975. In his first few years after college, Lanman returned to the Berkshire School and taught English and math and coached soccer. But when he decided that teaching was not the best fit for him, he pursued a career in publishing. Lanman began as an editorial assistant at Frederick Warne & Co. then moved to Henry Holt before joining Atheneum (formerly part of Macmillan), where he rose to v-p and editorial director. Among the many authors he worked with are Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, E.L. Konigsburg, James Howe, Alma Flor Ada, Will Hobbs, Leslie Tryon, and Judith Viorst.
Naylor, whose Lanman-edited novel Shiloh won the 1992 Newbery Medal, offered a remembrance to PW: “I loved his sense of humor, and his generosity in sharing personal stories. How he sent his wife-to-be on a treasure hunt (his proposal, perhaps?) to find the notes he had posted in various public places, each directing her to a new location. And he watched from a comfortable distance when she apologized to a couple as she crawled beneath their table, searching for the note Jon had taped when the cafe was empty. He made it easier to open ourselves in what we wrote.”
Caitlyn Dlouhy, the current v-p and editorial director at Atheneum, paid tribute to her former colleague with this recollection: “When Jon hired me 16 years ago, he took a chance on someone who had no list yet, who wasn’t coming to Atheneum with a bevy of authors,” she said. “I’ve always been tremendously grateful, and that chance he took, to my mind, embodied his role as an editor, and why he was such a fine one – he gave me, and more importantly, his authors, room to find their stories, while encouraging us all, with great kindness, to reach further than we had before. Jon was, as they say, a true gent.”
Lanman left Simon & Schuster in 2002 to enter the field of law, and graduated magna cum laude from Pace University School of Law in 2004. He worked for several law firms over a 10-year span, most recently at Walsh & Amicucci in Purchase, N.Y. Lanman retired in 2014 and was said to be enjoying a variety of leisure activities as well as spending time with his three sons. He was predeceased by his wife Shelley Eudene Lanman.
According to the Journal News, a memorial service will be held on July 18 at 12 p.m. at the Christ Episcopal Church, 64 South Country Rd., Bellport, N.Y.