Maria Modugno, editorial director, picture books, Random House Children’s Publishing

They say you always remember your first…

I had just arrived as a newly minted editor at the San Diego offices of Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, and was faced with the daunting task of publishing the first list of children’s books from the West Coast. During my last week in New York, I had met an artist who told me he lived in Santa Barbara and was interested in illustrating picture books. “Look me up if you’re ever in town,” I said casually, trying on my new laid-back California style. Much to my surprise, he showed up in my office with several book dummies that he had collaborated on with his wife. “I like to think of picture books as my own portable art gallery,” he said as he showed me his work.

His paintings were unlike anything I’d seen before in picture books. At the same meeting, I fell in love with a word-perfect manuscript his wife wrote, a gently rhyming text with an ending that made me laugh. “I’d like to see this text illustrated in this art style,” I said, hoping it was okay to take what I had been shown and mix it up a bit.

A new dummy for The Napping House by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood, arrived a few weeks later, and our art director Rubin Pfeffer enthusiastically endorsed my find. Maybe this editor thing is going to be easier than I expected, I thought. If only!

Ann Beneduce, editorial consultant; former publisher, Philomel Books

Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar [1969] was the second book both written and illustrated by this now world-famous picture book artist. Established as a modern classic, the book was very innovative when it was published. Eric has often told how he submitted a book entitled Willie the Worm—about a little bookworm that ate its way through the die-cut pages—and how changing Willie into a very hungry caterpillar that became a beautiful butterfly transformed the project. But this is far from the whole story.

Having agreed on the changes needed, Eric produced a brilliant new dummy, complete with holes for tiny fingers to explore. By my rule, it was both beautiful and useful. But to my surprise and chagrin, I was unable to find any American manufacturer who could produce it. At that time—half a century ago—no one could guarantee to cut the holes in the odd-sized pages and bind them so that the holes lined up correctly.

As it happened, luck was with me. My husband-to-be had invited me to join him on a trip to Japan, where he would be attending a scientific conference. Anne Pellowski kindly gave me a list of Japanese publishers of children’s books and, with the dummy in my briefcase, I set off for Kyoto. The publishers I met there were wonderful—extremely hospitable and friendly. All of them liked Eric’s book—and I was excited to find that they thought they could manufacture it for me—but none of them seemed to be able to produce it at a price we could afford. None, that is, except for the late Hideo Imamura, who was then the chief editor at Kaiseisha. “We will find a way,” he assured me, and he did, though it was more easily said than done. But with his Japanese edition added to our own, the price became more viable. At the next Bologna fair we were able to sell rights to the book to British editor Julia MacRae, of Hamish Hamilton, and several European publishers, all of whom would print with us, bringing the price down further. This kind of co-edition is common practice now, but it was quite revolutionary at that time.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar was an instant success, and has been published in dozens of different languages and countries. When I travel anywhere in the world and say that I was Eric Carle’s editor for this book, I find I have made an immediate friend. That in itself is enough to make me proud of having published this book. But there is more, as the substantial royalty income from The Very Hungry Caterpillar provided much of the initial capital for the creation of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. Now that’s a book to be proud of!

Susan Hirschman, former publisher, Greenwillow Books

In 1967 I returned to my Macmillan office from a business trip and found the whole small editorial staff (Barbara Fenton, Shirley Dolgoff, and others) incandescent with excitement about a manuscript that had come in and they knew we had to publish. I suppose I resisted for a few minutes out of sheer hubris, but not for long. Because they were right.

The manuscript was Oh Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard by Polly Greenberg, a young woman who had been working with disadvantaged children in an early Head Start program in Mississippi. The dirt-poor black child in the book longs to be anything but what she is: she picks cotton in the blistering heat.
A dog, snake, a buzzard, a butterfly—anything to be cool and away. But that evening her father buys her a sucker, and life looks better.

It was a more honest portrayal of life than any of us had seen. We were not sure how it would be received. I showed it to Augusta Baker and Effie Lee Morris, both eminent African-American librarians. This was the only time in 50 years that I did anything of the sort. Neither lady was enthusiastic, and one wanted to be assured that the pickers would not wear bandanas. But neither said don’t publish. I think they knew it would have been fruitless.

We asked Aliki to illustrate it, and her stunning three-color paintings, complete with bandanas, were and are as perfect as any art I ever had the privilege to work with. The book did moderately well and has since been reissued by Chronicle. I remain deeply proud that almost 50 years ago we sent this difficult and honest and beautiful book on its way.

Margaret Frith, editor-at-large; former publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons

One summer day in New York, Jean Fritz, Margot Tomes, and I sat at lunch with a librarian, a history buff who admired Jean’s question books and was anxious to meet her. Margot had illustrated the first one, And Then What Happened, Paul Revere?, and when Jean mentioned that she had been born in China and spent the first 13 years of her life there, Margot’s eyes opened wide in amazement and she began to pepper Jean with questions. Jean’s anecdotes were funny, genuine and rich in detail. They begged to be in a book.

Jean called the next day. She thought she had found the way and that Margot must illustrate it. She thought it would be a picture book. I was a little surprised, but only a few days later, Jean called again to say it would be a different book, a longer book. Memories came flooding back to Jean and she shared them with me. She was always passionately involved in whatever she was working on, and Homesick was no exception. I was not the first to suggest that she write about her childhood in China, but it was the first time the spark ignited. Once published in 1982, Homesick: My Own Story went on to win the National Book Award and was named a Newbery Honor Book. Many proud moments followed.

Richard Jackson, editorial director, Richard Jackson Books, S&S/Atheneum

Brian’s Floca’s new book, Locomotive, started its dream life as a 32-pager, plus endpapers. The original subject was the wonder and fun and workings of a 19th-century marvel, a railway engine run on coal- or wood-powered steam. Brian first talked to me about such a project in 2008, while he was finishing his work on Moonshot. As it turned out, a book about Apollo 11 was easy coasting in comparison. That book focused on a small cast over a few memorable, densely documented days.

Locomotive grew from early text and black-and-white ink sketches to encompass a large swatch of American history; soon enough, its scope broadened to include not only an engine, but a train of six cars, its crew, its passengers. Originally, there was no family involved. Now, their journey begins on the title spread (if one reads the art carefully) and ends on the story’s final page—for, yes, there is a story here, an emotional thread extending the full 1,776 miles of the trans-continental railroad’s iron line. From 32 pages, we grew to 56 (plus endpapers). I write “we” because from the start the editor’s complicity was total—subversive, one could say. I remember wonderful planning/fidgeting sessions in which night scenes were scattered all over carpets then plugged into the page in running order here and there so that the passage of time could be followed. And all the while, the text was shifting (and actually getting shorter). I’m tickled to say that two words I contributed made the final book, though which these are I’ll never tell.

The book is, in the most thrilling sense, a collaboration of a young man’s enthusiasm and scholarship and an old editor’s ambitions for him; a publisher’s commitment, and the summons of the subject itself to honor history and the ingenuity of American invention.

Jean Feiwel, senior v-p and publisher, Feiwel and Friends

There are many books I am proud of that I could pull from my bag. But the book that is especially sweet for me of recent vintage would have to be Nancy Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born. It was the first book I published in my (then) new imprint, Feiwel and Friends at Macmillan, and I crashed it onto the schedule something like eight months after I acquired it (which has actually become something of a bad habit of mine at Macmillan). I wasn’t intending to launch my imprint with a picture book. But as John Lennon famously said, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

On the Night You Were Born was sent to me by agent Cathy Hemming, someone whom I knew in another life as the San Francisco sales rep for Avon Books. So we went way back. She asked me if I was looking for picture books and I probably said something noncommittal like, “Sure, maybe, why not?” She messengered a copy of the book, which had been self-published by Nancy and had already sold close to 30,000 copies. I loved it the moment I laid eyes on it. The art, the message, everything. And I felt there was no one doing anything like what Nancy was doing. We published On the Night You Were Born in December 2006 and it hit the New York Times bestseller list in its first week of sale. We are now over two million copies in print. And we’ve just signed up books 12 and 13 with Nancy Tillman. Sweet!

Simon Boughton, senior v-p and publisher, Roaring Brook Press and FSG Books for Young Readers

Several years ago when I was at Random House, Jerry Stanley, a history professor from California, sent us a magazine article he’d written about a school for the children of Dust Bowl migrants—Okies—at a migrant labor camp in the 1930s, with an inquiry as to whether we thought it might make a good book. It was a remarkable and moving story: the children, who were poor, often illiterate, and shunned by the local school system, literally built their own school—buildings, curriculum, swimming pool, and all—under the guidance of an idealistic and determined superintendent and group of teachers. And there was a connection to American literature in that the camp where this took place was the one that John Steinbeck visited and portrayed as Weedpatch Camp in The Grapes of Wrath. Crown published the book, Children of the Dust Bowl, out of the slush pile; it received strong reviews and won a number of awards (and is still in print). A year or so after the book was published I went out to Bakersfield to visit the author and he took me out to visit the school that the Okie children built in the ’30s. It’s still there, and it still serves the children of migrant farm workers—only today, those children are from Central and South America, not Oklahoma.

Regina Hayes, editor-at-large; former president and publisher, Viking Children's Books

Choosing the book of which you are most proud is like choosing your favorite child, i.e., virtually impossible. But in the end I settled on Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor, which I edited 38 years ago when I was senior editor at Dial. Roll of Thunder told the story of a black family in Mississippi who experience extreme racial discrimination; it received the 1977 Newbery Medal. I chose Roll of Thunder for two reasons. The first and most important is the book’s impact socially. It was the right book at the right time. It illuminated a moment in history in a nondidactic way, proving that one great story can be more effective than a thousand case histories. Readers fell in love with the Logan family. They cared what happened to them, felt the unfairness of how they were treated. As publishers of children’s books, we are fortunate enough to reach readers at a point where their thinking can be influenced, even changed. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry made a difference. The second reason is Mildred Taylor herself. It was so exciting to witness her phenomenal growth as a writer from her first book, Song of the Trees, to her second, Roll of Thunder. Mildred was always a beautiful writer, but with that second book, she became a compelling storyteller.

It was exactly what an editor hopes to see.

Arthur Levine, v-p and editorial director, Arthur A. Levine Books, Scholastic

When Lisa Yee queried me about her first novel she hadn’t actually... er... written it. She had faked a few chapters to send in, unsolicited, and when I asked to see the whole thing she panicked. At the time Lisa had a business writing ad copy (remember “Pass the Old El Paso?!” That was Lisa.) But she’d never written anything much longer than a menu. (She wrote some of those for Red Lobster!) The first draft was called Millicent Kwan, Child Psychologist and it was... very high concept. But (as is often the case with first drafts) not as truly funny or as deep as the person on the other end of the e-mails. After a few drafts we met for lunch. Lisa was horrifically nervous because she was sure I had asked her out in order to fire her. I told her editors don’t do that. Not in person anyway! And we carried on, steadily working out the emotional underpinnings of that original concept, and overcoming some of the intimidation she’d felt for the longer form by e-mailing pieces back and forth.

I’m incredibly proud of the warm, funny, real book that is Millicent Min, Girl Genius. I’m proud it gave voice to thousands of smart kids and Asian kids, awkward kids, and kids with wacky grandmas. But I’m most proud of the long, careful process, of the friendship it created, and the enduring, happy publishing relationship that’s followed.

Beverly Horowitz, v-p and publisher, Delacorte Press, Random House Children's Books

I believe that one of the deep purposes of reading fiction is to sustain a sense of connectedness. Delacorte published The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants on September 11, 2001. I remember that the year before, when the project arrived, we were instantly riveted by Ann Brashares’s beautiful prose and unforgettable characters. We knew we wanted this novel and that it would make a difference for young women. In The Sisterhood, readers find the stories of four young women who have grown up together. They formed a tight bond long before they find the pants at a thrift store. Certainly pants that fit and flatter very different body types and seem magical is a fabulous story element, but the book is not just about that.

I think The Sisterhood resonates so strongly because it depicts young women who actually like each other—sadly, a rarity in media for and about this demographic. The book eschews the competitiveness and cattiness so often ascribed to young women, and shows them the way I have always experienced them to be: generous, funny, confused, raw, and looking for support. The girls of the Sisterhood lead independent, sometimes lonely lives that summer they spend apart, but they’re buoyed by their love for one another. Each has inner strength, and although they sometimes make bad decisions, they grow from their mistakes.

Every few years we might change the cover art or font, but the novel’s universal appeal never changes. The book finds a new audience and is reread by those who love it and always will. I am proud to be part of the Sisterhood now and forever.

Stephen Roxburgh, president and publisher, namelos

I met Marilyn Nelson in the early ’80s but we fell out of touch for almost 20 years. We met again at a National Book Award ceremony when she was a finalist for the second time. We quickly reviewed our interim histories and moved on to talking about projects we might work on together. Marilyn sent a few things my way, but the most exciting was a cycle of poems about George Washington Carver. They were brilliant and I thought that young readers would respond to them and not only learn more about Carver than passing references to his scientific achievements but also be exposed to poetry of the highest caliber. Most of Marilyn’s previous poetry was published by a well-respected university press. She agreed that I could publish this book for young readers at my small company, Front Street. It took a while to figure out the best form for the book, but we finally decided to intersperse the poems with archival photographs. The final book, Carver: A Life in Poems, is elegant and spare, as is the poetry. It subsequently won numerous awards in various genres—poetry, fiction, and nonfiction—and found a wide audience of children, young adults, and adults. I am so enormously proud of Carver because it crossed the borders of genre and age and deepened readers’ appreciation of an extraordinary man and an extraordinary poet.

Melanie Kroupa, freelance editor; former publisher of Melanie Kroupa Books at Farrar, Straus and Giroux

I’ve been editing and publishing books for children and teens for so long, it’s near impossible to single out just one book from those I’ve been privileged to edit. Yet I vividly remember the visceral reaction I had the first time I read Adam Bagdasarian’s first novel, Forgotten Fire. Based on the true experiences of his great-uncle as a boy during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians during World War I, the events are so terrible I could hardly keep reading—yet the writing is so powerful that I couldn’t stop. What I loved (and still love) about the book is that the telling is never sensationalist or overblown. Instead, the power of 12-year-old Vahan Kenderian’s attempts to survive one horrific event—and loss—after another is heightened by the understated narrative with its rhythmic drumbeat pulling the reader forward. At the same time, the author’s use of small, telling details make key moments all the more memorable.

I still find myself choking up when I read aloud sections from Forgotten Fire in the course I teach, Editing Books for Children and YA, at Simmons College. This is a novel that captures in a most affecting way what it’s like to be a child caught in war. In the process it beautifully reveals the resiliency of the human spirit. Even though I published it some 13 years ago, events in the world today—most recently in the Sudan and Syria—make Forgotten Fire as timely and timeless as ever.

Anne Schwartz, v-p and publisher, Schwartz & Wade Books, Random House Children's Books

As a young editor, I was desperate to develop my own list. And back before the Internet, it took tons of vigilance and doggedness—trolling through magazines for new artists, slogging through the slush pile. Trust me, I was vigilant. I was dogged. And I was failing miserably. Then one day a manuscript peeked out from the heap that seemed promising! I encouraged the writer, but the manuscript only got… different. I felt discouraged and stupid. Why couldn’t I help? And then she sent me something new, an original African-American folktale loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood: “What if I come upon a fox? thought Flossie. Oh well, a fox be just a fox. That aine so scary….” I’d never read anything like this! The voice was kick-ass, the characters hilarious, unforgettable. The story was called Flossie and the Fox.

I remember wondering if my writer—someone named Patricia C. McKissack—was Irish. (Back then, it was controversial to publish a book with African-American characters unless the writer was African-American. Turns out we avoided controversy, though I would have wanted to publish the manuscript no matter what ethnicity she was.) I also remember “Ms. McKissack” whooping uproariously when I phoned to tell her we wanted to publish Flossie. I remember how thrilled Pat was to see Rachel Isadora’s illustrations, how incensed we were when a reviewer criticized the “inconsistent use of dialect”—and how we became fast friends. Over 30 years, Pat and I have worked together; watched each others’ families—and the children’s book market—grow; visited each others’ homes. But what makes me happiest, I think, is Pat’s phenomenal contribution to children’s books. I’ve only witnessed my own children’s joy when reading a book by Patricia C. McKissack, but I have no doubt that there are countless other kids whom she has touched.

Joanna Cotler, freelance editor; former senior v-p and publisher, Joanna Cotler Books at HarperCollins

I am so proud to have edited and published Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. I remember the day I opened the manuscript. In her cover letter to me Sharon wrote, “I am not sure what this is. Maybe you’ll know.” I read the manuscript-in-verse right away—and it was a perfect little jewel of a thing—and wrote her: “I know what it is. It’s a novel and I love it.” She was relieved and happy with my response, and it was a profound pleasure to work on it with her. At one point in the editorial process we edited the book in person, reading it aloud line by line, to make sure all the breaks in this novel told in verse were just right.

I think it is one of the finest books I ever had the privilege to publish. I love what it is about—finding your own voice as a writer, the importance of books and poetry, how one teacher can change a life, how tragedy—in this case the death of one boy’s dog—can be softened and understood when it is given voice, in this case as a poem. And I loved the process of helping to make this into a book, because Sharon embodies all of the rare qualities that this book does: kindness, curiosity, a large creative spirit, and a desire to share her big heart and all it has to offer with the world. A note about the jacket art: I also had the great honor of being William Steig’s last editor and knew that one of his dog drawings would make the perfect dog to love. Lucky lucky me.

Paula Wiseman, v-p and publisher, Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster

I was driving and listening to NPR and there was an interview with a Wangari Maathai, who had just won the Nobel Peace Prize for her Green Belt Movement in Africa. She had such a gentle voice and her work reforesting Kenya was amazing and inspiring. I pulled over and called Donna Jo Napoli, who I thought would be interested, and said that Wangari’s life seemed perfect for a picture book. I told her she had to find a radio and hear Wangari’s story. Donna did and we agreed there needed to be a book about Wangari.

Donna researched the story and, being a linguist, she was able to work with some of the words of Wangari’s native language as a refrain in the text. We agreed that we wanted to show the text to Kadir Nelson and he was immediately interested. At first he wanted to work in collage with natural materials and colors that would represent the landscape of Kenya. During the process he was inspired by the colors of the African culture and worked in collage with fabric to represent the aesthetic of East Africa.

We sent Mama Miti to Wangari’s office in Washington in 2010 when it was published. Sadly she passed away the following year. I’ll always be proud of this tribute to such a great woman.

Jane O'Connor, editor-at-large; former president of mass market publishing, Penguin Young Readers Group

The very first book I edited has meant the most to me because it sealed my fate in terms of career. In 1971 I was hired as assistant to the editor of a small list of children’s books at Hastings House, a family-owned publishing house. We—Judy Donnelly and I—were a department of two and, even though I was learning a tremendous amount, I wasn’t at all sure that children’s books were my “calling.” Truthfully, I wasn’t at all sure anything was my calling. But I had been an English major so, by default, publishing seemed an almost inevitable next step and the first job offered to me that wasn’t strictly secretarial was the spot at Hastings House.

About six months into the job, I was wading through the slush pile and picked up a manuscript for a middle-grade novel called Chrissie and the Dead Lady by a first-time writer named Ann Waldron. The opening page had me hooked. The first-person narrator sounded so real—a nosy but very likeable girl whose family has moved into a neighborhood populated exclusively by elderly eccentrics. There was a mystery of sorts, but it was the cast of characters that kept me reading and editing. We signed up the book which, with a much blander title—The House on Pendleton Block—received really good reviews. It wasn’t an earth-shattering book but one I felt totally committed to and one that I could see kids reading and really enjoying. In working with Ann, who became a friend, I realized that children’s book publishing was where I belonged.

Barbara Lalicki, former senior v-p and editorial director, HarperCollins

I get a thrill remembering when I read Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi for the first time. With every turn of the page, I wanted to buy it more. A futuristic survival adventure set largely in the great outdoors, it reminded me of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, which I’d edited, especially in the way Veronica made the landscape real. The bonus is that while Hatchet was about one boy and his struggles, Under the Never Sky—for older readers—is rich with characters and meaningful relationships. The trilogy is not just an incredible love story; it’s about friendships and how they can grow and change.

I’m so proud to have been a part of the Under the Never Sky trilogy, not least for “discovering” Veronica, whose mix of creative boldness and skilled craftsmanship awes me, but most of all for the love it contains. In a time when being a male who is sensitive seems fraught with difficulty, Perry and Roar are memorable for their strengths and vulnerabilities. I also especially like the friendship shared by Aria and Roar. For sure there are villains, but there is a love for humanity expressed even in the way that all of the secondary characters have their own lives.

I was starting to think about retirement when the second book, Through the Ever Night, hit the bestseller list and even now I eagerly anticipate the fans’ reactions to the conclusion, Into the Still Blue, which will be out in January. I’m so proud to know that they’ve got an unforgettable read ahead and to think of how the resounding humanity of the trilogy opens hearts to feel optimism in the face of what can be a harsh world.

Allyn Johnston, v-p and publisher, Beach Lane Books, Simon & Schuster

In the summer of 2006, my parents invited my son, Eamon, and Marla Frazee’s youngest son, James, to spend a week at their house on the beach in Malibu so they could go to Nature Camp in the nearby Santa Monica Mountains. The boys thought Nature Camp was ridiculous, but they loved their week at the beach together—especially the video games, the air mattresses, and the giant coffee ice cream sundaes and banana waffles my mom made. Afterward, Marla brought them to her home to Pasadena for a few days. I called her from San Diego and said it would mean a lot to my folks to get a thank-you note from the boys. She claims I asked her to write and illustrate a note in the form of a little book (a fact I dispute), so she did that, and my mom was so taken by it when it arrived that she made a copy and sent it to me. It was funny and fresh and irreverent and moving. I told Marla it was the beginning of a picture book. She thought I was crazy. But the more we shared it around with our families and my colleagues, the more we became convinced that we should go for it.

I was let go from the company that published A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever before it actually came out, so I wasn’t there when The Call came from the Caldecott Committee. But Marla rang me early that January morning, and Eamon answered the phone. “Mom! We won a Caldecott Honor!” he shouted at the top of his lungs.

I grew up in that beach house in Malibu. My mom is no longer alive, but my dad still lives there. It’s amazing to me that it—and those real people I love—star in a picture book. Though they all, including the house, look more than a little different in real life. (In fact, my dad has yet to send Marla a thank-you note because of how she portrayed him!)

Neal Porter, editorial director, Neal Porter Books, Roaring Brook Press

There are many books that I’m proud to have published, but the first that comes to mind is Ballet for Martha. I had worked on a number of Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan’s wonderful books about art and artists, but the chance to expand our focus to include dance and music was particularly exciting for a performance geek like me. And what subjects: Martha Graham, Aaron Copland, Isamu Noguchi, and Appalachian Spring! The research they did was prodigious, as was Brian Floca’s, who brought such verve, drama, and intelligence to the illustrations. Normally one keeps one’s authors and artists as far away from each other as possible, but in this instance we worked together as a team: attending a performance by the Graham company and discussing it at dinner afterwards, observing the company as they rehearsed the piece, adjusting the art to match the text and sometimes vice versa. In the end it was truly a great collaboration about a great collaboration, and one that I will always treasure.

Victoria Rock, founding publisher and editor-at-large, Chronicle Children's Books

Shortly after Chronicle launched its children’s list, we published a book that broke a lot of rules. It was The House That Crack Built, written by Clark Taylor, illustrated by Jan Dicks, and designed by Lael Robertson. First, it is an issue book, and a dark one, clearly not meant to be a staple of a baby’s first library. It was written by a first-time author who was inspired by a series of newspaper articles, wrote the text in one sitting, asked a friend to illustrate it and another to design it. It came to us via personal connection of the designer’s. Good thing—because if they had sent a query letter it would have been rejected out of hand.

As soon as we saw it we knew we wanted to publish it. But would anyone buy it? We asked some local booksellers and to a person they said, “I don’t know if my customers will buy it, but I will.” And they did.

At the ABA convention, a lot of publishers came to our booth specifically to see the book. They told us we were brave. Uh-oh. And then the letters started coming in. But not letters of criticism—letters from teachers asking if their students could create music videos inspired by the book. I like to think the book may have kept some kids on a better path, that perhaps it inspired a few of them to believe they had the power to change their world. There is no way to know. But I do know that it helped define the kind of list we wanted to be, and by extension the kind of editor I strive to be—alert, engaged, and willing to take a chance.