Longtime children’s book marketing executive Kaylee N. Davis died on October 30 in New York of complications from a recent surgery. She was 63.
Davis grew up in Minneapolis, and graduated from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis with a degree in women’s studies and political science. By 1986 she was manager of a B. Dalton Bookseller store in Minneapolis, which was the beginning of her rise through Barnes & Noble Bookstores. Through a series of promotions, Davis moved from juvenile buyer/merchandiser to children’s marketing manager and senior author promotions manager at the national level for the retailer.
In 1995 Davis moved into the publishing side of the book world with a position as director of marketing at William Morrow & Company. A year later, she returned to children’s books as v-p and director of marketing at Golden Books, followed by a stint in the same position at HarperCollins Children’s Books. From 2004–2007, Davis was editor-in-chief of Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club and Kid’s BookPlanet where she acquired and created titles and exclusive products for both clubs. Davis also worked as a literary agent at Screenland Literary Associates and cultivated her own business as a freelance publishing consultant. Most recently she was licensing manager at Parragon Publishing.
Davis was a self-described lifelong reader and had a great passion for children’s books and literacy. That passion was the cornerstone of Davis’s two published works. In 2009, she collected her reviews of children’s titles into the book 1001 Children’s Books You Must Read Before You Grow Up (Rizzoli Universe). A few years later, she published the The Barnes & Noble Guide to Children’s Books (Sterling, 2013), which friends noted was a crowning achievement for her. On the flap copy for that book, Davis wrote: “You don’t have to be a child to love children’s books; they are filled with important life lessons for the child in all of us.”
Virginia Anagnos, executive v-p at Goodman Media International and a former colleague of Davis, offered this remembrance of her friend: “Kaylee and I shared a love of many things—children’s books, contests to find the kitschiest item at Home Goods, and food,” she wrote. “She introduced me to her five-cheese mac ‘n’ cheese and corn pudding, and I introduced her to spanakopita and buttered noodles with feta. We debated, which one always did with Kaylee, how much was too much butter and/or cheese. Never enough was her stance. When she texted me about a week ago [from the hospital] that she’d dreamed of the buttered noodles dish, I was soon by her bedside making a takeout delivery. I was delighted at her renewed appetite—perhaps it was the bit more butter—and thought she was finally turning the corner on all her ills. Unfortunately, that did not come to pass. She will be terribly missed at Thanksgiving, but I’m finding great solace in knowing that she got her noodles to go this year.”
Plans for a memorial service in New York have not yet been finalized.