Candlewick Press executives Liz Bicknell and Joan Powers both announced retirement plans this month, the press confirmed on May 22. Bicknell, who serves as executive v-p, executive editorial director, and associate publisher, will stay until the end of June. Powers, who is group editorial director and founding editor of the Candlewick Entertainment and Walker Entertainment imprints, wraps up on May 31. Successors have yet to be named.

Bicknell and Powers each have been in top leadership at Candlewick for more than 20 years. Both made their decisions public after quietly informing authors and industry associates of their plans, to prepare the transition into Candlewick’s next chapters.

Liz Bicknell Has Worn Many Editorial Hats

Candlewick called Bicknell “one of the most renowned and respected editors in the industry, whose taste has set new standards across genres from picture books to poetry to nonfiction and literary fiction.” Bicknell, who began her publishing career at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1986, joined Candlewick as editor-in-chief in 1997, five years after the company published its first list.

Among Bicknell’s coups was signing Jon Klassen, who burst out of the gate with his Caldecott Medal-winning I Want My Hat Back and Caldecott Honor-winning This Is Not My Hat; Klassen’s new picture book The Skull is another Bicknell acquisition. Bicknell cultivated work by creators as wide-ranging as popup makers Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart, illustrator Ekua Holmes, and fantasy author Gregory Maguire. She edited M.T. Anderson’s National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing; Carole Boston Weatherford’s Newbery Honor-winning BOX: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom, illustrated by Michele Wood; and Laura Kvasnosky’s Geisel-winning Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways. Other authors and illustrators who worked with Bicknell won Caldecott Honors, Printz Honors, the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award, and more.

Bicknell became executive v-p, executive editorial director, and associate publisher of Candlewick Press in 2015, and served as group trade publishing director of Walker Books Australia from 2014–2017. In a statement, Candlewick president and publisher Karen Lotz said that Bicknell’s “superlative editorial instincts have been a true gift and source of guidance to the many creative staff whom she has mentored and inspired.” Bicknell said, “I could not have wished for a more perfect home... than the house at the sign of the bear and candle.”

Joan Powers Developed Global Brands for Candlewick, Walker

When Candlewick parent company Walker Books announced an investment of £4.5 million (then about $7 million) to expand the company in 2000, Powers was one of the first hires. A former editorial director of mass merchandise at Dutton Children’s Books and editor of trade books at Orchard, Powers became Candlewick’s editorial director for novelty and characters.

She served as editor-at-large until 2012, when she was promoted to group editorial director of the media-related imprints Candlewick Entertainment and Walker Entertainment. Her media projects for Candlewick and the Walker Books Group include developing global brands like Peppa Pig and Sesame Street, and film and TV tie-ins for Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses and The Tiger Rising, and Michael Rosen’s We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, originally illustrated by Helen Oxenbury.

During her 23 years at Candlewick, Powers worked with a slate of authors that included e.E. Charlton-Trujillo (the Fat Angie books), illustrator Chris Van Dusen (the Mercy Watson books, by DiCamillo), and board-book creator Leslie Patricelli.

In a statement, Lotz reflected on “how profound [Powers’s] impact has been. For all of the shining publishing legacy that she has built, it will be the countless day-to-day moments of kindness, wisdom, and good humor that I and her other colleagues will miss the most.” Powers wrote, “While I’m looking forward to what lies ahead, I will miss my colleagues and the many authors and illustrators I’ve had the privilege of working with—so many of whom I consider friends.”