After more than 50 years in children’s publishing, most recently as SVP and publisher of Delacorte Press, Beverly Horowitz will retire on May 31. Under her leadership, Delacorte has established a sterling backlist of middle grade and YA novels and nonfiction titles, many of which have graced bestseller lists and award rosters. The robust roundup of celebrated authors whose work Horowitz has edited includes Rob Buyea, Caroline Cooney, Lois Duncan, S.E. Hinton, Daniel Kraus, E. Lockhart, Joan Lowery Nixon, Louis Sachar, and Adeline Yen Mah.

Following Horowitz’s departure, Wendy Loggia, VP and senior executive editor, will be promoted to VP and president and publisher of Delacorte Press. Krista Marino, VP and senior executive editor, will become VP and associate publisher.

Horowitz launched her children’s publishing career in the editorial department at Little, Brown in 1973. “Children’s books were having a new beginning and growth in the early 1970s, and I had the opportunity to apply for a job at Little, Brown in Boston,” she told PW.

The aspiring editor was hired by publisher John Keller, whom she called “a dream-come-true boss. John said to me, ‘You must work as hard as you can and try to get my job, so I can sit around and eat bonbons.’ He let me do so many things and he helped me realize that working for someone is a two-way street. When I first met him, I asked him a lot of questions, and he said, ‘Wait, are you interviewing me?’ And I said, ‘Yes, I am!’ John was one of my earliest mentors and I was enormously lucky to work for him.”

Finding a Professional Family

After several years at Little, Brown, Horowitz moved on to publicity and marketing positions at various houses before returning to her passion: editorial. In 1979, she settled into new work digs as an editor at Dell in Manhattan, where she encountered other individuals who, like Keller, enriched her publishing knowledge and acumen.

One was an older gentleman who appeared at her office door one day. Horowitz wasn’t sure who he was but, she recalled, “He had a kind smile and asked me if I had a stapler and some pens and pencils he could use. So, I gave him what he asked for and off he went. A few days later he was back at my door, and said, ‘Now I need some padded envelopes.’ It turned out that man was Ian Ballantine, who was a giant in publishing. He was one of the people who brought paperbacks to the United States and had retired after being president of Bantam Books and starting Ballantine Books. At that time, he and his wife were doing special projects and had been given an office on the kids’ books floor. He was a font of knowledge and kindness and, although we only chatted a few times, he took the time to tell me the history of paperback publishing. It was fascinating.”

Another colleague who shared his extensive publishing expertise with young Horowitz was George Nicholson, for whom she worked for many years. “George was the powerhouse who changed children’s books with the creation of Yearling Books,” she noted. “Paperbacks allowed kids, teens, teachers, families to have access to books at a reasonable price. I was so curious and eager to learn, and George, like Ian Ballantine, responded to that and passed along so much to me. They both left a big impression.”

Words of Wisdom

With retirement on the horizon, Horowitz reflected on what sets children’s publishing apart from other branches of the business. “It’s important, as an editor in children’s books, to realize that the work you are doing is not about you,” she said. “It’s about what you bring to kids, who are blank slates, and publishing books that have ideas and information that entertain children and help them on their intellectual journeys. Kids and teens may not know what it is they are looking for in a book, but they will find it in the best books. And that is what has always kept me going.”

Horowitz cited agency and hope as key components of optimal children’s books. “Giving characters choices has always been important to me,” she explained. “I remember a book I read as a little girl, Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer. A girl’s parents go away and leave her with two guardians in New York City. They give her a pair of roller skates and she goes all over the city on her own exploring and befriends people on all rungs of the socioeconomic ladder. The story is about being independent and making decisions for yourself. I loved the novel, and it has stayed with me all this time.”

In many of the best books for young readers, including some of the titles she has published, Horowitz affirmed, characters do not always make the right decisions. “People make mistakes, but they figure it out. Our obligation to readers is to give them a slice of hope, no matter how bleak life seems. We can’t always give them a happy ending—that is not life—but there is always some kind of hope and resilience.”

The theme of hope resurfaced as Horowitz discussed the element of risk involved in publishing for the protean children’s audience. “Publishing books for young people is in some ways a powerful position, but you have to be humble and publish not just for yourself but for the kids—and hope it works,” she said. “We’re optimistic gamblers—but we’re still gamblers. The final vote is cast by the reader, and sometimes it takes time to know if you got it right. In some cases, books skip a generation and then come back more popular than ever. As children’s publishers, we have to believe that time is on our side.”

Bright Skies Ahead

And hope, in fact, is in the forefront of Horowitz’s mind as she looks to the future. “We can’t go back, so it’s better to look ahead, and hope that you have been the best that you could have been and believe that what you have achieved has made a difference in children’s lives. This is a hopeful business and the new generations working in it are moving the industry forward.”

Discussing her retirement, Horowitz quibbled with that term. “Actually, I’m calling it a lifestyle change,” she clarified. “I am leaving corporate life—not that I had any problems with corporate life—or if I did, I learned to live with them. The thought popped into my head not long ago that it is time for a new challenge—time to find something big or small that I might master. I’m not sure exactly what that is—I have a list that keeps changing.”

Barbara Marcus, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books, who has worked with Horowitz for 12 years, paid tribute to her many contributions to the company and to the industry. “Beverly was a pioneer in the early licensing of young adult and middle grade paperbacks from hardcover publishers,” she told PW. “She was part of the team that grew Dell Yearling, which remains one of the most recognized children’s paperback imprints today. Beverly’s work on the development of paperback publishing is how authors such as Judy Blume, Lois Lowry, and iconic titles like Harriet the Spy and Holes and so many others reached young readers and teachers for the first time.”

Marcus said that Horowitz is leaving Delacorte in strong and capable hands under the direction of Loggia and Marino. “There is no question that the team will work seamlessly together to continue the strong legacy Beverly created.”

Horowitz echoed Marcus’s confidence, noting, “Delacorte is in terrific shape. I feel as though all the puzzle pieces are in place, and I am happy to leave on my own terms. I have worked with Wendy and Krista for 20 years each—and we’ve been together as a team for a long time. Everyone has grown and we have challenged ourselves and each other. I know that the growth and energy of Delacorte will continue.”