Children’s book editor David Gale, who shaped a distinguished roster of award-winning titles and proudly championed works of LGBTQ literature, died on October 9 following a long illness. He was 65.
Gale was born and grew up in Philadelphia, where he also took the first steps toward building a publishing career. He did editorial work on textbooks at Philadelphia publisher J.B. Lippincott following his graduation from Case Western Reserve University. Graduate studies brought Gale to New York City, and soon after earning a master's degree, he landed a job in 1982 as an editorial assistant working with Trevelyn Jones on the Book Review at School Library Journal. Following a seven-year-stint at SLJ, Gale moved on to editorial positions at HarperCollins and Dell/Delacorte before joining Simon & Schuster, the house where he worked for 25 years, most recently as v-p, editorial director of the S&S Books for Young Readers imprint.
As an editor, Gale worked with such noted authors as Gary Paulsen, Emily Gravett, Todd Strasser, Chris Lynch, Margaret Peterson Haddix, Tony DiTerlizzi, John Lithgow, and numerous others, shepherding works that have been named a National Book Award for Young People’s Literature winner (Godless by Pete Hautman), Printz Honor books (Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger), Lambda Literary Award winners (Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle; Putting Makeup on a Fat Boy by Bil Wright; So Hard to Say by Alex Sanchez), Stonewall Honors, and various other accolades.
Gale was a tireless advocate for diversity and inclusion in children’s and YA books, and actively supported LGBTQ literature in particular via his work with Lambda Literary’s LGBTQ Writers in Schools program in New York City and as a member of the Rainbow Round Table of the American Library Association, among other efforts. In a Rainbow Round Table profile, he said that his passion “is finding new writers and helping them grow.”
One of those new writers was television producer, director, and screenwriter Rob Thomas, best known for his critically acclaimed series Veronica Mars. Before Thomas’s TV career took off, he worked with Gale on his debut YA novel, Rats Saw God (1996). “Quite simply, David changed my life,” Thomas told PW. “It must be so much easier to buy novels from people with a track record, but Rats Saw God was the first thing I’d written, and he stuck his neck out for it. I’ve been working in television for a long time now, and studio and network executives are not hesitant about insisting writers make changes based on their tastes or based on what a focus group might tell them. I find myself longing the bygone days where it was just David and me. David certainly had some recommendations, but he made it very clear the final product should be what I believed in.”
Gale found another new voice in Laurent Linn, art director for S&S Books for Young Readers who worked with Gale as a colleague, and also as an author, on his debut YA novel Draw the Line (S&S/McElderry, 2017). Linn offered these words of tribute about his friend: “One of the many magnificent aspects of David that shines above all for me is respect. I am fortunate he was in my life as a colleague, friend, and my editor. As an art director working with him at S&S, I got to see daily his open respect for colleagues and our varied viewpoints. As a friend I saw how he treated everyone the same, truly listening to what people say like few do—and also not being afraid to challenge what he heard in his special “David way”—he was the master of the eye roll. And, as an author and illustrator, I am exceedingly grateful I got to experience firsthand David’s extraordinary respect for story, character, intent, and an author’s vision. And it is because he respected others so honestly that he, in turn, was deeply respected, too—his gentle voice carried much weight in all of children’s publishing. He was a tireless champion of LGBTQ children’s and teen literature and helped nurture and amplify marginalized voices that too often were met with disrespect. He changed the landscape of publishing because of it. We owe him so much. It’s a sadder world without him, but how lucky are we that his legacy will live on in meaningful books, and in us.”
Actor John Lithgow, who embarked on a new creative path when he published a number of picture books with Gale, beginning with The Remarkable Farkle McBride (2013), shared this remembrance. “David Gale was a dream editor and a dear friend. He guided me through all nine of my Simon & Schuster children’s picture books. He also urged me to create a book of poems for kids and to illustrate it myself. With this last challenge I was a great disappointment to him, but I’ve published two bestselling books of political satire in the last two years in exactly the format that he had envisioned for me. I thank him for opening up this entire second career for me, and I miss him deeply.”
Ellen Wittlinger, whose novel Hard Love won a Printz Honor in 2000—the inaugural year of the award—recalled her time working with Gale: “What I remember fondly about David is his enthusiasm,” she said. “If he loved your book, he told everybody about it. He handed or sent the ARC to every librarian and bookseller he knew, and David knew them all. And because he knew everyone, it was particularly fun to attend an awards ceremony with David, which I was fortunate enough to do several times. I’d get a warm introduction to those I admired, and, afterwards, a little gossip about them too. I credit David with jump-starting my career and helping to keep it on track. He published more of my books than any other editor, and I’ll always be grateful to him. The entire children’s book industry will sorely miss him.”
Authors Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson worked with Gale on the 2005 picture book And Tango Makes Three, about two male penguins, Silo and Roy, who create a family together. The title stirred up controversy and has been frequently challenged since its release. Parnell and Richardson spoke jointly about teaming up with Gale for the book. “David was enthusiastic about Tango from the beginning. It was important to us that we have a say in who would illustrate the book, and in how it would look—unheard of in the world of picture book publishing, but David agreed to it. He brought us Henry Cole, and it was a wonderful collaboration. David believed in Tango’s potential to find an audience, especially among LGBTQ families. After the book was published, he was both intrepid about defending, and also somewhat delighted by, the controversies surrounding the book—it helped sales! And he was fun to go to the book conventions with. He loved getting the swag! We will greatly miss him, and see him on every page of Tango.”