Margaret K. McElderry died at the age of 98 this week. Legendary is a word that comes up a lot when her name is mentioned; she edited many children's books that became winners of Caldecott and Newbury medals (one memorable year her books won both awards), and she created her own imprint, Margaret K. McEderry Books, now at Simon & Schuster. But she did not, as this morning's New York Times obituary said, "exactly glide to success." She was told as a senior at Mount Holyoke that she had nothing to offer the publishing industry, and in 1971 she was told by her boss at Harcourt: "The wave of the future has passed you by." After being told this she went on to work and win awards for over thirty more years in publishing.
Margaret published and edited four of my children's books and was not only a brilliant editor and made each book far better than I ever dreamed it could be, but she was also an amazing friend to her writers. I loved working with her and loved our lunches together in New York. Once in LA when she was visiting I got seriously lost and in an absolute panic driving her around Beverly Hills trying to find our restaurant (OMG I've got Margaret McElderry in the car and I'm lost). We ended up laughing about it every time we got together. She might have been a legend in publishing but she was also warm and funny and kind, and so much fun to be with. Remembering Margaret working with such energy and enthusiasm into her nineties will inspire me for the rest of my life.