After three decades as editor of SLJ’s Book Review, Trevelyn Jones will retire October 18, 2013, leaving behind a legacy of expertise, integrity, and a love of children’s literature that is largely unmatched in the industry. Jones joined SLJ in 1982 after 16 years as children’s and young adult librarian at the Garden City (NY) Public Library (GCPL) and three years at the Cleveland (OH) Public Library. She received her MLS from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.
“It has been an interesting and inspiring 30-plus years, filled with thousands of books, wonderful friends and colleagues, and tremendous challenges,” says Jones. “I owe so much to my dedicated, knowledgeable, and loyal editors, and to Lillian Gerhardt, former editor-in-chief, who was my friend long before she became my boss and mentor.” To celebrate her retirement, SLJ reached out to Jones’s industry colleagues to reflect on her contributions.
According to Gerhardt, “Trev is the perfect example of someone who actually lived up to the phrase ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ long before it began adorning everything from baby bibs to beer mugs. Come to think of it, that approach to life and work is shared by all the most terrific librarians who serve the young and throughout her career she’s been one of them. She was a pleasure to work with.”
Longtime friend and colleague Rita Auerbach recalls, “I first got to know Trev when she was the much loved children’s librarian at the Garden City Public Library….Parents and children in the district marveled at her ability to find intriguing books for every child, for inspiring children to leave the library with stacks of books in their arms. She knew more about children’s literature than anyone I’d met and she cared so much about the children and the teachers with whom she cooperated.”
Frequent SLJ Reviews contributor Caroline Ward notes, “Our friendship really cemented when we found ourselves on the 1979 Newbery/Caldecott Committee—our incredible experience made us fast friends forever. When she took over the position of book review editor I had a chance to counsel her—‘Of course you can do it,’ I said. And done it she has, so expertly, for so many years, and with such attention to detail and sensitivity to the many issues involved in reviewing children’s books.”
Jones’s first foray into the editorial world under Gerhardt opened the door to working with David Gale, then a textbook publisher looking to break into children’s trade publishing. Trev hired Gale as assistant editor during her first week at the helm of SLJ‘s Book Review.
Though Jones is quick to point out, “David taught me everything I knew about editing,” Gale, now VP/editorial director of Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, tells SLJ, “Trev generously taught me a new way to look at books.” After seven years on staff at SLJ, he says, “I left with a far better understanding of publishing, librarians, and the library market than I could have gotten in any other job. I will always value the gamble that Trev took on me a long time ago.”
In her many years heading up Book Review, Jones set and maintained high standards, and increased the number of children’s and young adult book reviews from about 2,000 a year in 1982 to nearly 6,000 per year. She also introduced Series Made Simple, a supplement covering nonfiction series titles; SLJ’s monthly “Focus On” print feature; the “Adult Books 4 Teens” column and blog; and many more innovations. In 1988, with Gerhardt and in partnership with the American Library Association division now known as YALSA, she launched the Margaret A. Edwards award, which SLJ continues to sponsor.
Jones chaired the 1986 Newbery Committee, as well as the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) Legislation Committee, the ALSC Membership Committee, and the Distinguished Service Award committee, and she served three years on the ALSC Board of Directors.
Jones’s passion for kid lit and her dedication to the job has always been evident throughout her career, her colleagues tell SLJ. Notes author Julie Cummins, “I knew and admired Trev Jones long before I became coordinator of children’s services at New York Public Library. I was in awe of the power of her position, her knowledge, and her dedication.”
Victoria Stapleton, director of school and library marketing for Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, says, “Trev Jones is the soul of graciousness. Her welcoming presence and enthusiasm for books has on many occasions reminded me of the importance of what we do. She is honest, but never cruel. Firm, but never harsh. More than her love for children’s books, it is her deep respect for the work that has impressed me from the beginning. And to top it all off, she is a fantastic guest at any event, because she knows everything and can chat with just about anyone.”
“I have many fond memories of Trev,” adds Betsy Groban, SVP/publisher of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. “Trev has been a welcome presence at so many gatherings over the years. It has always been a special treat because of her rare combination of keen intelligence, encyclopedic knowledge of children’s books, and gracious demeanor. Best of all, it has always been about the books and the authors first. She has made a remarkable contribution to our community.”
Children’s book author and friend Lee Bennett Hopkins agrees. “I’ve known Trev since she started at SLJ,” he says. “The publishing industry—authors, illustrators, editors, agents, publishers—owe a debt of gratitude to Trev for her dedication and the innovative touches she brought to SLJ. Her patience, charm, humor, and honesty surely deserve that prestigious starred review.”
It’s a sentiment also shared by children’s book author and former Philomel editor Patricia Lee Gauch, who says Trev Jones was always the first person she’d like to share a new book with, over a 20-plus-year tradition of booktalk lunches. “Her eyes would light up. This meant everything to me…it was part of the process, the send-off for a good book. We talked books of all kinds. We both had an inordinate love for good books, and sharing that love meant our lunchtime talks would range in wonderfully literary and publishing-world ways.”
Barbara Elleman, former editor of the children’s section at Booklist and later Book Links, recalls, “Once we both had been asked to speak at the same conference and to share a hotel room, too. Did we mind? Not at all. We talked the night away, comparing, contrasting, agreeing, and disagreeing on the latest prepub copies of titles that had recently reached our desks. I believe dawn was breaking when we finally closed our eyes—and our mouths.”
Jones remembers the night fondly, she says. “It was in Philadelphia! We talked all night long, and then we had to get on a panel and speak!”
John Mason, Scholastic’s library and educational marketing director, says, “I have always greatly enjoyed her no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is attitude. She knows everybody and is a great source of what’s going on in our field. She can be hysterically funny. I’d start describing a new book and she’d say, ‘Don’t tell me—it’s 700 pages and it’s book one of a new dystopian trilogy.’”
Remembers publisher Dick Jackson, “Trev introduced me to several new (or new to me) restaurants near her offices during years of publishers’ ‘courting’ lunches. She introduced me also to a common-sense, easily amused and amusing way of looking at books, at publishing, and at life as a serious undertaking. She was and is a deeply serious person, and I appreciate that. I know she was valued by the thousands of readers and reviewers who depended upon her judgment and book wisdom.”
Says author and consultant Lauren L. Wohl, “She made me realize that this profession is a very important one. Children’s books matter—they are part of making lives bigger, better, richer. And I believe this in large part because Trev has dedicated her working life to them.”
Upon retirement, Jones will become SLJ’s editor-at-large. She will be succeeded by Kiera Parrott, head of children’s services at Darien (CT) Library.
“I couldn’t be more delighted with my successor, who brings great ideas and a terrific book sense to SLJ,” says Jones. “I know that it’s in good hands.”