Paying Attention to the Numbers

I am thinking of New Years, Anniversaries, and Birthdays.

My father’s birthday falls during the first week of January. This year he turned 82. A fragile 82. But 82 nonetheless. I know he never expected to be around this long, but here he is, the birthday giving me and the rest of our family a moment to think of him. That’s the way with a birthday once you get past the age where it’s a moment to be the star in your elementary school classroom — to go first to recess, maybe, to be the first to eat the cupcake your parent made for you, or to hope, hope, hope for a particular present. Once the concept of mortality actually enters one’s awareness, though, birthdays become an opportunity to think of what we’ve done with our lives, how far we’ve come, how much more we want to accomplish. When it’s the birthday of someone I’m close to, I always think about what that person’s life has meant to me; I flip through the mental, emotional scrapbook of the time we’ve had together and think of how that person has affected my life. I’ve got a birthday coming up February 27th, which puts me at a nice, round number.  I’ll be doing some emotional scrapbooking of my own soon.

New Year’s celebrations turn that reflection inward. As a Jew, in fact, I do this twice a year, looking back on what I had hoped to do to be a better father, husband, friend, writer, publisher. Inevitably I have fallen short, but I try to use that knowledge not to let myself off the hook, but to remind myself to keep striving. My big brother Dan sent me a postcard once when we were in college (pre-Internet, obviously!) with the quote: “Life is a series of surfaces; the key is to skate over them gracefully.” (That’s at least how I remember the quote now.) I think my experience would add a few things to that quote: Yes, life presents surfaces, but if you don’t look down through the top layer and see what’s below those surfaces, you’re missing the point. Also, when you’re skating you’re bound to fall on your butt repeatedly, so you have to keep getting up and moving even if you’re sore.

Which leads me to Anniversaries.

2012 marks the fifteenth anniversary of Arthur A. Levine Books. Holy Moley!!

At this time of year in 1997, I was working with Norma Fox Mazer to polish the text of WHEN SHE WAS GOOD, a novel with a main character — Em Thurkill, who was so tender, her innate sweetness folded into a tiny nut that was somehow protected from the brutality of her circumstances — that I read the entire book with a lump in my throat. It was the kind of novel that reached out to the part of you that feels battered by life, that acknowledges our deep bruises by fearlessly showing us those of its protagonist. But it did so with an undeniably beautiful, luminous prose that came straight out of the emotional core of Em Thurkill. I wanted the part of me that was like the best part of Em to survive, and reading that novel, PUBLISHING that novel, made me feel as if it might.

By the end of 2012 we’ll have published more than 200 titles at Arthur A. Levine Books. Other survivors have joined Em Thurkill — Thomas Klopper in Guus Kuijer’s The Book of Everything, Marley Sandelski in Lisa Yee’s Warp Speed, Re Jana in Anne Provoost’s In the Shadow of the Ark, the unnamed immigrant in Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter, Marcelo Sandoval in Francisco Stork’s Marcelo in the Real World, and Lida Wallace in Erin Saldin’s The Girls of No Return, to name just a few.

Oh, it hasn’t all been “survival”! We’ve had our laughs (read Andy Rash’s The Robots Are Coming: And Other Problems with a straight face — I dare ya!). We’ve had our explorations of nonfiction (from masters like Russell Freedman no less). And sometimes both at the same time, as in the work of the genius biographer for young people, Jonah Winter (could anyone else make you laugh at Pablo Picasso??).

Over the course of this year, I hope to be celebrating many of the aspects of our publishing program at Arthur A. Levine Books. Every month, we’ll feature a different interpretation of the Lantern Logo as our profile picture, created by some of the brilliant artists who’ve contributed to our list; this month’s lantern is from the delightful Steven D’Amico.  (All you artists out there: Feel free to post your own Lantern Logo interpretation and share it with us!!)

But here, just post-Valentine’s day, close to the start of the year, celebrating the start of our imprint, it seems only fitting to give a special note of thanks and appreciation to all the authors and artists whom we were so proud to introduce to American readers with their debuts (or their debuts in English!):

Leah Bobet
Erin Bow
Deborah Bruss
Elizabeth C. Bunce
Neil Connelly
Kate Constable
Carmela D’Amico
Steven D’Amico
Kevin Emerson
Laura Gallego Garcia
Silvana Gandolfi
Quiara Alegría Hudes
Ana Juan
Guus Kuijer
David LaRochelle
Erin McCahan
Martin Mordecai
Martine Murray
Sally Nicholls
Joanna Pearson
Guillaume Prévost
Anne Provoost
Andy Rash
Trent Reedy
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
J. K. Rowling
Erin Saldin
Dan Santat
Karlijn Stoffels
Nahoko Uehashi
Lisa Yee
Linda Zuckerman
Markus Zusak

Thank you for trusting us to bring your work to an American audience with the passion it deserves.  I hope that you all will take our Imprint Anniversary as a chance to think of your own beginnings, as I am doing now with gratitude.

Yours,

Arthur

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25 Responses to Paying Attention to the Numbers

  1. Betty Tisel says:

    arthur. towering achievements. thank you so much for your gifts to our literary world. with love and appreciation,

  2. Dearest Arthur, congrats on 15 years! I remember reading When She Was Good with a lump in my throat, and often tears on my cheeks. Hooray for great books their great editor! And hooray for nice, round numbers! — “LST”

  3. Dear Arthur,
    I love the way you don’t feel obligated to add to the blogosphere in a daily, weekly, or even monthly manner. But when you do, the words and thoughts are worth reading and pondering. Your readers will come back for more. And congratulations on showing us the human side of a publishing giant.

  4. Mike Jung says:

    Congratulations Arthur! This may sound like hyperbole, but I genuinely believe it’s true – by publishing such wonderful books and introducing such wonderful authors, the people of Arthur A. Levine Books have made the world a better place. We’re all in your debt. Here’s to the first 15 years, and all the years to come!

  5. Brad says:

    15 years?!! Cheers!

  6. Such thoughtful and heartfelt sentiments to reflect upon during a tumultuous time in publishing.

  7. Bina says:

    Arthur…what a wonderful legacy you have started…more to come and more and more! Thanks for all you do!
    BIna

  8. Lisa Yee says:

    Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations! Congratulations!

  9. You have brought so many great books into the world…and back into the world. I cherish the copy of The Mouse and His Child that you gave me. Here’s to many more years of you doing what you do so well. You have made the world better.

  10. Gwendolyn McIntyre says:

    What an amazing fifteen years.

    Mazel Tov!

  11. Jen Nielsen says:

    Congratulations on your anniversary! I can’t begin to think of all the wonderful books this imprint has introduced to the world, and will continue to share.

  12. Congratulations on your anniversary and thanks for being an inspiration for me to get involved in middle school fiction. And although it will be too late to be an anniversary present, I hope you will accept in September one of my first ARCs for your personal enjoyment.

  13. Camily says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for every single book.
    And the best of luck to you and AALBooks!

  14. Congratulations! And good luck for more years of success !

  15. Dan Santat says:

    Proud and honored. Congrats.

  16. Scott Robbbins says:

    Hey Arthur:

    Wasn’t a certain family ski boat christened “Ship Nachas”? Well, I’m feeling a lot of shep nachas right now–forgive the goyish usage!

  17. What an impressive list of accomplishments! Here’s to you and your team at AAL. HUGS!

  18. olugbemisola says:

    Congratulations! And thank you!

  19. Greg Pincus says:

    It’s a pretty fabulous thing y’all’ve done. Congratulations 15 times over… and I look forward to many more years of congratulating you!

  20. Zehava says:

    Congratulations on 15, and as they say in the Jewish world: “Ad Me’ah V’esrim” (until 120)!

  21. Jamie Weil says:

    Mazel Tov, Arthur A. Levine Books! You’ve been in business as long as my beloved and I have been married!

  22. With the list of authors and amazing books that have been published under AALB, I am happy you are celebrating a 15th anniversary. Here’s to many more fruitful years! Cheers.

  23. Arthur,
    The first two paragraphs of your reflection here spoke deeply to me. I’ve reached an age and a stage in life where I often find myself reflecting on my own life and the people around me. Not simply because I have lived 4 1/2 decades, but because my own father is a fragile 74. Unlike your father, he expected to live to be 100. Everything about his health said he would until he developed a progressively degenerative neurologic condition that has no treatment and no cure (Multiple Systems Atrophy). As a physician, I found it particularly frustrating that, despite all of my years of education, research, and caring for others, that I could do nothing to halt the progression of my father’s medical condition. Still, as a family, we are extremely fortunate. My father has outlived his life expectancy for his diagnosis by nearly ten years. And the past decade has allowed us to value life in a way we otherwise might not have.
    I often don’t skate over the cracks in life as smoothly as I could. I have never been physically graceful, that is for certain. But, like you, I have learned to examine the cracks. To study their meaning, and to discern what I can take away from them that will aid in my journey and the journey of those around me. When we fall down, it’s a particularly important time to examine those cracks. It’s an even more important time to get back up and keep moving forward, taking what we have learned with us and sharing it with others. The line you typed that particularly resonated with me was: “Inevitably I have fallen short, but I try to use that knowledge not to let myself off the hook, but to remind myself to keep striving.”
    Congratulations, Arthur, not just on 15 years of success, but on taking the journey with all of it’s cracks, bumps, and bruises, and discovering how to embrace them while enjoying the ride!
    Thank you for sharing, Arthur. You are clearly a writer as well as an editor.

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