The Junior Library Guild (JLG) began in June 1929 as a children's version of the Literary Guild, a book club that had been distributing selected current books to adults since 1927. Called the Junior Literary Guild at the time, the club initially centered on individual members. Children received the books directly, wore membership pins, and often formed reading clubs. The Junior Guild's monthly magazine, Young Wings, included poems, features about the books and their authors, and letters from readers. Here is what Bertina of Cranford, New Jersey, wrote in response to receiving the first three selections: "The Beckoning Road is lovely. I have not quite finished it as my mother lent it to a sick friend of ours. I'm so glad I can have my own books every month because some of the books you send mother she will not allow me to read. After school is over, I expect to have time to make a bookshelf for my own books, and if it is good enough I might be able to make some more and sell them, and in that way make enough to pay for next year's books. I love detective and murder stories, but I do not like 'goody goody' stories with helpful endings. P.S. I shall tell all my friends about the books."
"My Junior Guild year has surely been a grand success," wrote Ann from Scarsdale, New York. "It has added to my library not just books, but books which gave me new thoughts and new ideas."
Some of the children wrote about their Junior Guild pins as well as the books they had read: "I belong to your club and like it very much," wrote Marvin in Milwaukee. "I wear your pin every day and all the boys want to see it." Adele of Long Island lost her pin: "I have been wearing my pin proudly every day. I love it. But today (oh, where were my stars?) I somehow or other managed to lose it. It would be impossible for me to find it, as I went to three different villages, into department and grocery stores. I have searched the automobile thoroughly and although I'm fourteen, I had to cry. Could you please, please, send me another? I suppose I'm asking too much, but I miss it so dreadfully!"
Soon after the Junior Literary guild's inception, librarians began inquiring about subscriptions. By the 1950s, the majority of subscribers were school and public libraries, and the change of name to Junior Library Guild in 1988 reflected that market.
The chief criterion for selection for Junior Guild has remained the same over the years: books that provide a satisfying reading experience for children at progressive age levels. Initially, JLG had three groups—books for younger children, for older girls, and for older boys. There are now nineteen different levels ranging from preschool through mature young adult, none of which is gender specific.
Throughout its seventy-five years, the editorial management of the Junior Guild has passed through just a few hands. Carl Van Doren—writer, editor, teacher—briefly held the position of editor in chief followed by Helen Ferris, who came to JLG in August of 1929 and stayed until 1960. Ann Durell, formerly of Doubleday's Junior Books Department, was head for only two years, but her successor, Thérèse Doumenjou, who had served in many capacities on the staff before becoming editor in chief had in all a nearly fifty year association with the Guild. In 1970, after years as a children's book editor, Marjorie Jones took over the post and stayed until her retirement in 1994. Today Susan Marston, a former teacher who was hired by Marjorie Jones, is the editorial director. Barbara Huff, longtime managing editor at JLG, worked with Helen Ferris and retired in 1997. With such connections the staff has a strong feeling of continuity from JLG's beginnings to the present.
Until 1975, the Junior Guild also had an editorial board. The members were chosen primarily for their celebrity status, and they played a minimal role in book selection. However, they contributed pieces to Young Wings and evaluated the works they read. Eleanor Roosevelt, certainly the most recognizable member, joined the board in 1929 and remained a member for the rest of her life. After reading A Wrinkle in Time in 1962, by Madeleine L'Engle, she summed up her thoughts in this way: "I have a feeling that this book may not only be interesting for young people but may also have a good deal of real value for this age group." A Wrinkle in Time went on to win the Newbery Medal in 1963.
Publication of Young Wings magazine was suspended in 1955. Instead members began receiving our Resource Catalogue twice a year. Today's 116-page catalogues include detailed, up-to-date author and artist biographies, book descriptions, recommended Dewey classifications, information about how titles can supplement curricula, illustrations from each book, lists of award-winning titles, and ordering information.
The JLG list is comprised of fiction and nonfiction, including concept books, poetry, biography, humor, historical fiction, and mysteries. The Guild has offered to its members many award-winning titles and such classics of children's literature as Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey, and Horton Hears a Who!, by Dr. Seuss; Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg. Our recent catalogues feature works by such authors and illustrators as Avi, Ann Brashares, Eve Bunting, Lauren Child, Sharon Creech, Kate DiCamillo, Ian Falconer, Anne Fine, Paul Fleischman, Douglas Florian, E.R. Frank, Cornelia Funke, Kevin Hawkes, Karen Hesse, Will Hobbs, Kimberly Willis Holt, Arthur Howard, Steven Kellogg, Dick King-Smith, Gary Paulsen, Cynthia Rylant, Jon Scieszka, Jacqueline Woodson, and Jane Yolen.
As the Junior Library Guild celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary, we thank these talented authors and illustrators and the thousands of others who have created the books we have chosen over the years. We also thank the publishers, who made the selections possible, and our loyal members.
JLG's Current Editorial Staff:
Susan Marston, Editorial Director, has been with the Junior Library Guild since 1991. She holds a BA in psychology from Franklin and Marshall College and spent her junior year studying in Konstanz, Germany. She earned an MEd at Cabrini College and taught both preschool and elementary school. She has taken publishing courses at New York University, Vassar, and the City College of New York. In addition to her lifelong love of children's books, she enjoys hiking, cycling, swimming, and spending time with her husband and young son.
Sugihara, Senior Editor, holds a degree in French from Middlebury
College. She is fluent in French and has also studied Chinese, German,
and Spanish. She has worked for the French government and a French law
firm, and taught English in Shanghai, China. She enjoys food, wine, books,
the outdoors, and sharing JLG books with her nieces and nephews.
Ethan Karsen grew up in the Chicago area. He earned a BA in religion from Northwestern University, where he was on the Dean’s List and a member of the Alpha Delta Lambda Honor Society. Ethan has also studied at a monastery in Japan, University of California-Berkeley, and the New School University. In the past, he has worked as a pastry chef, been a youth sports advisor, tutored junior high school students, and coached for the Special Olympics.
Podolnick grew up in East Hills, New York, and graduated from
Brown University. She has studied at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland
and once spent several months working on a construction site in an Athabaskan
village in Alaska. Ms Podolnick has also been employed by Red Group at
Showtime, Inc., and by a combination flower/skateboard shop. She enjoys
music, cooking and, most importantly, reading.
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