Revered children’s book editor and author Ann K. Beneduce, who had a guiding hand in launching the careers of Eric Carle and many other authors and illustrators, died on March 18 in Princeton, N.J. She was 102.
Beneduce was born September 16, 1918 in Maplewood, N.J., and grew up in nearby Short Hills, N.J. She began attending Bryn Mawr College at the age of 16 and earned her B.A. from Barnard College in 1946. She additionally pursued graduate studies at
While raising two young daughters on her own following a divorce, Beneduce wrote book reviews for a local newspaper and did storytimes at the library. By 1957, she took her first steps into the world of publishing, landing a job at Doubleday, working as
a junior editor of adult trade books. Nearly three years in, she made her case for a raise and a promotion. “I was told, ‘My dear, we never make women senior editors except in the areas of children’s books, cookbooks or mysteries,’ ” she
recalled in a 2001 interview with PW. With that, she sought a better opportunity, and found one in the children’s book department at Lippincott, where she began working for editor Eunice Blake in 1960.
In a 1983 interview with children’s book historian Leonard S. Marcus, Beneduce admitted that she initially believed the children’s side of the book business might be a downward career step. However, she soon discovered that it was an ideal match. “
It was only after I began working on children’s books that I saw it was something I loved doing, and that it was challenging and rewarding,” she told Marcus. “In addition, I had done graduate work in developmental psychology, and I was passionately
interested in literature and art, as well as in the intellectual development of children, and I found that editing children’s books was the perfect combination of all these concerns.”
Blake at Lippincott and other noted editors of the day, including Elizabeth Riley at Crowell and Velma Varner at World Publishing, were considered internationalists, according to Marcus, and were among the first in the industry who sought to publish
children’s books from other countries to expand the world view of American children. “This became very important for Ann’s work as well,” Marcus told PW.
In 1963, Beneduce left Lippincott to become Varner’s assistant. The following year, when Varner left for Viking, Beneduce was made editor-in-chief at World. It was there that Beneduce first saw samples from an advertising artist named Eric Carle who
was looking to illustrate children’s books. “I loved the art and knew we wanted him to do something for us,” she told PW in 2009. After completing two early projects, Carle proposed doing a book about a worm that nibbled its way through the pages
of a book. He and Beneduce “sat down and figured out exactly what the character and plot should be,” she told PW, and the result was The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which was published in 1969. But the book featured full-color art and pages of different
sizes with precisely positioned die-cut holes—a printing project no U.S. company would take on. By chance, on a vacation to Japan, Beneduce found a willing Japanese publisher to manufacture the book, and history was made. Carle and Beneduce formed a
close bond and would go on to work together for many years, even after Beneduce’s retirement, up through Carle’s 2015 title The Nonsense Show...
From Contemporary Authors:
Freelance author, translator, and editorial consultant on children's literature and illustration. J. P. Lippincott, New York, NY, apprentice and assistant to Eunice Blake, 1960-63; head of the children's book departments at World Publishing Company, 1963-
69, T. Y. Crowell, 1969-77, and Collins and World Publishing, 1977-80; founder of imprint and head of children's books at Philomel Books and G. P. Putnam, 1980-86. Member of several committees, including National Advisory Council, U.S. Committee for
UNICEF, executive committee of the U.S. chapter of the International Board on Books for Young People (USBBY), the International Relations Committee of the American Library Association (ALA), art jury for the Biennale of Illustration in Bratislava (BIB),
and several committees of the Children's Book Council; member of board of directors of U.S. Committee of UNICEF and the Valida Foundation; member of advisory board for various organizations, including Weston Woods Institute and the Eric Carle Museum of
Picture Book Art.
A Weekend with Winslow Homer, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1993.
(Reteller and adaptor) Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Adventures in Lilliput, illustrated by Gennady Spirin, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 1993.
(Reteller and adaptor) William Shakespeare, The Tempest, illustrated by Gennady Spirin, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 1996.
(Reteller) Leo Tolstoy, Philipok, illustrated by Gennady Spirin, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 1996.
(Reteller) Jack and the Beanstalk, illustrated by Gennady Spirin, Philomel Books (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor and author of introduction) Joy to the World: A Family Christmas Treasury, illustrated by Gennady Spirin, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2000.
Moses: The Long Road to Freedom, illustrated by Gennady Spirin (Illustrator), 2004.
TRANSLATOR FROM THE FRENCH
A Weekend with Picasso, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1991.
A Weekend with Renoir, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1991.
A Weekend with Rembrandt, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1991.
A Weekend with Velazquez, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1992.
A Weekend with Leonardo da Vinci, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1993.
A Weekend with Vincent Van Gogh, Rizzoli (New York, NY), 1994.
Agnes S. Holzapfel, Petit Claude: The Orphan of Auschwitz, Xlibris (New York, NY), 2001.
Maybe the book’s humble beginnings is what contributed to the mystery Carle could not easily solve. It all began one day when Carle found himself with nothing to occupy his attention. And though there are sayings that warn against idle hands, this time
idleness proved to be rewarding. He grabbed a stack of paper and began to punch holes. As he looked at the holes, he immediately thought of a bookworm. He took the idea of what he was calling Willi Worm to his editor, Ann Beneduce. She was not convinced
that a worm would be very attractive to readers. As they thought together, she suggested “Caterpillar” and he responded “Butterfly!” And that is how The Very Hungry Caterpillar came to be.