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Editor’s Corner: Beverly Horowitz on “Youngified” Novels

January 11, 2012

One of the new features we are introducing in 2012 is our monthly Editor’s Corner.  Here you’ll be able to get a truly inside look at the editorial process and learn how books are published.  To kick off our new feature, today we welcome Beverly Horowitz, V.P. Publisher of Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, to discuss “youngified” books and how some of them came to be.

Horowitz began her career in the Editorial department of Little, Brown, in Boston. Curious from the start to learn all aspects of the publishing business, she held positions as Publicity/Promotion Director at Bradbury Press and Academic Marketing and School and Library Marketing Director at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. After gathering this varied experience early in her career, she returned to her passion for editorial work and has been at Delacorte/Dell/Bantam/Doubleday/Random House for more than two decades. Horowitz edits Judy Blume, Louis Sachar, Caroline B. Cooney, Reza Aslan, Adeline Yen Mah and many other beloved and debut authors. Throughout her career, she has been an advocate of First Amendment rights and has fought against censorship.

Youngification: a made-up noun. The adaptation of a carefully selected work of adult nonfiction, restructured or rewritten appropriately to entertain and inform a young reader.

When you read a book and find it fascinating, you often want to share your excitement with others. Our Delacorte Press “youngifications” began when I found myself excited about an adult book published by Random House colleagues. I felt it would be worthwhile to adapt it for a younger audience, while retaining the expertise of the author’s work. This became one of many youngifications, from some bestselling adult nonfiction authors published by our company.

Pictured here are a number of our youngifications, with the adult books below them. As you can see, sometimes we change the title and the jacket art, and sometimes we don’t. Each project has its own story, and we give careful attention to every detail.

Here are a few backstories about how some of our books were youngified.

Flags of Our Fathers: A Young People’s Edition

When this book was published on the adult list, I thought it was important to adapt the work for young people. Flags of Our Fathers tells the story behind one of the most famous moments in American military history—the raising of the U.S. flag on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima on February 23, 1945—and the immortal photograph that lifted the hearts and spirits of our nation at war. The adult book then follows the flag raisers after they returned from the war. In this case, we hired Michael French, a writer for young adults, to work on the adaptation.  A review in VOYA said, “French’s abridgement loses none of the horror of battle or the impact of the famous photograph.” We did not change the title or the cover art for this project, and when the Clint Eastwood film came out, we used the same movie tie-in art as the adult book. This is a classic backlist seller.

China’s Son: Growing Up in the Cultural Revolution

The story of how Da Chen came to rewrite his adult memoir, Colors of the Mountain, for young people is rather odd but fun. It started at a mall in Westchester, where I had taken my daughter to find a pair of shoes early on a Sunday morning. We were really in a hurry, but across from the shoe store I noticed a man sitting at a table in front of a bookstore, surrounded by books and totally alone. I told my daughter that we had to walk by the bookstore and make an effort because I hate to see a sad-looking author. There sat Da Chen with a stack of his memoirs, waiting for someone to buy the book and get his autograph. I read the flap and realized it was an inspiring story about his triumph during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. I introduced myself and casually suggested that he consider doing a version of his book for young people. Da was thrilled with this idea. He was so moved that he wanted to play his flute for us, and he picked it up from the table and played a song. I admit, my daughter made a comment or two about her mom always working! That Tuesday, I got a call from Da saying he was eager to rewrite his memoir for young people. For this book we changed the title as well as the art and the structure of the content, but the details are the same. The Booklist review called it “highly readable and very personal.” With all the interest about China today, this work is a more important read than ever.

 

 

Condoleezza Rice: A Memoir of My Extraordinary, Ordinary Family and Me came to us because Condoleezza Rice felt that her remarkable childhood might inspire young people. We agreed. In this case we changed the text, title, and jacket from the adult version. We decided to restructure the adult memoir to follow her life in chronological order. It began in the 1950s in Birmingham, Alabama, where black people lived segregated from their white neighbors, and moved into her childhood during the violent and shocking 1960s, when bloodshed became part of daily life in the South. Rice’s portrait of her parents’ sacrifices for her and the challenges she faced are eye-opening. This volume won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work for Youth/Teens.

Many of our other youngifications, such as Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah and No god but God: The Origins and Evolution of Islam by Reza Aslan, are assigned in schools to encourage understanding and tolerance.

 

 

***

I am thrilled that we will be adding Outcasts United by Warren St. John to our youngification list, and we have more truly wonderful adult bestselling non-fiction titles coming.

I believe our adaptations have helped spotlight important nonfiction by highly acclaimed authors. I am often told that adult readers find our youngifications interesting too!

We’d love to hear from you – please let us know if you’ve read one of these novels or any other adaptation of an adult book for a younger audience!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 11, 2012 8:27 am

    Very interesting post. thank you.

  2. January 11, 2012 11:19 am

    Thank you for featuring Ms. Horowitz and her book anecdotes.

  3. Krisha permalink
    January 12, 2012 8:37 pm

    This will act as good guide for finding great books.

  4. Peg permalink
    January 12, 2012 9:33 pm

    Very interesting, Beverly. Might be interesting to hear from you about translated books, too.

  5. January 13, 2012 11:17 pm

    Wow I’ve never read any of these books, but this is so great! In my Honors Language class we’re writing a career essay, and one of my careers is editing. I always find it hard to come up with my own ideas and correct my own mistakes; with other people’s papers, I find exactly what to change and what to do. It’s really weird, but I love helping others. This was really interesting and I think it’s fantastic. Thank you!

  6. February 17, 2012 10:16 pm

    I loved the story about how you met Da Chen. I will definitely read his book — I’m not sure which version, since I am writing for children myself. It would be interesting to read both and compare.

    Deborah Fletcher Blum

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