LEE & LOW BOOKS was founded in 1991 by Chinese American Tom Low and Philip Lee. The company specializes in multicultural children’s books and its goal is “to meet the need for stories that children of color can identify with and that all children can enjoy.” LEE & LOW BOOKS has won numerous major awards and honors, including the Coretta Scott King Award, the Pura Belpré Honor Award and the Parents’ Choice Award, to quote a few.
Mr. Low, I thank you for joining us today. LEE & LOW BOOKS was founded in 1991 by Tom Low and Philip Lee. Tom Low stated that “there was a lot of interest in books focused on diversity,” when the company was founded.
Would you say that that statement still apply today? Has LEE & LOW BOOKS observed any significant variations in the multicultural book market?
JL: Thanks, Nathalie, for having me. I am sure your readers are aware of the statistics kept by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) that track the number of children’s books by and about people of color. Here is the link: http://www.education.wisc.edu/ccbc/books/pcstats.asp”.
According to the CCBC, 13% of children’s books published each year contain diversity. This number has not increased or decreased significantly since 1994, when the CCBC started tracking the number of “multicultural” books published. Even though the statistics do not show an increase in output by publishers, my impression is that a substantial demand for diverse books exists, but it will require greater effort on our part to make people aware of our mission and our books. I know this from the emails we receive and the people we meet at conferences. They confirm the need, but almost always say: “Where have you been all this time? I’ve never heard of you!” This response leads me to believe that even after 17 years of publishing, we still have an exposure problem. To gain more exposure will take patience and many more years, but we are determined to solve this problem over time. One thing we are grateful for is people like you who help spread the word about our books and our accomplishments.
LEE & LOW BOOKS works closely with educators. You provide a variety of educational titles for traditional, home schooled, and ESL students through your imprint Bebop Books, as well as free online resources. Is the submission process for Bebop Books different, meaning is there a call for submissions to address specific needs observed in the classroom?
JL: The submission process is different for Bebop Books since these books are designed as educational tools. We receive direct input from educators as to the kinds of subjects and topics they are looking for and we try to respond editorially through the books we publish for this imprint. We usually solicit submissions from teachers and writers who are familiar with the educational constructs these books need to address. The books are leveled, and also coordinate with national standards.
Do you publish authors who live abroad?
JL: We have worked with a number of illustrators who reside outside the United States, but no authors yet. Not that we would be against working with authors from overseas, but we simply have not received any manuscripts quite right for us.
Congratulations to LEE & LOW BOOKS, to your writers and illustrators for the incredible list of awards earned since your creation. You work with established authors and illustrators like Ted and Betsy Lewin; however, you also actively seek to discover and showcase new talents through the LEE & LOW BOOKS annual New Voices Award.
Assuming that prospective writers follow scrupulously the submission guidelines, is there an ultimate advice you would give writers and illustrators honing their craft?
JL: I am extremely proud of our New Voices Award and the books we have published from this program. To learn more about our New Voices Award go here: http://www.leeandlow.com/p/new_voices_award.mhtml
My advice for new writers and illustrators honing their craft is to do your homework. If you are interested in submitting a manuscript to us, familiarize yourself with what we have published. Remember, the preferences of LEE & LOW’s editors are reflected in the books we’ve published, so you can figure out a lot about the kind of stories we are drawn to and the type of illustrations we like by the browsing our books on our Web site or in your local library. One also has to develop a sense of what sells. Read the books of all publishers, and take special notice of award winners. Personally, I make a point to read award-winning books from other houses so I can form my own opinions about why a certain book was deemed special enough to win a prestigious award. It is helpful habit to surround yourself with good books. Reading and studying them will help you see how successful writers and illustrators tell stories in both words and pictures, and that knowledge should have a positive influence on your own work. Last, try to be bold and surprise us. Editors love to discover original stories they have not seen before and are willing to work harder to help you realize your vision if it is unique.
Mr. Low, it has been an honor to interview you. I thank you for your time and for sharing your experience.
JL: Thanks again, Nathalie, for having me.
Note from Multiculturalism Rocks: Congratulations to John Parra for winning the 2010 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for his work on the bilingual picture book Gracias/Thanks, written by Pat Mora!
Some publications of LEE & LOW BOOKS include
Picture Book: Balarama: a Royal Elephant, by Ted and Betsy Lewin. 2009.
Non-Fiction: Sacred Mountain: Everest, by Christine Taylor-Butler. 2009.
Middle Grade: Tofu Quilt, by Ching Yeung Russell. 2009.
Young Adult: Alicia Afterimage, Lulu Delacre. 2008.
For information on this year’s New Voices Award Honor Winner, click here!
Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful week!