May Massee


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(1883–1966), American children's book editor, translator, and publisher. Born in Chicago to a family descended from the Puritans, Massee grew up a voracious reader and a fan of St. Nicholas Magazine. While she was very young, the family moved to Wisconsin, where she completed high school and attended the Wisconsin Library School. She spent five years at the Buffalo Public Library, working in the children's room. Her interest in spreading knowledge about the best children's books led to her editorship of the A.L.A. Booklist. In 1922, Doubleday, Page, and Company in New York invited her to create a department for children's books. She disliked the term “juvenile” and replaced it with “junior books.” She supported and encouraged the publication of a wide range of pioneering children's books of outstanding quality, many of them reflecting cultures and traditions from around the world, such as Margery Clark's Poppy Seed Cakes (1924), illustrated by Maud and Miska Petersham. With the aid of her friend Ernst Reichl, a German émigré, she translated Erich Kästner's popular Emil und die Detektive into American English (1930) in a lively and widely read rendition. In 1933 she left Doubleday for Viking Press. An exceptionally gifted editor, she shepherded a substantial number of books to literary and artistic fame, including four that won the Caldecott Medal and nine that won the Newbery Award.

From The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children's Literature in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.

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