Thomas Low, co-founder of Lee and Low Books

We were sad to learn last week of the passing of Thomas Low, co-founder and director of the trailblazing multicultural US publisher, Lee and Low.

Low co-founded Lee & Low Books in 1991 with Philip Lee, in response to the dismaying lack of multicultural literature for children.

“It was a joy and privilege to be his partner in starting Lee & Low,” says Philip Lee, who left the company in 2004. “He was a great friend, mentor, and visionary. It meant a lot to him to build a company that would promote diversity, encourage new voices, and nurture a new generation of publishing professionals.”

The publishing house has always nurtured new talent, particularly writers and illustrators from minority ethnic groups. Some notable authors who debuted with Lee & Low include Caldecott Medalist Javaka Steptoe, Pura Belpré Author Award winner Guadalupe Garcia McCall, and six-time Coretta Scott King Honor recipient R. Gregory Christie, to name a few.

Tom was also instrumental in setting up the company’s New Voices Award, an annual writing contest for unpublished authors of color, now in its twenty-first year. 

Lee & Low Books has always been a trailblazer for diversity, with an LGBTQ+ collection and leading the way in the industry through initiatives like the Lee & Low and Friends Scholarship and the Diversity Baseline Survey. With imprints for all age groups and reading levels from picture books and early readers up to middle grade and YA under the Tu Books imprint, they also fully support classroom use with teachers’ guides for all their titles.

The company received the 2016 Angel Award from the Carle Honors for “inspiring so many people with its dedication to multicultural books and to a new generation of artists and authors who offer children both mirrors and windows to the world.”

In all, Lee & Low Books currently has a catalogue of more than 1,000 diverse titles in print, making it the largest multicultural children’s book publisher in the country. It is also one of the few minority-owned publishing houses in the U.S.

Set to celebrate its 30th year in the business next year, Lee & Low Books is living proof that there is—and always has been—a strong market for diverse literature.

An obituary of Thomas Low can be found on Publishers Weekly and you can read more about the life and work of this great champion of global children’s stories on the Lee and Low blog.

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