After 13 years—and nearly 36,000 reviews—young readers’ editor Vicky Smith is leaving Kirkus to return to the library world. Her colleagues at the magazine, not to mention the hundreds of reviewers who write for her, have met this news with a combination of shock, dismay, hand-wringing, and floods of tears. Also immense gratitude. Vicky’s stewardship of the young readers’ sections made a palpable impact on the world of children’s literature. Here, some friends and colleagues offer their appreciation.
To say that I’ve learned a lot working alongside Vicky does not begin to do credit to someone whose work ethic and generosity of spirit are second to none. Vicky possesses a rare combination of boldness, courage, and humility—and it shows in everything from her caring relationships with reviewers to the thoughtful interview questions she asks authors and illustrators, the tireless behind-the-scenes support she provides to her colleagues, and her unceasing desire to improve the way we approach reviewing. While Vicky started conversations that have inspired change industrywide, she never loses sight of the child reader. She leaves a gap not easily filled but has paved the way for her successor to flourish and carry on in a spirit of appreciation and critical reflection.—Laura Simeon, young readers’ editor
Six years ago, Vicky Smith took a chance on me. I’d written book reviews before, but never in the concise way that Kirkus is known for and never of YA books. I was nervous. But Vicky taught me everything I needed to know with patience, a keen editorial eye, and so much love and kindness. Vicky’s attention to detail and nuance, and her integrity and commitment not just to diversity, but to the real work of justice and equity in the literary world—all of this is reflected in the reviews published under her guidance. I will really miss working with her, but I’m thrilled for the lucky readers in her hometown who will now benefit from her warmth and love of literature.—Deesha Philyaw, critic and author
Vicky is unquestionably one of the smartest people I know, a quintessential librarian at heart, possessed of so many facts about so many topics that it boggles the mind. I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside Vicky since she came to Kirkus in 2008. In the years since, Vicky was front and center in the design of our new content management system, displaying a facility with the minutiae of databases that surpassed that of any editor I’ve known. Which is to say, she’s not just a top-notch editor and kid-lit guru; she’s a well-rounded dynamo. Though she’s exiting this Kirkus roller coaster after 14 years, she will not be forgotten, and she will be missed every day.—Eric Liebetrau, nonfiction and managing editor
I have the honor of being Vicky Smith’s ex-brother-in-common-law-once-removed. Which is to say, Vicky’s brother is married to my ex-boyfriend’s sister. We met one Thanksgiving, and in the following years I have found her to be a warm friend, an intimidating intellect, a person always curious and eager to learn, and a reader with excellent taste that I either agree with wholeheartedly or disagree with in interesting and thought-provoking ways. Vicky is someone you want to have in your corner; I will miss having her in mine at Kirkus.—Kyle Lukoff, author and critic
To paraphrase an E.B. White quote from Charlotte's Web: It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend, a good writer, and a keen reader. Vicky Smith is all three. —Linda Sue Park, author
Long before we became colleagues, I’d heard the legend of Vicky Smith. Whenever the subject of Kirkus came up in publishing circles, insiders paid tribute to her as our cozy industry’s most fabulous children’s reviews editor. I was lucky to see her in action up close these last few years, most consistently on our Fully Booked podcast, where I awaited her weekly reading recommendations with great excitement. Vicky’s keenness to connect young readers with smart, bighearted books reoriented my journalism. My favorite editors’ segments were the ones when she read aloud. Things won’t be the same without you, Vicky. And while I will miss you dearly, I wish you every good thing in your next chapter.—Megan Labrise, editor at large
I’d agreed to serve as a judge for the Kirkus Prize in 2019 when Vicky emailed with bad news: My own new book had just received a terrible Kirkus review. With grace, she offered to let me pull out of the judging process. I thought about it—that review was painful—but somehow managed to pray through the Litany of Humility (look it up, it’s a dangerous prayer) and told her I’d keep going. A week or so later a package came from Vicky. Inside was a lovely note along with a jar of her homegrown honey—the perfect reminder to keep trying to sweeten the world of literature for young people, even if it means getting stung a time or two. That’s you, Vicky—courageous, truthful (stings and all), and gracious in your unswerving commitment to providing children with excellent books. Thank you.—Mitali Perkins, author