Jean Edna Karl (July 29, 1927 in Chicago, Illinois– March 30, 2000 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania) was an American book editor who specialized in children‘s and science fiction titles. She founded and led the children’s division and young adult and science fiction imprints at Atheneum Books, where she oversaw or edited books that won two Caldecott Medals and five Newbery Medals. One of the Newberys went to the new writer E. L. Konigsburg in 1968 for From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.
Karl was born and raised in Chicago. She graduated from the Methodist Church-affiliatedMount Union College in 1949 and immediately began work in the book industry, initially at Scott Foresman in Chicago (Dick and Jane readers), then at the Methodist Church-ownedAbingdon Press in New York City (children’s editor). The founder of Atheneum, Alfred A. Knopf, Jr. personally recruited her in 1961 to establish the Atheneum Books for Young Readers division which she led until she retired. There she started the imprints Aladdin Paperbacks (mass market children’s) and Atheneum Argo (young-adult science fiction [hardcover]). Atheneum is now part of Simon & Schuster.[lower-alpha 1]
After retiring in 1985 she continued to edit books (as Atheneum editor-at-large) almost until her death in 2000. She died at a hospice in Lancaster with no immediate survivors.