Mary Lee Donovan graduated with a BA in English from the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (then North Adams State College) in 1983, and earned an MA in Children’s Literature in 1986. She worked in a children’s book shop before making publishing her profession. After seven years in the Children’s Trade Division at Houghton Mifflin Co. (now Clarion Books), she joined Candlewick Press.

Mary Lee Donovan grew up in Dalton, Massachusetts, and now makes her home in Littleton, Massachusetts.

A Houghton Mifflin logo
of days gone by.
The Children’s Bookshop logo,
created by Trina Schart Hyman


Mary Lee Donovan has written four books for children, including Papa’s Bedtime Story, illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root and Won’t You Come and Play with Me, illustrated by Cynthia Jabar. Her fourth book, A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, illustrated by Lian Cho released October 2021 from Greenwillow Books, a division of HarperCollins. Her fifth book, Let Me Call You Sweetheart, illustrated by Brizida Magro, was released on December 27, 2022, also from Greenwillow.


Mary Lee Donovan is represented by Vickie Sanders at VSA.


Like the beautiful artwork used as part of this website’s visual theme? It is original artwork created free-hand by my son, Nathaniel Santoro. He named it the “mamadala.” To the right, another one of his original free-hand designs.

Kindling Words

Searching for (and not finding) a workshop or retreat that went beyond the nuts and bolts of getting published, J. Alison James and Mary Lee Donovan founded and launched Kindling Words in 1991. Kindling Words is a three-day retreat designed for published authors and illustrators and editors of children’s books to focus particularly on craft.

For more about the twice-yearly retreats, Kindling Words East and Kindling Words West, visit https://kindlingwords.org

Candlewick Press

In May 2023, Mary Lee Donovan will celebrate 32 years of working at Candlewick Press, a children’s-only book publisher located in Somerville, Massachusetts. She is an Editorial Director, with a particular focus on the picture book, though she has been known to dabble across all genres. Highlights include:

Off-Limits by Helen Yoon

Counting In Dog Years: Poems About Math by Betsy Franco, illustrated by Priscilla Tey

The Judy Moody and Stink series, written by Megan McDonald, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

Good Masters, Sweet Ladies: Voices from a Medieval Village by Laura Amy Schlitz, illustrated by Robert Byrd, winner of the Newbery Medal

Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz, a Newbery Honor Book

Journey by Aaron Becker, a Caldecott Honor Book

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, a Caldecott Honor Book

Juana and Lucas by Juana Medina, winner of the Pura Belpre Author Award

Out of Wonder: Poems about Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth, illustrated by Ekua Holmes, winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award

For a complete catalog of Candlewick Press titles, visit www.candlewick.com

Scenes from the office