Lerner Publishing Group Celebrates Founder and Chairman Harry Lerner’s 90th Birthday
Cheers to 90 years! Lerner Publishing Group is honored to celebrate Founder and Chairman Harry Lerner’s 90th birthday. Family and friends gathered together at a party to toast Harry and honor his legacy and the impact he has made on the children’s book publishing industry.
Harry Lerner was born on March 3, 1932, in Minneapolis. As a young boy, Harry helped his parents, Morris and Lena Lerner, in their grocery store on Nicollet Island, less than a mile from where Lerner Publishing Group is headquartered today. At his family’s store, Harry worked alongside his brothers, David and Aaron, and his sister, Miriam. Harry was a young entrepreneur at heart.
When Harry was a young soldier stationed in Germany, he started publishing a guidebook, distributed by Stars and Stripes, the U.S. military’s independent news source, for servicemen who wanted to purchase cars while serving overseas. The guidebook helped soldiers select cars and provided information on traveling in Europe. When he returned to civilian life, Harry finished college and began publishing a magazine, Sporting Goods Journal.
In 1959, Harry switched to publishing children’s books, launching with a series called Medical Books for Children aimed at helping children through their childhood illnesses. These books were produced with help from his brother, Aaron, and were written by his sister-in-law, Marge Lerner. Using her sons as characters, Marge explained such topics as chickenpox, mumps, and measles. She also featured a female doctor in the books, at a time when there were few female doctors. The illustrator for the books was George Overlie, who would go on to finish dozens of books for Lerner Publications. Thinking that the natural market for these first eight books were doctors’ offices and hospitals, Harry sent direct mail to these locations–and as an afterthought, to schools and libraries. The medical community did not respond, but schools and libraries did. A business was born!
Harry Lerner built his businesses through self-sufficiency. He started Muscle Bound Bindery in 1967 and purchased Interface Graphics in 1994 to support a fully integrated and independent publishing op-eration.
Harry Lerner and the Lerner family have also been instrumental in the development of the wonderful literary community in Minnesota through support of important organizations such as The Loft, Books For Africa, The Minnesota Library Association Foundation, the Minneapolis Public Library, University of Minnesota libraries, and the Kerlan Collection. The Lerners celebrate diversity in children’s book publishing not only by publishing diverse books, but by offering multiple scholarships every year including the Vaunda Micheaux Nelson Scholarship for Writers of Color at Hamline University.
Today, Lerner Publishing Group is one of North America’s largest independent book publishers for children and young adults. Harry Lerner remains chairman of the company, and his oldest son, Adam Lerner, is the Publisher and CEO.
All of us at Lerner Publishing Group are proud of our company’s history and none of it would be possible without Harry’s support, drive, and leadership. Happy 90th birthday, Harry!