Aladdin’s team has extensive expertise in every category of children's books, from picture books through middle grade.

Kristin Gilson

Editorial Director

Kristin joined the Aladdin team in Fall 2019 after many years as Editorial Director at Puffin Books, and spent the early part of her career in the children’s divisions of Random House and HarperCollins. During her time at Puffin, she edited a broad range of titles including movie novelizations written by Lynne Reid Banks and Peter Lerangis, multiple books by National Book Award finalist Kathleen Duey, several titles by Schneider Award-winning author Jonathan Friesen, the Young Readers’ adaptation of Al Gore’s Our Choice, and a variety of series including Hank the Cowdog, Sweep, Vet Volunteers, and more. She also published numerous new editions of beloved classics and contemporary favorites, many containing new or never-before-seen material, and has had the good fortune to work with authors such as Gayle Forman, Al Gore, Jacqueline Woodson, Nancy Werlin, S. E. Hinton, and Laurie Halse Anderson.

A lifelong book enthusiast, Kristin firmly believes in the power of a good story, and still has her very first library card. She’s excited to start building her list at Aladdin.

What’s on Kristin’s Wish List?
On the fiction side: realistic fiction with a focus on building representation for the Asian/South Asian, Latinx, LGBTQ, and physically challenged communities. I’m particularly drawn to quirky characters who are looking to figure out (or create) their place in the world. I like stories with honesty and heart; books that can make readers laugh, cry, think, and feel. I love a strong, smart, nerdy girl protagonist, strong sibling stories, and snarky humor, and am also looking for books that will help keep middle-grade boys devoted to reading. On the non-fiction side: I’m looking for stories of overcoming adversity, books about young people who are making a difference, celebrations of unsung heroes, and humorous approaches to unusual subjects.

Karen Nagel

Executive Editor

Karen Nagel has had the great good fortune of a career in children’s book publishing. From #1 New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly bestselling books to Coretta Scott King, Society of Illustrator, Christopher Medal award–winners, as well as NAACP Image Award Nominees, she has worked with many of industry’s most noteworthy authors and artists. Today she is the Executive Editor at Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin Books, where she not only has continued to work on bestselling books, but perhaps more significantly has conceived and created new formats for emerging—and reluctant—young readers, planting the seeds for a lifelong love of books. A graduate of New York University, she’s a true believer in the transformative and transcendent power of the arts, the ocean, friendship, family, peace, and love.

What’s on Karen’s Wish List?
Fresh and funny stories and characters (picture book to chapter book, through younger middle grade) that will appeal to and engage beginning and reluctant readers; nonfiction stories in inventive formats that can be as fascinating on the page as they are in real life.

Karen’s Titles Include:

Alyson Heller

Senior Editor

Alyson joined the Aladdin team in 2008 after a two-year stint in the Simon & Schuster Associates Program. She acquires picture books, chapter books, middle grade, but her heart is in contemporary middle grade. Aly is actively looking for non-fiction projects as well for our list. On both the non-fiction and fictional side, she has a particular affinity for strong female characters who kick butt and take names, stories that represent the under-represented and stories that take on tough stuff in the middle grade space.  Some recent and upcoming books she’s edited range from nonfiction projects, (Born Just Right by Jordan Reeves and Jen Lee Reeves, Never Caught: The Story of Ona Judge, George and Martha Washington’s Courageous Slave Who Dared to Run Away: Young Readers Edition by Erica Armstrong Dunbar and Kathleen Van Cleeve), to series (Mindy Kim series by Lyla Lee and illustrated by Dung Ho, Little Goddess Girls by Joan Holub and Suzanne Williams), to contemporary MG reads (Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee, Lola Benko, Treasure Hunter by Beth McMullen, Fearless by Mandy Gonzalez). Tweet her @EditorAlysonH.

What’s on Aly’s Wish List?
Diverse voices and stories that reflect our society today (through ethnic/racial identity, socio-economic, or physical diversity); stories that explore complicated family bonds, retellings of movies, ballets, or classics for a middle grade audience with a contemporary spin; an MG that explores a story with an adoptee as the main character (but the story itself is not about finding one’s birth parent(s)). For picture books, I love humorous, high concept manuscripts with limited text—and a little dark humor never hurts!

Aly's Titles Include:

Jessica Smith

Associate Editor

Jessica Smith joined Simon & Schuster in September 2016 soon after finishing NYU’s Summer Publishing Institute. She received her BA in English literature and fiction writing at the beautiful University of Pittsburgh where she fell in love with editing. Other than getting lost in a great book, her favorite activities are laughing, daydreaming, and telling her cats Hank and Wilson how unbearably cute they are.

What’s on Jessi’s Wish List?
Stories with a combination of whimsy, quirk, humor, and heart--huge bonus if they're playfully dark/Tim Burton-esque!; Planned series or books with series potential; Stories pertaining to animals—mythical or real, but always rescue; Stories that will make me cry (happy, sad, or bittersweet tears—I love them all!); Anything that brings a fresh, updated twist to something familiar, like fairy tales; Accessible nonfiction that uses visuals or humor to make facts fun, especially nonfiction about animals, the environment, and science.

Jessi's Titles Include:

Anna Parsons

Assistant Editor

Anna joined the Aladdin team in June 2018 after interning at The Overlook Press, Open Road Integrated Media, Holloway Literary Agency, and Tor. She received an MS in Publishing from New York University and has bachelor’s degrees in history and Spanish from Auburn University. When she isn’t reading, you can find her playing piano, watching shows on Netflix or Broadway, hosting game nights, or dreaming of traveling the world.

What’s on Anna’s Wish List?
High concept chapter book through upper middle grade fiction, especially featuring underrepresented voices, that is full of magic or adventure: character-driven fantasy and science fiction; suspenseful thrillers, mystery, and light horror; and reimagined fairy tales, folklore, and mythology. In picture books I gravitate toward humor and holiday themes, and in nonfiction I look for accessible narrative nonfiction or illustrated books about important social topics, uplifting stories, animals, and history.

Anna's Titles Include:

Kara Sargent

Director of Brand Publishing

Kara Sargent joined Aladdin in December 2020 in the newly created role of Director of Brand Publishing. Kara is an S&S Children’s alumni, having worked in Simon Spotlight as Editorial Director until 2015, after which she worked at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as Editor in Chief of Brand, Licensed, and IP Publishing. Over the course of her career, Kara has written, developed, and edited hundreds of books for children of all ages, across formats as young as leveled readers and chapter books, and as advanced as young adult novels. Some of the projects she’s loved working on the most include the Spirit: Riding Free series by Suzanne Selfors, The Legend of Shadow High by Shannon and Dean Hale, the YA thriller Phantom Wheel by Tracy Deebs, and most recently, the launch of the new Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly graphic novel series by Jordan Quinn. Kara is passionate about bringing brands to life in publishing and believes books are the perfect vehicle for introducing new stories, worlds, and characters to kids. Kara loves working closely with her authors to help develop their vision. She is thrilled to be back at S&S and focusing on middle grade novel and graphic novel acquisitions for Aladdin, as well as a list of cutting edge new titles for MTV Books.

What’s on Kara’s Wish List?
Extremely commercial series (novel or graphic novel) with strong brand potential. Stories that allow kids to escape, experience new things, or think about the world in a new or different way. Stories and characters that model kindness, tolerance, and resilience. An exciting new mystery series has been on her wish list for ages now, and if the story has a cat (even just a cameo by a cat!), that’s never a bad thing.