RIP Charlotte Zolotow…

“Everything is the same color–one enormous listless gray world where not a breath stirs and the birds don’t sing.”

(the Storm Book)

I’m sad tonight. Charlotte Zolotow has died.

I’ll leave it to someone else to talk about Zolotow’s contribution to children’s literature.  I can only speak to how much she contributed to me, personally.

My grandmother loved her books, and I have a handful of signed first editions that she got for me.  They entered my life when I was just the right age for them.

Zolotow’s books were special to me. Different from other books.  Calm.  Complex,

I loved The Storm Book.

I loved Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present. Deeply.

“She likes birds in trees.”

But wow. I loved My Grandson Lew best of all.

I had a grandpa who died when I was little myself.  And I think Zolotow captured something in that book… the longing, the sense of loss, the vague memory.  But the presence of a life, as well as the absence of a death.

Somehow, I got that, as a kid…

Though as an adult… I see it differently.


(My Lew with Zolotow’s Lew)

So I am going to sit down tonight, and read CZ’s books to my kids, and think about the power of a good book at the right time.

Not a joke. Not a “hook.” Not a product. But a book.

The right book. Speaking in a clear true voice for the people who need to hear it…

Just the way a grandfather might speak.  With a crinkled eye, and a quiet laugh, or a wistful smile.

So that he can’t possibly be forgotten.

Not even when he’s gone.

“…now
we will remember him together
and neither of us
will be so lonely
as we would be
if we had to remember him
alone.”

(My Grandson Lew)

7 Responses to “RIP Charlotte Zolotow…”

  1. :paula Says:

    Laurel, this is so nice. I’m in the midst of reading picture books for the Cybils Awards, and I going to keep in mind your words: “not a joke, not a hook…”

  2. Fran Manushkin Says:

    What a wonderful post, Laurel! I had no idea how much Charlotte’s books meant to you–and how wonderful to see that enchanting handwriting of hers.

  3. Suzi W. Says:

    Laurel,

    what a wonderful tribute. When I found out this morning, buying a NYT (a luxury for me) at Starbucks, I turned it over to see “Charlotte Zolotow, 98.” I stood waiting for my latte with tears streaming down my face. She is one of my dearest and favorite children’s authors and editors. I did research on her in Library School, and follow her daughter Crescent D. on Twitter and FB. Thank you for writing this.

    xo (and cupcakes)
    S.

  4. Crescent Dragonwagon Says:

    Lately, my favorites are Where the Wind Stops and My Grandson Lew.

    Thank you for loving my mother and her books so deeply.

    CD

  5. Crescent Dragonwagon Says:

    WHEN the Wind Stops!

  6. laurel Says:

    I’m honored by your comment, and so moved by the story of how you’ve cared for her. It’s something we should all aspire to.

    Also, a fan of your work too!

  7. Crescent Dragonwagon Says:

    Laurel… thank you. So glad her work meant so much to you… lessens my own sadness…

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