Zolotow, Charlotte 1915- (Sarah Abbott, Charlotte Bookman, Charlotte Gertrude Shapiro Zolotow)
Zolotow, Charlotte 1915- (Sarah Abbott, Charlotte Bookman, Charlotte Gertrude Shapiro Zolotow)
Surname is pronounced "zahl-uh-tao" (last syllable rhymes with "how"); born June 26, 1915, in Norfolk, VA; daughter of Louis J. (an attorney and business owner) and Ella (an activist and committee member) Shapiro; married Maurice Zolotow (a writer), April 14, 1938 (divorced, 1969); children: Stephen ("Zee"), Ellen ("Crescent Dragonwagon"). Education: Attended University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1933-36. Religion: Jewish. Hobbies and other interests: Reading; gardening; working with indoor plants; listening to music, mostly classical; visiting family and friends; watching life on her street; listening to the wind.
Home—Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. Office—c/o Charlotte Zolotow Books, HarperCollins, 10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022.
Author, editor, publisher, educator, and lecturer. Harper & Row, New York, NY, senior editor of children's book department, 1938-44, 1962-76, vice president and associate publisher of Harper Junior Books division, 1976-81, consultant and editorial director of Charlotte Zolotow Books division, 1981-91, publisher emeritus and editorial advisor, 1991—. Has lectured at Indiana Writers Conference, the University of Colorado and at the conventions of the American Library Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, and the International Reading Association. Also worked as a secretary and stenographer and clerked in a bookstore.
Authors League of America, PEN.
Writing scholarship, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1933; honor book, Spring Book Festival, New York Herald Tribune, 1952, for Indian, Indian; Caldecott Medal honor book, 1953, for The Storm Book, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham; Caldecott Medal honor book, 1962, for Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, illustrated by Maurice Sendak; Outstanding Book of the Year, New York Times, and Best Book of the Year, School Library Journal, both 1972, Redbook Award, 1985, and designation, 101 Books That Shaped the Century, 2000, all for William's Doll; Harper Gold Medal Award for Editorial Excellence, 1974; Christopher Award, 1975, for My Grandson Lew; Helen C. White tribute, University of Wisconsin—Madison, 1982; Carolyn W. Field Award, Pennsylvania Library Association, Youth Services Division, 1984, for Some Things Go Together; Redbook Award, 1985, for I Know a Lady; Irwin Kerlan Award, University of Minnesota Children's Literature Research Collection, 1986; Literary Marketplace Award, R.R. Bowker, 1990; University of Southern Mississippi Silver Medallion, 1990; American Library Association (ALA) resolution expressing gratitude for her contributions, 1991; Jeremiah Ludington Award, Educational Paperback Association, 2001; Regina Medal, Catholic Library Association, 2002. Zolotow received ALA notable book citations for Do You Know What I'll Do?, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, My Grandson Lew, and William's Doll in their respective years of publication.
PICTURE BOOKS; FOR CHILDREN
The Park Book, illustrated by H.A. Rey, Harper (New York, NY), 1944.
But Not Billy (also see below), illustrated by Lys Cassal, Harper (New York, NY), 1947, 2nd edition, illustrated by Kay Chorao, Harper (New York, NY), 1983.
Indian, Indian, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1952.
(As Charlotte Bookman) The City Boy and the Country Horse, illustrated by William Moyers, Treasure Books (New York, NY), 1952.
The Magic Word, illustrated by Eleanor Dart, Wonder Books (New York, NY), 1952.
The Storm Book, illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham, Harper (New York, NY), 1952, 2nd edition, illustrated by Ilse Plume, Harper (New York, NY), 1989.
The Quiet Mother and the Noisy Little Boy, illustrated by Kurt Werth, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1953, 2nd edition, illustrated by Marc Simont, Harper (New York, NY), 1989.
One Step, Two …, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1955, revised edition, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1981.
Not a Little Monkey, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1957.
Over and Over, illustrated by Garth Williams, Harper (New York, NY), 1957.
Do You Know What I'll Do?, illustrated by Garth Williams, Harper (New York, NY), 1958, 2nd edition, illustrated by Javaka Steptoe, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
The Night When Mother Was Away, illustrated by Reisie Lonette, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1958, published as The Summer Night, (also see below), illustrated by Ben Shecter, Harper (New York, NY), 1974.
The Sleepy Book, illustrated by Vladimir Bobri, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1958, 2nd edition, illustrated by Ilse Plume, reissued with illustrations by Stefano Vitale, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
The Bunny Who Found Easter, illustrated by Betty Peterson, Parnassus Press (Berkeley, CA), 1959, 2nd edition, illustrated by Helen Craig, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1998.
The Little Black Puppy, illustrated by Lilian Obligado, Golden Press (New York, NY), 1960.
Aren't You Glad?, illustrated by Elaine Kurtz, Golden Press (New York, NY), 1960.
In My Garden, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1960.
Big Brother (also see below), illustrated by Mary Chalmers, Harper (New York, NY), 1960.
The Man with the Purple Eyes, illustrated by Joe Lasker, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1961.
The Three Funny Friends, illustrated by Mary Chalmers, Harper (New York, NY), 1961, 2nd edition, illustrated by Linda Bronson, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2003.
Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, illustrated by Maurice Sendak, Harper (New York, NY), 1962.
When the Wind Stops, illustrated by Joe Lasker, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1962, 2nd edition, illustrated by Howard Knotts, Harper (New York, NY), 1975, 3rd edition, illustrated by Stefano Vitale, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
The Quarreling Book, illustrated by Arnold Lobel, Harper (New York, NY), 1963.
The Sky Was Blue, illustrated by Garth Williams, Harper (New York, NY), 1963.
A Tiger Called Thomas, illustrated by Kurt Werth, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1963, 2nd edition, illustrated by Catherine Stock, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1988, 3rd edition, illustrated by Diana Cain Bluthenthal, Hyperion (New York, NY), 2003.
The White Marble, illustrated by Lilian Obligado, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1963, 2nd edition, illustrated by Deborah K. Ray, Crowell (New York, NY), 1982.
A Rose, a Bridge, and a Wild Black Horse, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz, Harper (New York, NY), 1964, 2nd edition, illustrated by Robin Spoward, Harper, 1987.
I Have a Horse of My Own, illustrated by Yoko Mitsuhashi, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1964.
The Poodle Who Barked at the Wind, illustrated by Roger Duvoisin, Lothrop (New York, NY), 1964, 2nd edition, illustrated by June Otani, Harper (New York, NY), 1987, 3rd edition, illustrated by Valerie Coursen, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2002.
Flocks of Birds, illustrated by Joan Berg, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1965, 2nd edition, illustrated by Ruth Lercher Bornstein, Crowell (New York, NY), 1981.
Someday, illustrated by Arnold Lobel, Harper (New York, NY), 1965.
When I Have a Little Girl, illustrated by Hilary Knight, Harper (New York, NY), 1965.
Big Sister and Little Sister, illustrated by Martha Alexander, Harper (New York, NY), 1966.
If It Weren't for You, illustrated by Ben Shecter, Harper (New York, NY), 1966, 2nd edition, illustrated by G. Brian Karas, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2006.
I Want to Be Little, illustrated by Tony de Luna, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1966, reissued as I Like to Be Little, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, Crowell (New York, NY), 1987.
Summer Is …, illustrated by Janet Archer, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1967, 2nd edition, illustrated by Ruth Lercher Bornstein, Crowell (New York, NY), 1983.
When I Have a Son, illustrated by Hilary Knight, Harper (New York, NY), 1967.
My Friend John, illustrated by Ben Shecter, Harper (New York, NY), 1968, 2nd edition, illustrated by Amanda Harvey, HarperCollins, 2000.
The New Friend, illustrated by Arvis L. Stewart, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1968, 2nd edition, illustrated by Emily A. McCully, Crowell (New York, NY), 1981.
The Hating Book, illustrated by Ben Shecter, Harper (New York, NY), 1969.
(As Sarah Abbott) Where I Begin, illustrated by Rocco Negri, Coward-McCann (New York, NY), 1970, revised edition published as This Quiet Lady, illustrated by Anita Lobel, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1992.
A Father Like That, illustrated by Ben Shecter, Harper (New York, NY), 1971, 2nd edition, illustrated by Joanne Scribner, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000, 3rd edition, illustrated by LeUyen Pham, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2007.
The Beautiful Christmas Tree, illustrated by Ruth Robbins, Parnassus Press (Berkeley, CA), 1972, 2nd edition, illustrated by Van Nascimbene, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.
Hold My Hand (also see below), illustrated by Thomas di Grazia, Harper (New York, NY), 1972.
(As Sarah Abbott) The Old Dog, illustrated by George Mocniak, Coward-McCann (New York, NY), 1972, 2nd edition as Charlotte Zolotow, illustrated by James Ransome, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1995.
William's Doll, illustrated by William Pene du Bois, Harper (New York, NY), 1972.
Janey, illustrated by Ronald Himler, Harper (New York, NY), 1973.
My Grandson Lew, illustrated by William Pene du Bois, Harper (New York, NY), 1974.
The Unfriendly Book, illustrated by William Pene du Bois, Harper (New York, NY), 1975.
It's Not Fair, illustrated by William Pene du Bois, Harper (New York, NY), 1976.
May I Visit?, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, Harper (New York, NY), 1976.
Someone New, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, Harper (New York, NY), 1978.
If You Listen, illustrated by Marc Simont, Harper (New York, NY), 1980, 2nd edition, illustrated by Stefano Vitale, Running Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002.
Say It!, illustrated by James Stevenson, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1980.
The Song, illustrated by Nancy Tafuri, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1982.
I Know a Lady, illustrated by James Stevenson, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1984.
Timothy Too! (also see below), illustrated by Ruth Robbins, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1986.
Something Is Going to Happen, illustrated by Catherine Stock, Harper (New York, NY), 1988.
The Seashore Book, illustrated by Wendell Minor, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.
The Moon Was the Best, photographs by Tana Hoban, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1993.
Peter and the Pigeons, illustrated by Martine Gourbault, Greenwillow (New York, NY), 1993.
Who Is Ben?, illustrated by Kathryn Jacobi, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1997.
Hold My Hand: Five Stories of Love and Family (contains But Not Billy, Hold My Hand, Timothy Too!, Big Brother, and The Summer Night), Hyperion Books for Children (New York, NY), 2003.
POETRY; FOR CHILDREN
All That Sunlight, illustrated by Walter Stein, Harper (New York, NY), 1967.
Some Things Go Together, illustrated by Sylvie Selig, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1969, 2nd edition, illustrated by Karen Gundersheimer, Crowell (New York, NY), 1983, 3rd edition, illustrated by Ashley Wolff, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1999.
River Winding, illustrated by Regina Sherkerjian, Abelard-Schuman (New York, NY), 1970, 2nd edition, illustrated by Kazue Mizumura, Crowell (New York, NY), 1978.
Wake Up and Goodnight, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, Harper (New York, NY), 1971, 2nd edition, illustrated by Pamela Paperone, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Everything Glistens and Everything Sings: New and Selected Poems (anthology), illustrated by Margot Tomes, Harcourt (San Diego, CA), 1987.
Snippets: A Gathering of Poems, Pictures, and Possibilities (anthology), illustrated by Melissa Sweet, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1993.
Seasons: A Book of Poems, illustrated by Erik Blegvad, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
A Week in Yani's World: Greece (textbook; for children), photographs by Donai Getsug, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1969.
A Week in Lateef's World: India (textbook; for children), photographs by Ray Shaw, Crowell-Collier (New York, NY), 1970.
You and Me (textbook; for children), illustrated by Robert Quackenbush, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1971, published as Here We Are, illustrated by Robert Quackenbush, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1971.
(Editor) An Overpraised Season: Ten Stories of Youth (anthology; for young adults), Harper (New York, NY), 1973.
(Editor) Early Sorrow: Ten Stories of Youth (anthology, for young adults), Harper (New York, NY), 1986.
Contributor to books, including The Writer's Handbook, 1968, and The Sun in Me: Poems about the Planet. Contributor of articles to adult periodicals, including the Horn Book, McCall's, Prism, and Writer's Yearbook, and of stories and poems for children to anthologies and magazines. Zolotow's works have been translated into other languages, including Chinese, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Korean, Japanese, and Spanish. Her papers are housed permanently at the Cooperative Children's Book Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI; in the De Grummond Collection, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS; and in the Kerlan Collection, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN.
My Grandson Lew was released by Barr Films, 1976; William's Doll was adapted for film by Robert Carlo Chiesa and released by Phoenix/BFA, 1981; Someone New was produced as a film by Busustow Entertainment and included in the Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc. (CBS) Library television program The Wrong Way Kid, 1983; A Father Like That was adapted for film by Phil Marshall and released by Phoenix Films, 1983; The Hating Movie was released by Phoenix Films and Video, 1986. Weston Woods released a filmstrip of Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, 1966; Educational Enrichment Materials released filmstrips of Someday, When I Have a Little Girl, When I Have a Son, and The Three Funny Friends, all in 1976; and Listening Library released a filmstrip of A Father Like That, 1978; in addition, Harper Mediabook released a filmstrip of The Hating Book. Zolotow is the subject of Charlotte Zolotow: The Grower, a film released by Random House/Miller-Brody, 1983, and was interviewed in Picture Books: The Symposium, a video by Tim Podell Productions, 1991. My Grandson Lew and The Seashore Book were read aloud on the Reading Rainbow television program, Public Broadcasting Service.
Random House released a combination book and audio cassette of I Know a Lady, 1986. Sound recordings of some of Zolotow's books were made by Vancouver Taped Book Project, 1972; an audiocassette of Wake Up and Goodnight was released by Caedmon, 1988. William's Doll was adapted into a song that appeared on the recording Free to Be You and Me.
Called "a genius at writing picture book narratives for young children" by Ginny Moore Kruse in an interview with Cynthia Leitich Smith of Children's Literature Resources and "one of the century's most distinguished editors" by Michael Cart in Booklist, Charlotte Zolotow has been a distinguished contributor to literature for children for more than sixty years. A prolific, popular writer under both her own name and the pseudonyms Charlotte Bookman and Sarah Abbott, she is the creator of approximately seventy works, mostly picture books for readers in the early primary grades; in addition, Zolotow is a poet and the compiler of two short story collections for young adults. She also is celebrated for her work in the field of publishing: as an editor at Harper & Row (now HarperCollins) for more than fifty years, Zolotow discovered and fostered the careers of many award-winning writers for young people. In her books for children, Zolotow articulates the experiences of childhood from the child's point of view, writing with the hope that her young audience will see that other boys and girls share their feelings.
Zolotow's picture books can be grouped into several general categories: moods and emotions; death and dying; seasons and cycles, especially the cycle of life; families and friends; neighbors and neighborhoods; nature and animals; and holidays. These works portray the exterior and interior lives of children as they discover the world and seek to find their places in it. The author often is credited as being among the first writers of picture books to address social issues—such as death, sexism, and single parenthood—and to do so in an honest and sensitive manner. Several of Zolotow's books are considered classics, one of the most prominent being William's Doll, the story of a small boy who wants a doll more than anything else, despite the protests of his father, brother, and male friends; Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, which features a question-and-answer session between a talking rabbit and a little girl who wants to find the perfect gift for her mother's birthday; and My Grandson Lew, which describes how a six-year-old boy who is grieving for his grandfather shares his memories with his mother. Several of Zolotow's works have been revised textually by the author to reflect current social values and have been republished with new illustrations by contemporary artists; in some of this art, main characters who originally were Caucasian have been replaced by African Americans.
Zolotow has edited the works of many notable writers for children and young people, such as Lynne Reid Banks, Francesca Lia Block, John Donovan, Paul Fleischman, Mollie Hunter, M.E. Kerr, Patricia MacLachlan, Barbara Robinson, Mary Rodgers, John Steptoe, Barbara Wersba, Laurence Yep, and Paul Zindel. Although most of her original works are for primary graders, she concentrates on works for young adults as an editor. In addition, she has nurtured the talents of several authors whose primary careers originally were not in the field of juvenile literature, such as Alan Arkin, Nathaniel Benchley, Marcel Marceau, Sylvia Plath, Judith Viorst, and Delmore Schwartz, and helped them to produce books for children. Zolotow's works have been graced by many prominent illustrators, including Maurice Sendak, H.A. Rey, Margaret Bloy Graham, Leonard Weisgard, Roger Duvoisin, Garth Williams, Arnold and Anita Lobel, Uri Shulevitz, Hilary Knight, Kurth Werth, Kay Chorao, Ben Shecter, William Pene du Bois, Marc Simont, Mary Chalmers, Erik Blegvad, James Stevenson, Tana Hoban, James Ransome, and Nancy Tafuri.
As a literary stylist, Zolotow favors simple yet lyrical prose that is noted for its smoothness, elegance, and use of rhythm and repetition. Her works are acknowledged for their gentle, reflective quality as well as for their craftsmanship, perceptiveness, and compassion. The author has been consistently praised for her understanding of children as well as for her insightful, accurate detailing of their deepest thoughts and feelings. Although Zolotow occasionally is criticized for her understated style and for her creation of slight plots, observers have confirmed that her contributions to the fields of writing and editing for children have been particularly significant and influential. "Few writers for small children so empathize with them as does Charlotte Zolotow …," observed May Hill Arbuthnot and Zena Sutherland in Children and Books. "[Her] understanding of children's emotional needs and problems, and her ability to express them with candor have made her one of the major contemporary writers of realistic books for children." Writing in Books Are by People: Interviews with 104 Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young Children, Lee Bennett Hopkins called Zolotow a "truly great author who has given us so much to be thankful for in the field of literature for the very young child." Writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Elizabeth Francis stated that "as an editor and a writer Charlotte Zolotow has significantly changed expectations about form and quality in the contemporary picture book."
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, Zolotow is the daughter of Louis J. Shapiro, an attorney who also ran several companies, including one that reproduced antique furniture, and Ella Bernstein Shapiro, an activist who marched for women's suffrage and worked for the poor and underprivileged. Ella Shapiro also served on several committees to help charities, such as orphanages for Jewish children. Zolotow was born six years after her older sister, Dorothy, who would grow up to become a noted editor of books for adults, mainly textbooks on history. Zolotow portrayed their early relationship in her book Big Sister, Little Sister. The Shapiro family did not stay in one place very long; they moved often in order to find better economic opportunities. As a girl, Zolotow lived in Detroit, Michigan; Brookline, Massachusetts; and New York City, among other places. While a preschooler living in Detroit, she learned to read and discovered that she enjoyed reading and drawing pictures more than anything. Whenever someone asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, Zolotow would answer that she wanted to write books and draw her own illustrations for them.
Starting in approximately the second grade, Zolotow started to feel the negative effects of her constant moves. Naturally quiet and shy, she began to have difficulty fitting into new schools. She also had some physical problems, including scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, for which she had to wear a brace on her back. In addition, Zolotow wore large, thick glasses and had braces on her teeth. She found refuge in her relationship with an aunt, Anne, and with her dog Pudgie, a Boston bull terrier. As a third grader, Zolotow wrote her first essay, a story told from Pudgie's point of view in which the dog wondered what it was like to go to school. When the Shapiro family moved from the Boston area to New York City, Zolotow's parents had to give away Pudgie, a traumatic event for young Charlotte. Initially, Ella Shapiro told her daughter that Pudgie had run away. Later, exasperated with Charlotte's constant questioning about the whereabouts of her dog, Ella told her daughter that Pudgie had turned into a duck and had flown away. Zolotow felt sad, confused, and betrayed. In order to console her, Louis Shapiro bought his daughter a set of china animals. The fledgling writer wrote an essay about these animals that was published in the magazine American Girl; as a prize, she was awarded a small silver pencil. Zolotow told Justin Wintle in The Pied Pipers: Interviews with Influential Creators of Children's Literature, "I'd been writing since I was in fourth grade—possibly because when I was a child I was very shy and found it difficult to talk and writing was a way of reaching out to people I couldn't manage otherwise." Speaking to Lee Bennett Hopkins, Zolotow said laughingly, "Actually, all I could do was write. I couldn't add or subtract, nor could I remember names and dates!"
As a student in the New York City public school system, Zolotow was placed in classes with lots of other children, a situation that caused her stress. As a result, she started to have fainting spells. Finally, her parents placed her in two private schools, where the classes were smaller and where she got more encouragement from the teachers. One of her teachers, Mrs. Danforth, told her that she had talent as a writer. On her Web site, Zolotow recalled, "It was the first time that I felt that I was seen as something other than a nerdy little girl." Her experiences fostered Zolotow's desire to be a writer. She noted, "I loved the idea of not only expressing myself in words, but, because I was very shy in conversation, reaching other people through my writing." She added, "I remember actually thinking, when I was a child, that I would remember things that had happened, things that seemed important to me but seemed to go unnoticed by the adults around." Zolotow kept on writing, and she became an exceptionally voracious reader. One of her favorite books was The Secret Garden, a classic story for children by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Zolotow stated, "I loved the wisdom of the children in it, and their connection to the garden and the natural world and its cycles, and the whole feeling of life it engendered." This love of nature became part of both her life and her writing.
After graduating from high school, Zolotow won a writing scholarship to the University of Wisconsin in Madison. On her Web site, she called her college years a "great opening out." Zolotow studied writing with Professor Helen C. White, a teacher who was a great influence on her. According to Zolotow, White was "unique in the way she influenced and helped people with talent to learn how to draw on their own inner thoughts and feelings … to reach readers through these as well as intellect." Zolotow studied art with Professor Otto Hagen, the father-in-law of the great stage actress and teacher Uta Hagen. Another great influence on Zolotow was her discovery of the books of Jean Piaget, a Swiss child psychologist. Piaget theorized that children have a different viewpoint than adults on the meaning and use of words, and his ideas appealed greatly to Zolotow, who was determined to remember what childhood was like from the inside. While in college, Zolotow wrote mostly short stories for adults, stories that were about children but not for them. However, as she noted on her Web site, "I didn't happen accidentally into the field of children's books." Her interests in art, writing, and child development, as she said, were "united" by her decision to write books for children.
While at the University of Wisconsin, Charlotte took a course in French lyric poetry. In this class, she met a fellow student who, like herself, was studying writing with Helen C. White: the student's name was Maurice Zolotow. The couple dated for approximately two years. After leaving college in 1936, Charlotte worked briefly at a collector's bookstore that specialized in American poetry; she recalled that the owner of the store advised her to study typing instead of reading the books in his store. In 1938, Charlotte and Maurice Zolotow married. Before their divorce in 1969, the couple raised two children: Stephen, who later renamed himself Zee, and Ellen, who later renamed herself Crescent Dragonwagon. Zee is an investor and a high-stakes poker player who divides his time between Las Vegas and New York City, while Crescent is a writer of children's books, a novelist, and a chef.
After their marriage, Charlotte and Maurice Zolotow moved to New York City and found an apartment in Greenwich Village near Washington Square Park. Maurice worked as a press agent and later became an author, writing books on actors and actresses such as Marilyn Monroe. In 1938, Charlotte accepted a job as a secretary and stenographer in the adult books department at Harper & Brothers publishing company, which later became Harper & Row and then HarperCollins. One day, Zolotow approached the legendary editor Ursula Nordstrom, who started the careers of E.B. White, Margaret Wise Brown, and Maurice Sendak, among others. Zolotow tried to persuade Nordstrom to publish a book of Emily Dickinson's poetry for children. After their meeting, Nordstrom asked Zolotow to be her editorial assistant in the children's book department. Zolotow told Justin Wintle of The Pied Pipers, "I think it must have been the way I spoke that persuaded her to take me with her. That was one of the loveliest things that ever happened to me in my life."
Nordstrom became Zolotow's mentor in learning to edit books for children, and in Zolotow she found a kindred spirit. Crescent Dragonwagon wrote about her mother and Nordstrom on Zolotow's Web site: "Over the years, the two of them would become identified in the field for their shared respect for children's minds and feelings and their belief that children were capable of understanding the best that any writer or artist could offer them." While working on other people's writing, Zolotow decided to write a memo to Nordstrom suggesting that Margaret Wise Brown, the popular author of such books as Goodnight, Moon, write a picture book about the changing life of a park over a twenty-four hour period; Zolotow had gotten her idea from watching the happenings in Washington Square Park, which was a block from her apartment. Nordstrom sent back a memo to Zolotow and asked her to expand on her suggestion, so Zolotow volleyed back another memo in which she elaborated on her idea. Shortly thereafter, she was surprised to see Nordstrom standing at her desk. "Congratulations," Nordstrom said to Zolotow, "You've just sold your first children's book."
In 1944, Zolotow produced The Park Book, her first work for children. Prompted by the author's observations of bustling Washington Square, the book depicts the changing activities and moods of the park from early morning until late at night; the peaceful cycles of the park represent the larger cycles of human life. The Park Book is illustrated by H.A. Rey, the creator, with wife Margret, of the impish chimp Curious George. Writing on her mother's Web site, Crescent Dragonwagon noted that Zolotow's observations "give the book an immediacy and humor that have lasted more than 50 years."
In the author's next book, But Not Billy, a mother gives her infant son several loving nicknames until he surprises her by saying "Mama." Not a Little Monkey features a little girl who wants to get attention from her mother. Writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Elizabeth Francis called the book "entirely coherent, as tidy as the household and day its plot celebrates. It represents the succinct, tough verbal structures Zolotow was able to make early in her career when she admitted no lyricism in her work." In The Sleepy Book Zolotow describes how animals sleep in their own special places and in their own special ways before introducing little boys and girls, who sleep soundly in their own beds. "Without undue sentimentality," noted Francis, "[Zolotow] offers the comfort and security of home, claiming stability and coherence in the nature of things. But she also offers a lesson in syntactic competence, in the principles of sentence ordering and manipulation by which experience is controlled and interpreted."
In 1962, Zolotow produced what is considered one of her most beloved works, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present. In this picture book, a little girl approaches a tall, talking rabbit and asks for his help in finding the perfect present for her mother. Mr. Rabbit invites the child into woods, orchards, and fields, gently questioning her all the way. After the girl reveals that her mother likes red, yellow, green, and blue, Mr. Rabbit suggests several things, such as exotic birds, but none of his ideas are suitable. Finally, the girl and rabbit fill a basket with red apples, yellow bananas, green pears, and blue grapes and the child leaves, satisfied. Writing in Commonweal, Elizabeth Minot Graves called Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present "the season's most distinguished picture book." Suzanne M. Glazer, writing in Library Journal, called the work a "perfect blend of text and pictures." And Saturday Review critic Alice Dalgliesh commented, "This thoroughly childlike book is sure to be a favorite." Noting that Zolotow simultaneously wrote a color book, a friendship book, a birthday book, a conversation book, and a book about reasoning, Francis called Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present "a balanced and completely resolved story" before concluding that "this is Zolotow's art at its best." Illustrated with impressionistic watercolors by Maurice Sendak, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present was named a Caldecott Medal honor book for its pictures.
William's Doll often is considered Zolotow's best book as well as her most controversial. Published in 1972, the story features William, a little boy who wants a doll that he can hug, put to bed, and kiss goodnight. Although he is called creepy by his brother and a sissy by his friends, William still wants a doll. His father, who is concerned about his son's masculinity, buys him a basketball and an electric train. William enjoys both of these things but still asks for a doll. When his grandmother comes to visit, William tells her of his desire, and she understands. Despite the protests of William's father, Grandmother gets her grandson a baby doll with curly eyelashes, a long white dress, and a bonnet. She admonishes William's dad, telling him that William needs the doll so that he will know how to take care of his own baby when he becomes a father. William's Doll is illustrated with soft watercolors by William Pene du Bois.
Writing in Library Journal, Melinda Schroeder commented that the "long-awaited realistic handling of [the] theme makes William's Doll a landmark book." Zena Sutherland of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books stated that "the warmth and humor of the illustrations, the clean look of the pages, and the simplicity and restraint of the writing style are in perfect agreement in a book that is as endearing for its tenderness as for the message it conveys: there is nothing, but nothing, wrong with boys who play with dolls." Anita Silvey of Horn Book concluded, "Whether you like the message or not, little about the book offends the reader. In fact, by the placing of a contemporary issue in the packaging of such an absolutely old-fashioned, charming book, the author and illustrator have demonstrated their skill." And Francis called William's Doll "a book conceived in sympathy and written with a quiet passion." Crescent Dragonwagon called William's Doll "quietly revolutionary" before noting that the "satisfying circular structure of the narrative is timeless and deeply pleasing to children."
Initially, Zolotow was inspired to write William's Doll for her husband and son. However, her urge to write the book got even stronger after overhearing a father tell his wife to get their son a gun instead of the rag doll that he wanted. Since its publication, William's Doll has been regarded as an example of feminist literature. Quoted on her Web site, Zolotow stated, "I did not write the book to be feminist ideology, although I am a feminist, and though I am very glad feminists have found a message in it. But I wrote it out of a direct emotional sorrow."
My Grandson Lew is a picture book that has become recognized for presenting young children with a particularly sensitive treatment of death. Writing in the St. James Guide to Children's Writers, Jean F. Mercier noted that with this work "Zolotow was among the first to tackle the long-taboo subject of death in a picture book." Six-year-old Lew shares his memories of his late grandfather, who had died four years before, with his mother. Since the death of her father, Lew's mother has avoided mentioning him to Lew; through their conversation, she recognizes that children need to mourn after they lose the people whom they love. Lew tells his mother that Grandpa gave him scratchy kisses and warm "eyehugs," carried him in his strong arms, and always came to him when he called out at night. In turn, Lew's mother shares the things that she remembers about her father. Finally, Lew's mother says that now both she and Lew can remember Grandpa together, which will make it less lonely for each of them. Zena Sutherland of the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books noted that Zolotow uses a "new approach … in a story about a child's view of death." She concluded, "Not sentimental, but gentle and poignant, the book is charming in its illustrations, its style," in Lew's memories of his grandfather, and in, as Sutherland put it, "the joyful love" that Grandpa demonstrates. A critic in Booklist called My Grandson Lew "warm, rich, and beautiful, a comforting consideration of death."
The enduring relevance of Zolotow's work is evident in the fact that so many of her books, in second or third editions, have attracted new generations of young readers. A Father Like That, for example, focuses on a young boy whose father left the family before the child was born. The boy describes to his mother the perfect father he wishes he could have; though she tells him she cannot promise he will have such a father, he can become one himself when he grows up. While Booklist reviewer Julie Cummins felt that this message, though appropriate for 1971, might offer little comfort to the fatherless boys of today, a writer for Kirkus Reviews observed that the story "certainly holds up a generation later." Amy Lilien-Harper, writing in School Library Journal, hailed the book as a story that "captures the hopes and wishes of all children for the perfect parent."
Zolotow tackles the age-old theme of sibling rivalry with sensitivity and humor in If It Weren't for You. In this book a little girl lists all her complaints about having a baby sister, discovering in the process that there are benefits as well as drawbacks to siblinghood. Commenting that Zolotow "wisely" chooses not to sugarcoat her subject, School Library Journal reviewer Donna Cardon appreciated the book's honesty; expressing a similar view, Carolyn Phelan wrote in Booklist that Zolotow's perspective is "wryly truthful to a child's experience."
A noisy family pet takes center stage in the gently humorous The Poodle Who Barked at the Wind, originally published in 1964 and updated in 1987 and 2002. School Library Journal contributor Valerie Coursen praised the "spirit and life" in the book's third edition. In The Three Funny Friends, first published in 1961, a young girl invents three imaginary friends—a rabbit, a pig, and a dog—to help her cope with moving to a new town. And Hold My Hand: Five Stories of Love and Family, which School Library Journal contributor Sally R. Dow described as a collection of "gentle, lyrical stories," is a compilation of five of Zolotow's out-of-print books (But Not Billy, Hold My Hand, Timothy Too!, Big Brother, and The Summer Night).
Seasons: A Book of Poems contains forty of Zolotow's poems, many of which are written in the voice of a young child. Writing in School Library Journal, Nancy Palmer called the poems "evocative reflections on and responses to the natural world" that also capture children's real emotions and experiences. Palmer recommended the book as a superior example of a seasonal poetry collection for young children.
In one of Zolotow's most popular books, A Tiger Called Thomas, a young African American boy is too shy to make new friends after moving to a new neighborhood. When Halloween comes, his mother makes him a tiger costume that he wears trick-or-treating. Surprised that his neighbors recognize him despite his disguise, young Thomas learns that people like and accept him. A writer for Kirkus Reviews called it a "timeless" story with a "heartening" message. Writing in for BookPage Online, Alice Cary praised Zolotow for showing, in this book, "what good writing is all about, even at the preschool level."
Zolotow stayed with Harper & Row for almost forty years. Except for a seven-year period when she took a hiatus to be with her children when they were young, Zolotow worked within the company, first as an editorial assistant, then as an editor, then as a senior editor. In 1976, she became vice president and associate publisher of the Harper Junior Books division, a position that she retained until 1981. Zolotow was named an in-house consultant; in addition, she was given her own imprint, Charlotte Zolotow Books. In 1991, Zolotow was named publisher emeritus, a position that she will keep for life. She still retains a position as editorial advisor for the company, which is now called HarperCollins.
As both a writer and an editor, Zolotow has been asked to give talks, lectures, and readings at conferences, seminars, and workshops; she also has taught classes on the crafts of writing and editing. Despite a fear of public speaking, she has participated in these events at schools, at writers' conferences, and at conventions of educators and librarians. Zolotow has been honored with several awards for her body of work and for her skill as an editor. In 1998, the Cooperative Children's Book Center (CCBC) at the University of Wisconsin—Madison created a prize in her honor, the Charlotte Zolotow Award. The award, which is given annually to an American author of a picture book text, includes a gold medal and a cash prize. The CCBC also established the Charlotte Zolotow Lecture as a further honor for its namesake; lecturers have included prominent authors of children's literature such as Jean Craighead George, Katherine Paterson, Kevin Henkes, Karla Kuskin, and Robert Lipsyte.
Zolotow has noted that her books have been inspired by her children, by their friends, by the memories of her own childhood, by her feelings for the spoken and written word, and by her emotions as an adult. Writing in Horn Book, she stated, "Most of my books are about the ordinary, daily relationships between children and adults, brothers and sisters, mothers and daughters, mothers and sons, fathers and sons, and fathers and daughters, and the infinite variety of personal encounters out of which emotions arise." She continued, "How and why do people write for the very young? For me, it is an emotional deja vu. My adult anger or grief or joy or jealousy is intensified by its familiarity. I have felt this way before. I remember not only the childhood event itself but the feelings those events gave me—which are the same feelings I re-experience now as an adult…. I am re-experiencing it all." She added, "Although events change from period to period, feelings remain the same; children recognize and identify with the emotions in a book even more than they do with the event which releases them. I try to bring these emotions to life in down-to-earth, everyday, ordinary events." Zolotow concluded, "We are not that different, adults and children. We experience the same feelings. That is what makes us … more human than otherwise. That is why so many children identify with a book which I wrote when angry for adult reasons and began with ‘I hate hate hated my friend.’ ‘How do you know about me?’ the children write. I don't. I am still trying to find out about myself."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Arbuthnot, May Hill, and Zena Sutherland, Children and Books, 4th edition, Scott, Foresman (Chicago, IL), 1972.
Children's Literature Review, Volume 2, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1976.
Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 52: American Writers for Children since 1960: Fiction, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1986.
Hopkins, Lee Bennett, Books Are by People: Interviews with 104 Authors and Illustrators of Books for Young Children, Citation Press (New York, NY), 1969.
Silvey, Anita, editor, Children's Books and Their Creators, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1995.
Wintle, Justin, and Emma Fisher, The Pied Pipers: Interviews with the Influential Creators of Children's Literature, Paddington Press (New York, NY), 1974.
Booklinks, July, 2005, Rebecca Rupp, review of Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, p. 58; November, 2006, Barbara Chatton, review of Seasons: A Book of Poems, p. 61, and Barbara Chatton, review of When the Wind Stops, p. 60.
Booklist, April 1, 1974, review of My Grandson Lew, p. 879; May 1, 1992, Carolyn Phelan, review of This Quiet Lady, p. 1599; July, 1992, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Seashore Book, p. 1946; December 15, 1992, Janice Del Negro, review of Snippets: A Gathering of Poems, Pictures, and Possibilities, p. 742; May 1, 1993, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Moon Was the Best, p. 1607; November 1, 1993, Elizabeth Bush, review of Peter and the Pigeons, p. 533; July, 1995, Lauren Peterson, review of When the Wind Stops, p. 1879; September 1, 1995, Hazel Rochman, review of The Old Dog, p. 90; June 1, 1997, Hazel Rochman, review of Who Is Ben?, p. 1695; March 1, 1998, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Bunny Who Found Easter, p. 1142; November 15, 1998, Michael Cart, "Carte Blanche," p. 577; December 1, 1999, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Beautiful Christmas Tree, p. 715; September 15, 2000, Gillian Engberg, review of Do You Know What I'll Do?, p. 237; November 1, 2001, Hazel Rochman, review of The Sleepy Book, p. 480; February 1, 2002, Gillian Engberg, review of Seasons, p. 949; January 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of The Poodle Who Barked at the Wind, p. 911; September 1, 2003, Carolyn Phelan, review of A Tiger Called Thomas, p. 132; January 1, 2007, Carolyn Phelan, review of If It Weren't for You, p. 118; May 15, 2007, Julie Cummins, review of A Father like That, p. 50.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, July-August, 1972, Zena Sutherland, review of William's Doll, p. 180; June, 1974, Zena Sutherland, review of My Grandson Lew, p. 168.
Childhood Education, spring, 2003, reviews of I Know a Lady, William's Doll, and This Quiet Lady.
Commonweal, November 16, 1962, Elizabeth Minot Graves, review of Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, p. 205.
Horn Book, December, 1972, Anita Silvey, review of William's Doll, December, 1972, p. 584; April, 1982, review of William's Doll, p. 187; September-October, 1984, review of I Know a Lady, p. 587; May-June, 1985, Nancy Sheridan, review of William's Doll, p. 331; September-October, 1985, Charlotte Zolotow, "Writing for the Very Young: An Emotional Deja Vu," pp. 536-540; November-December, 1986, Ethel R. Twichell, review of Early Sorrow: Ten Stories of Youth, p. 749; November-December, 1989, "Dialogue between Patricia MacLachlan and Charlotte Zolotow," pp. 736-745; May-June, 1993, Mary M. Burns, review of The Moon Was the Best, p. 326; July-August, 1995, Mary M. Burns, review of When the Wind Stops, p. 455; November-December, 1995, Martha V. Parravano, review of The Old Dog, p. 762; September, 2003, review of A Tiger Called Thomas, p. 586.
Instructor and Teacher, May, 1983, Allan Yeager, review of Summer Is …, p. 92.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2002, review of Seasons, p. 54; October 15, 2002, review of The Poodle Who Barked at the Wind, p. 1540; January 15, 2003, review of The Sun in Me: Poems about the Planet, p. 144; July 1, 2003, review of A Tiger Called Thomas, p. 917; September 15, 2006, review of If It Weren't for You, p. 971; May 1, 2007, review of A Father Like That.
Library Journal, January 15, 1963, Suzanne M. Glazer, review of Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, p. 90; September 15, 1972, Melinda Schroeder, review of William's Doll, pp. 2943-2944.
Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2002, review of Seasons, p. 7.
McCall's, November, 1983, Andrea Thompson, review of Some Things Go Together, p. V18.
Publishers Weekly, January 15, 1982, review of The White Marble, p. 98; April 2, 1982, review of The Song, p. 79; May 27, 1983, review of Summer Is …, p. 68; October 28, 1983, review of Some Things Go Together, p. 69; July 20, 1984, review of I Know a Lady, p. 81; September 13, 1985, review of William's Doll, p. 132; October 30, 1987, Diane Roback, review of I Like to Be Little, p. 70; January 15, 1988, Diane Roback, review of Everything Glistens and Everything Sings: New and Selected Poems, p. 95; June 10, 1988, Kimberly Olson Fakih and Diane Roback, review of The Sleepy Book, p. 78; August 31, 1990, Diane Roback, "Charlotte Zolotow to Retire," p. 9; May 25, 1992, review of The Seashore Book, p. 54; June 1, 1992, review of This Quiet Lady, p. 61; December 14, 1992, review of Snippets, p. 56; April 14, 1997, review of Who Is Ben?, p. 75; February 2, 1998, review of The Bunny Who Found Easter, p. 89; April 3, 2000, review of This Quiet Lady, p. 83; May 15, 2000, "An Old ‘Friend’ Returns," p. 119; September 11, 2000, review of Do You Know What I'll Do?, p. 89; January 7, 2002, review of Seasons, p. 63; February 25, 2002, review of My Friend John, p. 69; July 29, 2002, review of If You Listen, p. 74; March 3, 2003, review of Seasons, p. 78; September 22, 2003, review of Hold My Hand: Five Stories of Love and Family, p. 106.
Saturday Review, November 10, 1962, Alice Dalgliesh, review of Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, p. 34.
School Library Journal, November, 1981, Patricia Dooley, review of Flocks of Birds, p. 84; March, 1982, review of The Song, p. 142; May, 1982, review of The White Marble, p. 58; October, 1983, Ella B. Fossum, "Charlotte Zolotow: The Grower," p. 138; December, 1983, Mary Jane Mangini Rossi, review of A Father Like That, p. 33; February, 1985, review of I Know a Lady, p. 69; January, 1987, Pat Pearl, review of Timothy Too!, p. 69, and Barbara Hutcheson, review of Early Sorrow, p. 86; February, 1987, Jody Risacher, review of I Know a Lady, p. 57; January, 1988, Suzanne Sprenger, review of Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, p. 58; March, 1988, Barbara Chatton, review of Everything Glistens and Everything Sings, p. 186; December, 1988, Anna Biagioni Hart, review of The Sleepy Book, p. 96, and Kathleen T. Horning, review of Something Is Going to Happen, p. 96; February, 1989, Suzanne F. Sprenger, review of Wake Up and Goodnight, p. 52, and Marcia Hupp, review of A Tiger Called Thomas, p. 77; June, 1989, Louise L. Sherman, review of Not a Little Monkey, p. 96; July, 1989, Marianne Pilla, review of The Quiet Mother and the Noisy Little Boy, p. 78; March, 1992, Elizabeth C. Fiene, "Picture Books: The Symposium," p. 198; May, 1992, Judith Gloyer, review of The Seashore Book, p. 96; June, 1992, Shirley Wilton, review of This Quiet Lady, p. 106; March, 1993, Jody McCoy, review of Snippets, p. 195; June, 1993, Ann W. Moore, review of The Moon Was the Best, p. 92; November, 1993, Karen James, review of Peter and the Pigeons, p. 96; August, 1995, Virginia Golodetz, review of When the Wind Stops, p. 131; December, 1995, Martha Topol, review of The Old Dog, p. 93; June, 1997, Kate McClelland, review of Who Is Ben?, p. 103; September, 1998, Jacqueline Elsner, review of The Bunny Who Found Easter, p. 187; March, 1999, Susan Marie Pitard, review of Some Things Go Together, p. 189; October, 1999, Lisa Falk, review of The Beautiful Christmas Tree, p. 71; July, 2000, Marianne Saccardi, review of My Friend John, p. 91; September, 2000, Nina Lindsay, review of Do You Know What I'll Do?, p. 212; August, 2001, Gay Lynn Van Vleck, review of The Sleepy Book, p. 174; June, 2002, Nancy Palmer, review of Seasons, p. 127; November, 2002, Leslie Barban, review of The Poodle Who Barked at the Wind, p. 142; September, 2003, Sally R. Dow, review of A Tiger Called Thomas, p. 193; November, 2003, Sally R. Dow, review of Hold My Hand, p. 120; December, 2003, Kathleen Kell MacMillan, review of The Three Funny Friends, p. 132; May, 2005, review of A Tiger Called Thomas, p. 60; October, 2006, Donna Cardon, review of If It Weren't for You, p. 132; July, 2007, Amy Lilien-Harper, review of A Father like That, p. 88.
BookPage Online,http://www.bookpage.com/ (November 30, 2007), Alice Cary, review of A Tiger Called Thomas.
Cooperative Children's Book Center,http://www.education.wisc.edu/ (November 30, 2007), "The Charlotte Zolotow Award."
Crescent Dragonwagon's Web site,http://www.dragonwagon.com/ (October 15, 2002).
Cynthia Leitich Smith Children's Literature Resources,http://www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/ (November 19, 2002), "Interview with Children's Book Expert Ginny Moore Kruse."
HarperCollins Web site,http://www.harpercollins.com/authors/ (November 30, 2007), profile of Charlotte Zolotow.
Internet Public Library: IPL Kidspace,http://www.ipl.org/ (June 7, 2002), "The Author Page: Charlotte Zolotow."
Official Charlotte Zolotow Web site,http://www.charlottezolotow.com (November 19, 2002).
Read That Again,http://www.readthatagain.com/ (November 30, 2007), review of If It Weren't for You.