A FEW OTHER EVENTS FOR
- Happy birthday Nancy Willard (A Visit to William Blakeâ€™s Inn) and Robert Burch (Ida Early Comes Over the Mountain).
- Itâ€™s the birth date of Walter Farley (1915-1989), The Black Stallion and Lynd Ward (1905-1985), The Biggest Bear.
- Athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias (1911-1956) was born on this day. Read Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion by Russell Freedman and Babe Didrikson: The Greatest All-Sport Athlete of All Time by Susan E. Cayleff.
- Itâ€™s National Chocolate Pudding Day. Read The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay and The Roly-Poly Pudding by Beatrix Potter.
Today marks the birthday of Charlotte Zolotow, legendary publisher, editor, and writer. Sometime in the late seventies I first met Charlotte; Bill Morris, Harperâ€™s devoted head of Marketing, adored her and wanted us to get to know each other. From that day on, I suddenly had a new goalâ€”I wanted to grow up to be Charlotte Zolotow. Her grace, intelligence, sparking eyes, sly sense of humorâ€”and her talentâ€”simply won me over.
In her career, Charlotte excelled as both an editor and a writer. As an editor for one of the great childrenâ€™s imprints in the history of publishing, Harper & Row during the forties through eighties, she made her mark by encouraging writers and bringing books into print that otherwise would not have existed. Louise Fitzhughâ€™s Harriet the Spy was drawn from the author by conversations with Charlotte and Ursula Nordstrom, the latter then head of the department. Harriet the Spy did not arrive as a book, but became one under Charlotteâ€™s direction. She helped find talent for the emerging young adult arena, often locating writers who were doing other kinds of work, such as playwright Paul Zindel. His My Darling, My Hamburger, is dedicated simply to â€śMy Darling, My Charlotte Zolotow.â€ť
When the brilliant group of Harper illustrators needed new picture book texts, Charlotte wrote them. Examples include: The Park Book for H. A. Rey and The Storm Book for Margaret Bloy Graham. In Williamâ€™s Doll, illustrated by William PĂ¨ne du Bois, she took a stand against gender stereotypes. Gentleness, a sense of the joy of life, and a beauty of phrasing exists in these textsâ€”qualities very difficult for picture book writers to achieve.
Best known for a book that won a Caldecott Honor for Maurice Sendak, Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present, Charlotte wrote the text when she became aware that her three-year-old daughter Crescent was attempting to locate the perfect birthday present for her mother. Charlotte started to think about the Pulitzer Prizeâ€“winning play, Harvey, about a six-foot invisible rabbit, who was the companion of a good-hearted inebriate. Well, if the rabbit were visible, he could help a little girl find the perfect present for her mother. As Charlotte has said about the writing process, â€śAll childrenâ€™s books, really, are made up of double and triple exposures, pieces of this and that that you carry aroundâ€¦.one day they take shape and become a book.â€ť
I can think of no better words to celebrate Charlotte Zolotowâ€™sÂ birthday than a quote from one of the great Harper classics, E. B. Whiteâ€™s Charlotteâ€™s Web: â€śShe was in a class by herself. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.â€ť
Hereâ€™s a page from Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present:
“There are red roofs,” said Mr. Rabbit.
“No, we have a roof,” said the little girl. “I don’t want to give her that.”
“There are red birds,” said Mr. Rabbit, “red cardinals.”
“No,” said the little girl, “she likes birds in trees.”
Originally posted June 26, 2011. Updated for .