Former publisher of children’s books at HarperCollins and immortal author of picture books Charlotte Zolotow has died at the age of 98. As an editor and publisher she was quite a force, bringing us such revelations as The Pigman and Weetzie Bat; as an author, she is without peer in her particular realm: the quiet but intensely emotional picture book, my favorite examples being Mr. Rabbit and the Lovely Present and The Summer Night. Her William’s Doll became a vade mecum for a revolution.
I first met Charlotte in 1986, at ALA’s Midwinter conference in Chicago. I had eviscerated a YA novel by her daughter Crescent Dragonwagon in an SLJ column, and Harper’s Bill Morris tracked me down and told me that Charlotte wanted to talk to me. In her hotel suite. Right now, if possible. She was sitting very regally in an arm chair, and the only place for me to sit was at her feet. I was quaking, although already in complete admiration of her tactics, and she was very disarming, telling me how much she loved the voice in Crescent’s novel (which, gossip had it, was her daughter’s Mommie Dearest) and how she loved my voice, too, and did I think I could write a novel? For her? GENIUS. Luckily, I was saved from any further interrogation, because at that point the entire 1986 Newbery committee walked in to tell Charlotte that Sarah, Plain and Tall had won the Medal.
In tribute, we’ve collected two essays Charlotte wrote for the Horn Book as well as one Crescent (we’ve long since made up) wrote about her mother for us last year. Goodbye, Great Lady.