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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Changes: A Child's First Poetry Collection. Poems by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrations by Tiphanie Beeke. Sourcebooks, Raincoast. 2015. $22.50 all ages

"Lying in the Grass
Lying in the grass
looking up through the trees
at the sky,
I saw a small bird
flying over the trees
high high high.
He dipped and he swooped
and flew to rest
on the branch of the tree
far above me."

I am one of those readers whose discovery of a new author often leads to finding and reading every one of their published works. That has happened for me time and time again. When our children were born in the 1970s, I made a concerted effort to find out all I could about the literature that was being written for  young children. One of the authors I discovered and whose work I loved was Charlotte Zolotow. I continued reading and buying as many of her books as I could find. She was a prolific and sensitive writer who helped us look at the beauty of the world and the grace of children in new ways.

I was excited to learn that some of her seasonal poems were being collected for a new publication. I am happy to tell you about this collection today. The poems were originally published from the 1960s through the 1980s. Of  the poems themselves, her daughter, the author Crescent Dragonwagon, says:

"These poems of hers are deceptively simple, transparent and refreshing as a glass of clean, clear, cold spring-water. They follow the turning cycle of a year's seasons, and I think they will introduce
not only the pleasures and surprises of the seasons, but those of poetry itself, to young readers."

Charlotte Zolotow would have been 100 years old this year ... it is a lovely tribute to a woman who gave the world of children's literature such brilliant gifts.

The book begins with:


This summer
still hangs
heavy and sweet
with sunlight
as it did last year.

The autumn
still comes
showering cold and crimson
as it did last year.

The winter
still stings
clean and cold and white
as it did last year.

The spring
still comes
like a whisper in the dark night.

It is only I
who have changed."

Through the seasons, Ms. Zolotow clearly captures the huge changes that take place in the world of nature over the course of a year. In accompanying textural and detailed images, Tiphanie Beeke shows young readers the scenes created by the poet's personal focus on discovery, the senses and intense observation. Those who share it to are sure to wander back through their memories to small moments of happy times.

Magical and childlike, this is a book that will be shared time and again.

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