Perhaps Charlotte Zolotow will be most familiar to readers as the author of Mr Rabbit and the Lovely Present, illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Now a new generation will be introduced to this American author’s gentle and poetical texts that explore childhood from the inside. Here a little girl and her mother – there are no names – walk down the road. It is autumn, the leaves are bright reds and golds, there is an autumn storm brewing and grey purple clouds gather, the wind whisks the leaves, ripples the water on the pond. As the little girl explores the world around her – the day and countryside, she asks her mother over and over “What is it? Say it” The mother’s replies are teasing- “a wild wonderous dazzling day” “a golden shining, splendiferous day”… but what is it? In the end we find out – the answer that every child wants from the parent.
Illustrating such a text is difficult. It would be so easy to be softly sentimental. The original published in 1980 was illustrated by the great James Stephenson. In this new edition, it is Charlotte Voake who takes up the challenge. And what a perfect choice. Voake noted for her lively pastel illustrations for Ginger and Elsie Piddock Skips in Her Sleep (Farjeon), here takes a bolder view. Her lines are as lively as ever – watch the little girl skip, the leaves dance in the wind – the colour palette is a symphony of golds, soft blues and greens – vibrant without being over-dramatic. The illustrations fill the pages, spilling across the double spread. The reader is drawn into the warm relationship between mother and child.
This is a book to share – an intimate book – that would be a pleasure to read not just for the emotional content, the visual appeal but also the design with a lovely bold font that that requires no effort. An inspired pairing.