TODAY, CHARLOTTE ZOLOTOW’S 97th birthday got me reminiscing.  In the early 1980’s, Charlotte invited me to lunch. We had alread done several books together and met to discuss future projects.  At some point in an always fascinating conversation, I mentioned there were I CAN READ books of history, mystery, picture books — yet — there had never been an I CAN READ book of poetry.

Charlotte, literally, dropped her fork, looked at me and said, “Do it!  Do it!”  I did.  I could write endlessly about the book’s development; perhaps another time.  SURPRISES, published in 1984, illustrated by Megan Lloyd became the first I CAN READ book of poetry.

SURPRISES was starred in School Library Journal, became a Best Book of the Year, was published in the United Kingdom, became a best-selling paperback and went on to receive a multitude of further accolades.

1984!  Almost three decades later the book is still in print.  Thank you again, dear Charlotte.

I dedicated the book to:  William C. Morris — a good book friend” which he was.  I didn’t realize at the time this was the first book ever dedicated to Bill, a great individual.

Prior to the publication of SURPRISES Bill wrote to me saying:  “I can’t tell you how thrilled — and well, overwhelmed — I am with your news that SURPRISES is going to have the perfectly marvelous dedication.  You have indeed done something very special for me…To have any book dedicated to me is a thrill I’ve never experienced and for the first Harper Poetry I Can Read Book to have my name in it makes my cup run over.”

When I took SURPRISES from my bookshelf this morning, I looked at it, sighed, recalled days with Charlotte, with Bill.  I am still surprised at the genius, the insight, the foresight such people had in our industry.  I am proud to have been a part of it all.