Ellen Levine passed away this week after a long, valiant fight with cancer. I first met Ellen when I was getting my MFA at Vermont College where she was a teacher and mentor. Ellen was a tried and true New Yorker. Whether it was the fact that we both had New York blood running through our veins or her hearty laugh, Ellen had a way of making an insecure writer like me feel as if what I had to say mattered.
This past Spring semester I taught a Childrens Lit class and I used Ellen's Henry's Freedom Box as an example of a nonfiction picture book. My students were enchanted by the story.As I read it, I thought of Ellen. Her voice and unique spirit came through on every page.
While Ellen is no longer with us in physical form, I know she is here in spirit. Her chutzpah was amazing and whenever I feel down about my own writing, I will think of her. To me she is what childrens literature can be.