Colby Rodowsky, a prolific author of children’s and young adult novels often set in Baltimore and the Eastern Shore, died of congestive heart failure Oct. 5 at her Riderwood Village home in Silver Spring. The longtime Guilford and Charlesbrook resident
Book critics said that she built a nationwide following and that her name was a familiar sight on the American Library Association’s annual Notable Books list.
“I’ve always marveled at her impressive body of work,” said Linda Lapides, a retired Enoch Pratt Free Library staff member. “She discovered her calling later in life and wrote with honesty and perception. She didn’t shy away from poverty,
mental illness, absent parents and death. Her stories resonated with her readers.”
Ms. Lapides also said, “As a child, Colby was an inveterate reader, and it gave her great pleasure in later life when her readers told her their lives were impacted by her work.”...
...As a child she lived on Park Avenue in Bolton Hill. After her parents separated, she lived with her grandmother in Cape Charles, Virginia. She spent much of World War II in New York City and typed her first try at a novel there. Her mother sent it to
an editor friend at Simon & Schuster. It was rejected on the grounds of a wartime paper shortage, which Ms. Rodowsky thought was a polite way out by the publisher.
She said that she enjoyed her time in Manhattan in the 1940s, recalling sledding in Central Park and ice skating with elderly aunts at Rockefeller Center.
She later spent time in Washington, D.C., and was a graduate of Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School, after which she earned a degree from what is now Notre Dame University of Maryland.
She taught in Baltimore’s public schools and the old Saint Francis School for Special Education on Maryland Avenue in Old Goucher. She was also a Notre Dame Preparatory School librarian’s assistant. She reviewed children’s books for The Sun in the
She met her future husband, Lawrence F. Rodowsky, a judge on the Maryland Court of Appeals, at a college dance. They married at Corpus Christi Church in Baltimore in 1954....
Many of her stories were set in Cape Charles, Virginia.
" 'I'm Linda Clay McGee and I don't belong here.' Elsie McPhee and her brother, Tommy, are hiding a terrible secret. They've been kidnapped -- not by a stranger, but by their mother. It is lonely and scary always hiding, moving, and not being allowed to
make friends or to talk to people. Elsie even remembers the kidnapping, but she's so scared of her mother, she can't say or do anything.
"Then Tommy gets sick, and Elsie needs to get help -- fast. But that means she has to leave the apartment. What if she gets caught? Does Elsie have the courage to help her brother even if it means breaking her mother's rules?"
"A former teacher, Colby Rodowsky turned to writing for children when
she was forty years old and her youngest child was in second grade.
The author of such award-winning books as the middle-grade novel The
Gathering Room and the young-adult novels Julie's Daughter and
Remembering Mog, Rodowsky has earned praise from critics and readers
alike for her likeable protagonists and true-to-life situations. While
the young people who inhabit Rodowsky's fiction live in a tough world characterized by unpredictable events and undependable authority
figures, their efforts to cope with parental abandonment, poverty, and
even death, are aided by warm and loving individuals. As Carol Edwards
noted in the School Library Journal, 'Rodowsky makes her readers work,
never patronizing or condescending, yet always revealing inner layers
that poke through the surface.'...In 1972 Rodowsky began
a writing tutorial that forced her to return to a typewriter and, as
she had done so many years before, start "banging" out a book-length manuscript. While her first effort was unsaleable, she attempted
another ... and then another. Finally, her third effort, about a fifteen-year-old girl who has a brother with Down's syndrome, was
accepted by a publisher and released in 1976 as What about Me? (based
on her teaching experiences with handicapped children)."
She writes mainly about teens, family problems, and younger children.
One acclaimed book is "Not My Dog"(1999) "a story about a 'sort of
square, boring brown dog' that is inherited by nine-year-old Ellie in
lieu of the bouncy puppy the disappointed girl had been promised by
her parents--until Preston shows that he is truly the pick of the
" Once, when I was about ten years old, I woke my mother in the middle
of the night and said, 'Who shall I dedicate my first book to?' And
she, with great practicality, said, 'Why don't you write it first.'
And went back to sleep."