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Sunday, April 24, 2016

It’s a Great Story (Pass It On)


It’s remarkable, but not unusual, for a book to remain popular 75 years after it is first published.  That’s been the case with Paddle-to-the-Sea, Houghton Mifflin’s 1941 entry.  We can all think of other popular children’s stories, and mainstream novels like Gone with the Wind, the 1939 epic, but Paddle is still special to many after all these years. 

Up in Leslie, Mich., Joan Hoffman is helping with a small celebration of Mr. Holling’s classic.  She wrote to me, saying, “What I greatly enjoy is talking with individuals who have a special interest in Holling.  That doesn't often happen at the museum.  [She curates the Holling collection at the Leslie Area Historical Museum .]  People come to the museum for many different reasons related to local history.  Only three times in the past year have visitors come with a specific interest in Holling.  Those were great times for me.”

That may change soon.  “Two opportunities are coming up soon which were generated from our Holling article in the Michigan History magazine,” she says.  “One is a family of four coming from Albion, Mich., the other is a retired fifth grade teacher from California who will be visiting a friend here in May.  She is a great admirer of Holling and wants to get together.  I plan to meet with these two parties on non-museum days so I can spend more time with them without interruption.”  How many museum curators offer that kind of attention? 

Visitors will also be able to see the poster Joan created to commemorate those 75 years in which children of all ages have experienced the wonders of America and its people.  And, if you’re passing near Lisle, drop in and say hello to a wonderful woman who’s helping to keep the past in our present.

 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What a Funny Name! It’s a Tautonym*



It may be worth repeating that Holling’s name was the first thing that captured me as a child reader.  Who on earth has the same first name as his surname?  Further,  Holling Clancy Holling has the strange beauty of a harsh Irish name bookended by two action words, or gerunds. 

Mr. Holling, however, was born Holling Allison Clancy in the eponymous Holling Corners, Mich.  His forebears had lived and farmed there for generations.  Holling was his mother’s maiden name, according to Joan Hoffman, who curates the Leslie Area Historical Museum.  “While attending the Art Institute of Chicago,” she writes, “he used Holling as his signature and became known as Mr. Holling, except by those who knew him well.  Another contributing factor [to the name change] was that there were ample Clancy cousins to carry on the name — his father was one of 12 children — unlike the surname Holling that had come to an end.” 

He legally changed his name in 1925, the year that he married Lucille Webster.  Holling’s friends asked if Lucille would now be known as Mrs. Clancy or Mrs. Holling, The couple thought about it, and since Holling had been writing as Holling Clancy Holling they decided to make the change legal.   

(The Irish judge who approved the identity change challenged, “And why, begorra would anyone with a perfectly good Irish name of Clancy want to change it to the English name of Holling?” 

If a writer wants to keep his or her name on readers’ lips, there are worse ways than to name yourself redundantly.  There’s the British writer Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927), whose father was responsible for the surname change.  And Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), who changed his name in 1919 because “Hueffer” may have sounded too German. 
 
William Cole whimsically outlined the situation in his limerick, “Mutual Problem,”  

Said Jerome K. Jerome to Ford Madox Ford,
‘There's something, old boy, that I've always abhorred:
When people address me and call me, ‘Jerome’,
Are they being standoffish, or too much at home?’’
Said Ford, ‘I agree; it's the same thing with me.’  

* A tautonym is a scientific name in which the same word is used for genus and species.  For example, the red fox is Vulpes vulpes and the black rat is Rattus rattus.  Thus, Holling Clancy Holling is both genus and species for author, artist and naturalist.  Makes sense, no?
 
 
 


 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Happy Anniversary, Paddle-to-the-Sea

Think back to the five major Holling books published by Houghton Mifflin — Paddle-to-the-Sea, Tree in the Trail, Seabird, Minn of the Mississippi, and Pagoo.  Chances are Paddle, a winner of the Caldecott Prize, tops the list as everyone’s favorite.  Published in 1941, the big book about a little canoe is now 75 years old.  To this, we can only say happy anniversary!  

Part of the book’s success lies in it being a classic “journey” or “road trip” genre of story as well as being a fountain of information on geography, culture, and humanity along the waters of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.  It was also an uplifting story, published during bleak days as the world went to war.  Equally interesting is the back story of how Paddle came to be created.   

In the late 1930s, Holling and his wife Lucille were road tripping the country.  While in Galveston, they received a letter from Lovell Thompson, editor of children’s books at Houghton Mifflin, a publisher founded in Boston in 1832.  Having seen Holling’s Quaker Oats pioneer series, Thompson asked what kind of books Holling might do for Houghton.  The couple eventually had a quick luncheon meeting with Thompson in Boston, and Holling suggested a story about the Missouri River.  Then, the Hollings returned to the road.  Some weeks later, they were in Ontario and met a Chippewa woman selling birch bark baskets.  Seeing a carving of an Indian figure kneeling in a canoe, he learned it had been made by an 11-year-old boy.  Holling and Lucille were given the carving, or makak, for having taught the woman original designs of her people, those she had forgotten.

The story of a carved Indian boy in a canoe began to come together while the couple ambled back to California.  Months were spent researching  the route through the lakes (some of which Holling knew from working on the water), drawing with watercolor and pen, laying out the pages.  The work then was sent to Boston, Paddle-to-the-Sea was published in 1941, and Holling’s name was established.   
The following year, Holling Clancy Holling was honored for his Paddle-to-the-Sea.  The Caldecott is awarded by the Association of Library Service to Children to a winner and with honorable mentions for the most distinguished contribution by artists who are American citizens or residents.  The ALSC is a division of the American Library Association and a true assurance of excellence in illustration.
 
And the rest, as they say, is history.  Except that this remarkable book continues to be celebrated 75 years later.
 
 
I’m indebted to Hazel Gibb Hinman’s [1910-2004] thesis dissertation that was published by the University of Redlands in 1958, titled The Lives and Works of Holling Clancy Holling.  The Houghton Mifflin illustration is reproduced from Harmen Hielkema’s blog site at http://harmenhielkema.blogspot.com/2013/09/paddle-to-sea_29.html.
 
 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

I Was Wrong: Holling Art Does “Just Turn Up”



This post should probably be headlined “Found Art, Part Two.”  A very thoughtful note from  loyal reader Lisa in November 2015 revived a magazine cover Holling painted for Successful Farming magazine in 1932. 
 
The editors of Country Life invite readers to “Step back in time and see Thanksgiving through the eyes of subscribers to our sister publication, Successful Farming, with these classic covers from the early 1900s.”

Sorry this post is a bit late for Thanksgiving.  Holling’s delightful wildlife scene can be viewed at http://www.livingthecountrylife.com/animals/chickens-poultry/classic-thanksgiving-covers.  This cover is number 11 in the slide show.

Like many artists beginning to establish themselves—and later to bring in money—Holling was also a commercial illustrator.  Among his contributions were magazine covers for Junior Home (March 1928- Aug. 1929), Child Life (Sept. 1932-1933), American Junior Red Cross News (various from 1952-1960), and American History Illustrated (Nov. 1974, “Climax of the Whale Hunt” from Seabird).

He was an innovative artist, and produced cutouts and dioramas for children, many sponsored by Quaker Oats and Colgate-Palmolive Peet.  And then there were a few murals and a series of postcards, produced in collaboration with his wife Lucille, featuring the art of Southwest native Americans.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, January 4, 2016

What Would Holling Say, Write and Paint Now?


Holling Clancy Holling wrote Paddle-to-the-Sea at least two decades too soon.  While he was an outstanding artist, storyteller, and educator, he wrote this book in 1941.  The insect-killing properties of DDT had been discovered only two years earlier.  The world was embroiled in a war that concentrated all efforts on industrialization — not nature.  We as Americans seemed to simply accept nature as being unchanging and immutable.

It would be 1962 before Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring with its clear warning of a looming ecological disaster.  It would be another year before Stewart Udall wrote The Quiet Crisis, warning, as Richard Telford reports, that “we live in a land of vanishing beauty, of increasing ugliness, of shrinking open space, and of an overall environment that is diminished daily by pollution and noise and blight.”

I just ran across Richard Telford's well-written commentary on Paddle-to-the-Sea and the environmental questions we now have: “The Things We Carry: Revisiting Holling Clancy Holling’s Paddle-to-the-Sea” (online at http://theecotoneexchange.com/2014/10/20/the-things-we-carry-revisiting-holling-clancy-hollings-paddle-to-the-sea/).  His comments bear reading and considering why this book from 1941 still resonates among readers of all ages.  We wonder what the carved canoe’s adventures might have involved if there had been pollution for it to contend with.  Would Minn have recognized its Mississippi home where aquatic life is dying?

Telford writes graphically in the Ecotone Exchange blog about Holling’s description of the Nipigon country, “All this time the world was changing.  The air grew warmer, the birch twigs swelled with new buds.  A moose pawed the snow beside a log, uncovering green moss and arbutus like tiny stars.  And then, one morning, the gray clouds drifted from the sky.  The sun burst out warm and bright above the hills, and under its glare the snow blankets drooped on the fir trees.”

One reason parents of home-schooled children often turn to Holling’s works is for their depiction of nature, which is disappearing from the children’s lives.  Indeed, nature seems to be disappearing to a greater or lesser degree from all of our lives.  What would Holling have written about sites requiring environmental cleanup, about waterways covered with a sheen of oil, about forests in a parched land threatened by fire?

 Will Holling’s books someday be looked at as a memory of nature in the past tense?  And can he still serve as the voice of conservation of a land that holds so much wonder and meaning?  We hope so.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Readers Write and a Home Is Found for HCH’s Art


It’s nice to hear that we’re adding just a bit more to the body of work attributed to Mr. Holling.  Deb, a reader, reports that she discovered our blog “while searching for information about the Kitchen Klenzer Circus items I had purchased at an estate sale.”  She had planned to sell them on eBay

 First sold in 1908, Kitchen Klenzer is an example of an early packaged product whose illustrated label, in attempting to depict the product “in use,” wound up creating a recursive “Droste Effect.” (Named after  Droste cocoa, which was packaged in a similarly recursive illustrated container.)  It was sold largely through newspaper advertising, and here is where Holling’s Circus promoted the product.

Deb got in touch with the inimitable research and museum curator Joan Hoffman.  She read the August 2011 post, she says, “That [Joan] had the elephant but not his blanket, and I had two blankets but no elephant, I started researching your museum and found you had a Facebook page and sent a message asking if you still needed that blanket and offered to donate it.”  Then, charitably, she says, “I had many more pieces than you did I decided not to list it on eBay but donate it all to you.  Until I found the circus at that sale I knew nothing of Mr. Holling.  I only bought it because I was charmed by the colors and the detail of the illustration — and I thought it would sell.

 Joan sent me a note recently, saying, “Thanks for steering this lady to us.  I put together the Kitchen Klenzer Circus elephant and camel this week and they now reside in the museum.  She had the camel, zebra, and lion cutouts.  Although she didn't have the elephant, for some reason there were two elephant blankets in the estate package she bought.  She also had the display box.  She walked in to the museum a week ago Thursday and gave it all to us.  It was unbelievable.”

 Little stories like this, where pieces of paper and advertising ephemera find a permanent home, make me happy.  Small events can make a difference.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Who Was That Writer with the Odd Name?

A note from Joan Hoffman at the museum in Lisle, Mich., intrigued me regarding Watty Piper and the publisher, Platt & Munk. Who was this prolific writer and where did Holling Clancy Holling fit into the publishing scheme?

Joan wrote, “I want to clarify about the text and illustrations in Children of Other Lands. The Hollings (Holling and Lucille) painted those full-page colored illustrations and drew all the marginal drawings. The plates for those were full-page illustrations originally used for the covers of Junior Home Magazine. Holling had a short story to go with each of those covers that appeared on one of the first pages of the magazine.”

She continues, “During the Depression, Junior Home Magazine went out of business. Platt and Munk bought those beautiful plates and used them in Little Folks of Other Lands (1929) and Children of Other Lands (1933). Holling's short stories were rewritten and made longer. Watty Piper was the writer. That was a pseudonym.” And, she added, “I have heard the pseudo writer could be one of a couple possibilities so I can't give you a definitive answer on that.”

A quick search of the Internet reveals “Watty Piper” was actually Arnold Munk, a Hungarian immigrant who co-counded Platt & Munk, the publishing house in Chicago, and served as in-house editor. He was best known for retelling the story of The Little Engine That Could in 1930 and selling millions of copies. Platt & Munk today is a subsidiary of Penguin Books.

Now the story becomes interesting, but confusing:

Enter Eulalie (pron. Ú-la-lee) Page. She was born Eulalie Banks on June 12, 1895, to Marie Minfied and Frederick Francis Banks, the youngest of nine children; in Southeast London, England. “All sources indicate that she had a real love and talent for illustrating from a very early age,” reported Kay Vandergrift of Rutgers University (http://comminfo.rutgers.edu/professional-development/childlit/eulalie.html). At age 15, Eulalie “landed her first job as an illustrator for a children's page in a woman's magazine,” Vandergrift wrote. “At age 18, the book titled, Bobby in Bubbleland, became her first published work. She was both author and illustrator.” (Ms. Vandergrift, professor emerita at Rutgers, died July 1, 2014.)

Platt & Munk commissioned her in 1925 to illustrate the book, The Cock, The Mouse, and The Little Red Hen, edited by Watty Piper (presumably Arnold Munk). It was her first book published in the United states and the first of many published by Platt & Munk. In all, Eulalie illustrated some 53 mostly inexpensive children’s books, a good share published by Platt & Munk.

Among the works listed by Vandergrift under her résumé, however, is Children of Other Lands, written by Watty Piper and published by Platt & Munk in 1933. This may be in error, however, because both Holling and his wife, Lucille, are listed as the illustrators of the book now in print and available on Amazon.

A follow-up conversation with Joan reveals the original book, Little Folks of Other Lands (1929) published by Platt & Munk, became Children of Other Lands (1933) with six fewer full-colored illustrations and lacking the Hemisphere maps on the front and back inside covers.

The original Road in Story Land (1932) has a red & blue edition (arranged in different order). It became Folk Tales Children Love (1934) and Magic Story Tree (1964). The latter two books are the same except the stories are arranged in different order and have five fewer stories than the original Road in Story Land.

“So,” she writes, “one might think there are six different books while all the material comes from the two originals.” Confusing, or simply good marketing?