Become a Fan

A growing number of people who love children's stories, nature writing and Americana are turning to Holling as a timeless teacher of geography, culture, history, and adventure. Become a fan and continue sharing the excitement!

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Little Marginalia on Those Illustrations

At times, I feel like Bullwinkle or Rocky visiting Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine to recover the past.  Here are two snippets of intelligence that crossed my desk during the holidays:

First, I saw Nedd Mockler’s 1999 review of Tree in the Trail on Amazon and asked if I might retell his story for you.  He agreed.  He had said, "Fifty-seven years ago at the request of his [my?] mother I visited Holling C. Holling at his California ranch.  I was eight years old.  He asked me to pose for a few sketches he wanted to do.  Later that year he sent me the book Tree in the Trail. Inside the front cover he had written, ‘For Nedd Mockler, who posed for the Indian boy in this book.  With best wishes, Holling C. Holling.’  The inscription is dated "Dec. 1942." 
A color plate from Tree in the Trail
Nedd added, “I have all of his books and enjoy looking at them still.  Lucille Holling, his wife, was a water color artist and helped with many of his projects.”  He added, “I am delighted to hear that a museum has been created and devoted to Holling in Leslie, Michigan.  I would very much like to see photos of the museum and any literature you make available there.  I have a collection of Holling's books, and would appreciate anything you might make available to this 82-year old fan.”  Thanks, Nedd! 

The second item comes from Joan Hoffman in Leslie, Mich.  She adds another insider note about Holling’s models.  “Jack Bickel, young son of the Hollings' friends, Harold and Sally Bickel, posed as the model for the boy in Seabird.  Holling dedicated Seabird to Jack.”  This item of intelligence, she reports, came from one of Holling's letters

Friday, November 11, 2016

Another Day, Another Puzzle

Judith, a reader of the Holling page on Facebook, wrote from the U.K., “Would you be able to help me date these jigsaws illustrated by Holling C. Holling or tell me anything about them?  Thank you.”  (The Facebook page is at  The jigsaw came a house clearance in Sheffield. 

I immediately went to my source of all Holling knowledge, Joan Hoffman at the museum in Michigan.  Boy, were we in luck. 

She quickly wrote back, “That is one of Holling’s signed 9x11” illustrations in Little Folks of Other Lands.  It is a chapter about gypsies.  The book was published in 1929 by Platt and Munk.  These publishers commonly made puzzles from Holling book illustrations.  In the chapter, it mentions that there were many gypsies in Romania.  In 1956 the first edition of six children’s jigsaw puzzles was reproduced from that 1929 Little Folks of Other Lands book.” 

I put Joan’s information back up on Facebook and asked her permission to share this with you.  Judith agreed and mentioned she loves Holling’s illustrations…as do I.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Passing on Holling’s Heritage to Another Generation

Rum-Tum-Tummy, still alive and doing well.

In this 75th anniversary of the publication of Holling’s Paddle-to-the-Sea, our good friend Joan Hoffman created a special exhibit for the local children of Leslie, Mich.

“There is a an elementary school across the street for the town’s public library, so they get many young visitors,” she says.  “And the library has a nice display case.”  With the library’s permission, Ms. Hoffman put up a display for children during the first three weeks of October.  
Part of the display was about elephants arranged in something like a circus formation,” she said.  “Holling’s fat blue elephant was announcing ‘I'm Rum-Tum-Tummy,’ one of Holling's elephants.”  She adds that Holling saw his first real live elephant at a circus in Jackson, Mich., and was fascinated.  And that is how the elephant can be found in his stories.  You can find Rum-Tum-Tummy the Elephant Who Ate, still in print after 80 years, at Amazon. 
Another little addendum: The Leslie library has a set of the five Houghton Mifflin books written by the Hollings.  You might ask your own librarians if they have any Holling books.  If enough people ask, they just might find a way to stock them...or accept your donation.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

An Artist, Even to the End

Lucille Webster, Holling’s wife, was a striking woman of many talents, chiefly an artist in her own right and a collaborator to Holling’s writing, research and illustration.  Born on Dec. 8, 1900, in Valparaiso, Ind., her initial interest lay in art fashion and she attended the Art Institute of Chicago.  In Chicago, she designed theatrical scenery and costumes, and she drew for fashion publications.   

A woman of many talents, she flew a Piper Cub and coined the term “hero” for a hoagie or sub sandwich because “you had to be a hero to eat it all.” 

No less a personage than food critic Clementine Paddleford in This Week magazine asked  Lucille about Pagoo when she was a dinner guest of the Hollings at their home in Pasadena, Cal.  “Holling did the writing,” Lucille said, “and the 20 full-page color plates.  I did the black and white detailed marginal drawings.”  That day, Lucille prepared the dinner of chicken Hawaiian to celebrate publication of Pagoo, the hermit crab, their fifth book in the children’s series. 

When Holling died on Sept. 7, 1973, Lucille did not come to Michigan for the funeral, possibly because she was not well at the time.  But she wrote out these detailed instructions for the monument and left handwritten instructions for type sizes, fonts and measurements. 
In researching this, Joan Hoffman of the Holling collection in Henrietta Township, Mich., said, “[Lucille’s] pattern was printed on cardstock weight paper.  It has been rolled up for years, probably since the early 70s.”  She carefully unrolled it to take the photo seen here.
She says, “I assume she purposely did not include Holling’s birth and death dates to send the message that he lives as long as his books are read.”  The silhouette is, of course, Paddle-to-the-Sea, Holling’s most popular and representative icon.  That marker is at the Nims Cemetery near our home in Henrietta Township.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Opening a New World and Revisiting an Old One

Readers who have become adults will often happen across a writer or illustrator and have a flash of memory about what that work meant when they were eight years old or 10 or 12.  It mirrors the discovery they experienced at that age when a new world opened up. 

My friend (and guide to all things Holling) mentioned such an incident.  Joan Hoffman recalled that this summer two boys — probably fourth or fifth graders — were sitting on the step of the museum door in Leslie, Mich. 

She asked “Are you going to the museum?”  It seemed like a new thought to the boys and they came inside soon after to wander and wonder.  She says “They especially liked the hermit crab model by Holling’s Pagoo book, and then the large snapping turtle shell by the Minn of the Mississippi story.”  One of the boys couldn’t imagine carrying that shell around on his back all day.  The children left later with a lot to think about, and they left a curator happy to have opened the eyes of two kids to another world.  That’s the beauty of Holling Clancy Holling’s work. 

And there was another incident this summer.  Joan had popped into the museum unexpectedly and encountered a visitor from Lansing, Mich.  “He asked if there was anyone who knew about a one-room schoolhouse in Henrietta Township,” she reports, where Holling had grown up.  She was speechless for a moment because he was talking about Holling School and told her he had attended kindergarten and first grade there many years ago. 

All of the one-room schools in the area had been consolidated, and a new elementary school with nine classrooms was erected.  The Holling School was demolished in 1963. 

Joan took the visitor to the spot where the school had been and where a new home sits on the foundation.  She pointed out the home where Holling was born and other buildings in Holling Corners.  Then they walked up the hill to Nims Cemetery where Holling is buried.  Oh, and Joan made one more stop, at her own home where her husband scanned an old photo of Holling School for the visitor before they returned to the museum. 

It’s such things like these discoveries and recollections that provide a writer with a certain immortality.


Saturday, June 18, 2016

Nice Coincidence. Now Spread the Word

Surprises are always happening. Joan Hoffman, who runs the Holling museum up in Leslie, Mich., had a recent visit from a retired fifth grade teacher in California who particularly loves Holling.  “She and her Michigan friend had read our Michigan History Magazine article about Holling and wanted to visit the Leslie Museum to learn more,” Joan reports. 

“We enjoyed a May morning together at the Museum and at Holling's gravesite.  Then they spent the rest of the day and the next two days at other Michigan sites.  While on this trip, they stopped at a number of bookstores to buy a copy of Paddle -to-the-Sea, but there were none to be found.  The California friend urged every Michigan bookstore they entered that they should have the books by this wonderful Michigan author on their shelves.”  Some testimonial. 

Joan said that with this experience behind them, “They felt our museum should have copies of Paddle-to-the Sea available to sell.”  Whereupon, the pair purchased eight copies from Barnes & Noble and donated them to the museum. “What a thoughtful gift,” Joan said. 

She ended her long-distance e-mail to me, saying, “I look at these presentations as an opportunity to spread the word about Holling and his work.  The day before hosting these two visitors, I had 13 for a presentation. So hopefully each of the 15 will say something about Holling to at least one other person.” 

On this 75th anniversary of Paddle’s publishing, you might want to consider a young friend or family member who needs an introduction to this writer.  It can be your gift.