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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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bringing Items—and People—Together


The Kitchen Klenzer elephants with their blankets
Joan Hoffman, curator of the museum with Holling art and artifacts in Leslie, Mich., sent me a nice note this week.  She said “Thanks for all you do for Holling and the blog.”  But, seriously, it’s fun hearing from people who have discovered something while they’re searching eBay, thrift stores or flea markets!  

About a year ago, one of our readers, Deb, posted a note.  She had been searching for  Kitchen Klenzer Circus items that Holling had designed.  “I had purchased [them] at an estate sale, had planned sell them on eBay and was looking for something about it to put in my description.”  Kitchen Klenzer was a product created in 1908.  Holling did a number of cutouts and dioramas for children in the 1930s, often while promoting products.  So this is a long time for paper ephemera to last and be cherished. 

I was able to put Deb in touch with Joan where the two discovered each had some items the other was missing.  Deb sent her pieces to Joan so a tabletop display could be created for museum visitors to see.  Joan just sent me a photo, so let me now share it with you.  And, thank you all for keeping your eyes peeled for things


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Get Out! – and Find Four Things


Someone once said education should be pleasurable, but I’m afraid too much rote learning is dull and terrifying and unpleasant.  That’s why I was happy when a reader of this blog, Polly Brown, introduced me to a game even I can play.   

She writes in her blog, (https://ayeartothinkitover.com/2015/04/02/get-out-and-find-four-things/) “Someone…said research had shown that the typical American kid spends an average of just seven minutes each day outside.  ‘Yikes!’ I thought later, as I walked under oak woods and tall white pines, past a beach still covered with snow.  I couldn’t have heard that right.”

She suggests playing a game, but you can call it an assignment or meditative exercise, to open up the outdoor world.  It comes from Holling’s Minn  of the Mississippi published in 1951.  Holling wrote, Ms. Brown reminds us, “a miniature natural history museum could consist of just four things – a pebble, a leaf, a feather, and a button.  Something mineral, for geology; from a plant, for biology; from an animal, for zoology; and made by a human, for anthropology.” 

“Find Four Things makes a wonderful assignment for homework outdoors.”  She says kids can do this in their backyards or other outdoor places.  They should skip things found indoors — so no shells from Florida sent north by cousins.  If animal remains — a feather or shell — can’t be found, perhaps there’s a trace of a tooth mark on an acorn or a footprint or the trail of insects on the inside bark of a tree.  

She works with children in this adventure game, then they share their collections, learning about where the items came from.  And they set their discoveries on a table to become a miniature museum.

 
A poet and a philosopher, Ms. Brown says, “I’m here mostly to practice gathering and letting go.  I stand outside, under an enormous sky, and hold enormous things in my small and always aging heart.  All the living beings of the natural world – not just we humans – dwell in the compost pile of what has been, and in the seeds and (often invisible) eggs of what will be.” 

And this is truly lovely:  “As I lay down my collection, gathered from that dear rubble the melting snow reveals, I think of all those children trapped indoors.  I really don’t believe that thing about seven minutes.  Still, just in case, I mutter to the air at large: Let my people go.”


 
 

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.