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Friday, March 13, 2020

What’s a Book Worth? Wow!

A dozen years ago I posted a note here that Holling’s Sun and Smoke, A Book of New Mexico sold on 
the secondary market for $235.  Fifty copies of the handmade book were printed and published in 
1923.  Today, four copies are in university libraries and a fifth was sold to a rare book dealer a dozen 
years ago.   And a sixth has been found.
Sun & Smoke was a printing arts project while Holling was at the Art Institute of Chicago.  He drew on 
the months when he was traveling through New Mexico, witnessing the burgeoning Taos art 
environment and working on a ranch where he and his wife Lucille were staying.  He wrote the verses, 
and carved wood blocks to illustrate the poems.  Then personally printed and bound the work in a 6-1/2
 by 10-1.4 inch book.
A news item I posted on Facebook in 2012 caught my eye and I decided to check the value of this 
book in today’s market.  To my surprise, I discovered an art dealer in San Francisco  was offering Sun 
And Smoke for $1,750!  
My questions went to Joan Hoffman at the Holling museum.   She
immediately sent the museum’s newsletter from April 2012 describing the discovery of the sixth (seventh?) copy:

“Recently a copy of Sun and Smoke was found in a Livingston, Montana, thrift shop by an alert employee.  Heather Heath ‘doesn’t know how the book came to the Community Closet, or when.’  Had Holling not included on the last page that only 50 copies of this book had been printed, Heather might not have given the book much thought.  Also, had Holling used his real name at the time, Holling Allison Clancy,  (It was not legally changed until two years later.) it probably would have been harder to track this author’s past.

“Fortunately, Heather was curious and persistent.  She found a website (perhaps the Holling blog) with information that Holling had graduated from Leslie High School in Michigan.  A call was made to the Leslie Chamber of Commerce president and she was referred to Steve Hainstock, past president of the Leslie Historical Society and founder of the Leslie Historical Museum. The connection was made.

“Heather felt the book should go to the Leslie Historical Museum.  The Community Closet’s Board of Directors also thought the Leslie Historical Museum would be a good home for Holling’s book and they generously decided to give it to the museum as a gift. What a precious gift it is!  We did not expect to ever have a copy of Holling’s first and rarest book.

“How rare is Sun and Smoke?   I know of only six other existing copies.  According to WorldCat, a national database, there are four copies in libraries scattered around the U.S. – Univ. of Arizona; Univ. of California, Los Angeles; Northwestern Univ., IL and Miami Univ. OH. One was sold from a private collection in 2007 and another is, as far as I know, still in a private collection in Oregon.”

This little story has redeemed my faith in fortunate discoveries.  And in the monetary value of his books.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

More About Holling, the Man

  Holling and Lucille

Okay, no one talked me into it, but here's the rest of Holling's interview with this publisher's representative....  Ms. Montgomery’s pre-publication queries subsequently delved deeply into Holling’s biography and character, almost to the point of embarrassment.
Dear Mrs. Montgomery:
Just returned from the east, hence the delay in answering you[r] last letter.

The story on "PADDLE" reads very well, and your title "RETURNED WITH INTEREST" is excellent.

It has been fun working with you. Be sure to have your publishers ship me a copy of the book when it comes out.

Good luck, and happy sale-ing!

Yours sincerely,

P.S.Am enclosing a few shots on signatures to used at will.
My preferences might be No. 1 or 4.                          

Published by: Houghton  Mifflin Co.  Year: 1941
Real Name:  Born Holling Alison Clancy. Father died in 1918. Because the Clancy line was extended by innumerable cousins, while the Holling line ended with my mother, I added
another "Holling" to my name for books. To save confusion, the name was legalized and I am now known as Holling Clancy Holling, but old friends still recognize me as being the original Holling Clancy.
What do your family and friends call you?: Holling

Date of birth: Aug 2-1900  Place of birth: Grandfather Holling's Farm, Henrietta Township, Jackson Co.
Father's occupation: School Supt. Number of Brothers: 1 and sisters: 1
Father's nationality: Canadian Irish-French in Canada for 2 centuries
Mother's nationality: American--English stock, mother's grandfather direct
from England
Kind of home during childhood (farm, small town, city apt. etc):
Childhood, North Mich. S. Peninsula. Small towns with fairly large high schools
Adolescence on the Holling Farm
Where: Westbranch, and AuSable, Mich. 2 yrs. after leaving AuSable
it was destroyed by forest fire.
Amount of schooling (high school, college, etc.): Graduate Leslie High Sch., Leslie Mich.
Grad. Art Institute, Chicago. Special tutoring Anthropology
Economic status during childhood (poor, middle class, wealthy): Middle
Special interests as a child (sports, books, games, etc.): Father was good horseman.
Learned to ride young - I had a pony.
Father inducted me into mysteries of natural sciences - hence love of woods, books.
Mother was pianist, wrote verse, plays etc. locally. Hence love of art, music etc.
Childhood ambitions: To own and control a circus
To write and illustrate books
When did you begin to write?: First- drawing, pig with litter at 3
First verse (local paper) at 5 - ever anon!
Why?: Natural expression. Each new experience I documented in drawn pictures.
Who encouraged you?: Mother, Father, assorted relatives. Father's brothers and sisters were missionaries in India, Africa. Visits home gave me much food for imagination.
What and when was your first success or recognition: Difficult to determine as I grew into it. Mother wrote and produced plays and musicals for Father's schools and I was in them. First actual publications were in boy's magazines as youngster. Verse in adult mag. etc. First books - See Oct. Supplement: Who's Who in Am.; 1942
How did you happen to write  for children?: Grew into this phase also. An intense interest in hows and whys of life gave me an interpreter complex: suppose you could say that I wanted to know how a thing was done so that I could pass it on to others. Regard myself as an interpreter.
Anything else about your background which has a bearing on your writing.:
From small-town-farm environment graduated to big city env. (Chicago) but I was still the "Wilderness-lover." A year in the deserts of New Mexico helped.
Also, working on scientific staff (Taxidermist Asst) of Field Museum of
Nat. Hist., Chicago gave me great impetus. Field trips, Montana and British Columbia for specimens. One real turning point was meeting of Dr. Ralph Linton, Head of American Ethnology Dept. at the museum. We struck up a bargain and after a day's work in Zoology, Dr. Linton (in his office) gave me from one to 3 hours lecture in Anthropology. He tried out his courses on me. (He was later at Columbia Un,, now at Yale). A couple of years of this gave me a foundation in the study of Man - past, present and possible future Which acted  as a key or an entire filing system in my brain for the correlation of scattered information. Hence, any information now gleaned has its pigeon-hole in my mind and becomes part of a  subconscious fund available for future books. (I plan to Produce Bushels!)                  
P.S. Look at designs on title contents page, map etc. of "Paddle" and you will see patterns in birch bark as related below - (though of course  not in old Chippewa design).


Where did you get the idea for the book?: Touring the Gulf States, Lowell Thompson of H.M.Co. [Houghton Mifflin] wrote me about illustrating a book for them. At Boston I gave Lowell various ideas for books. He liked the idea of a story about a river. So Mrs. Holling and I started west again in our studio-trailer for the headwaters of the Missouri. En route, Wisconsin and Minn., idea shifted to a river in the Great Lakes.
When (Season as well as year): Autumn 1938
On a fishing boat in Lake Superior I said "that's it - a chip floats along the river in the Lakes, clear to the sea." Later that month, Lucille (Mrs. H.) and I met a Chippewa woman selling birch bark baskets near Fort William Ont. She used hideous designs from magazines- flower pots, sunbonnet babies, roses etc. We said "why not use the original Chippewa designs but tho her mother  had remembered then, she had forgotten. So Lucille and I at Fort William Camp, from memory, cut out many birch patterns of Chippewa and Cree designs. These I did on the orange-colored tree-side of the bark, traced with a point and all inside the outline scraped neatly. This gives a darker silhouette on the dark bark. The woman was astonished at the authentic designs and because we even cut them in bark patterns, like the old-time Chippeway. To show her gratitude and pleasure she gave us, among other things, a carving  made by a 12-year old Chippewa friend. We still have it - a kneeling Indian with drawn bow. If a 12 yr. old could do this, I reasoned, then an Indian in a canoe would be easy. So there was my `chip' to float thru the `river' in the Lakes' to the sea. My high school summer  vacations had been spent (2 years) working on Great Lakes freighters. Lucille and I had camped all around the Lakes on long canoe trips, including Nipiquo country. So the story virtually developed on its own, as naturally as a chip going downstream. The title came while we camped in Bryce Canyon, Utah. I thought of having the boy carve "I am Paddle-to- the-Sea" ____ verbal thing - as an Indian would say "I am Paddling to the sea! But the words seemed simple and direct, and the title was born as is.

When did you begin to write the book?: 1939

Where?: Sequoia Park, Calf. extending to Olympic Pen. (Neah Bay region) finished Altadena Calf.

My desert books are often written in canoes, canoeing books in deserts. Perspective, you see.

How much had you had published when you began it? (Give names of books) See "Who's Who, Oct sup., 1942" page 208 - also "Story and Verse for Children" - page 813 by Miriam Blanton Huber

What was your purpose in writing this book?: To give youngsters a taste of the North Country I knew -  to have fun making a book - and for cash!

How do you write? (typewriter, long-hand, dictate):

Where? (study, office, etc.):

Do you keep regular office hours?: Yes. If so, what are they?: No

Do you revise much?: Yes  Write easily or laboriously?: It all depends

Do you let your family or friends read your work, or try it out on children?: Read it to my wife. Never to children.                         
Who makes your final copies? (yourself, private secretary, public typist, etc.): or sometimes to save time typist.

Did you make an outline before writing the book?: No

Did you decide on the title first or last?: First

How long did it take you to write the book?: Problematical. Some paragraphs rewritten 60 times for simplicity and rhythm [sic].

Did you work on it steadily?: At times.

Did it go fairly smoothly or did you hit rough spots? (Details of any particular difficulty and its solution would be appreciated.):  No rough spots in  story proper. Sometimes difficult to choose which writing told story best. In PADDLE, TREE and new book SEABIRD, each page of some 300 words is a complete chapter. This  necessitates work in framing all ideas for that page simply and yet without losing the plot, excitement, etc. (As against such writing, sonnets are a cinch!)

Was your book accepted immediately by a publisher?: Yes

Was it immediately popular on publication?: Thank Heaven!

Anything else about your writing that might be of interest, especially anything that concerns this book.: The rests between spurts were swell!


How much did you have to do with the illustrations of your book?: Practically everything except making the plates.

If you did them yourself, which came first, the pictures or the text?: Text

What medium did you work in?: Water-color, pencil, pen

How much experience had you had in illustrating?: years.         


What did you look like when you wrote this book? Dark or Fair?: Dark

Tall or short?: 5' 10-1/2" 

Thin or plump?: Slender

Color of eyes?: Dark blue  Wore glasses?: No

Color of hair?: Dark Brown  Kind of hair--long or short?: Medium

Curly or straight?: Straight  How did you wear it?: See picture

Any special features of your appearance (square jaw, dimples, stoop,etc.): Would dearly love a square jaw but haven't one. No dimples. No s

Are you quiet or talkative?: It all depends.  Friendly or reserved?: Ditto

Do you laugh a great deal or are you usually grave?: Not manic-depressive. However, can howl with glee or be sober as hell.

Are you quick-tempered or calm and placid?: Every alternate leap-year.

What sort of clothes do you wear  most when writing? (sports, suits slacks, etc.): Sometimes trunks only. Sometimes overcoats. Altitude and weather dictate.

Favorite occupations and hobbies?: Too many

What is your normal speech like? (Meticulously correct, colloquial, slangy, abrupt, rambling, etc.): Yes. And the shadings can be subtle.

What are some of your pet expressions and exclamations?: I blush.

Profanity not habitual.

If strongly religious, give denomination.: Brought up a Methodist - but am very broad in view. Could still be called Christian.

Any other details about yourself, no matter how trivial, which  might help me to picture you in my own mind. Latin Americans call me "simpatico." I become with no effort the age to which I am talking. Even some dogs seem to wonder why I have no tail. Cats regard me with favor. Also old people. Also my wife (this statement - should be qualified at length.

Can you direct me to any articles or books which have been written about you?: See Who's Who Supplement for  Oct. 1942. It contains most complete list of my books.

If you have a photograph  or snapshot of yourself of about the vintage of your book, I would appreciate it. Of course I would return it promptly. Please keep the thing!              

Writer, Illustrator, Adventurer… Humorist? Who Was This Guy Anyway

I thought I knew a bit about Holling Clancy Holling, but recently I tripped over commentary he wrote.  His letters to biographer Elizabeth Rider Montgomery, working perhaps on behalf of Houghton Mifflin, in 1948, amazed me.  Take a look:

Dear Miss Montgomery:

Your last letter of January 2 has just arrived via Boston, and has jolted me into startled realization of my negligence.  Upon receipt of your first letter the filling out of your questionnaire was started (quite expansively as you will note - if you cannot decipher cuneiform please write and we will send "Holling's Handy Helper in Handling His Hen Scratches," complete with guide maps and instructions).

Then my publisher hinted that, if my new book hopes to be born in '48 its author ought to hump himself with the illustrations. Everything else was dropped (it was already dropped before this, but the hint only dropped everything deeper), including another questionnaire for an anthology to be published in England, business letters in stacks, and the pleading missives of friends and relatives. Christmas and New Years saw me nailed to the drawing board. People have sometimes expatiated on the "effortless ease of creation" suggested by PADDLE-TO-THE-SEA and TREE IN THE TRAIL. At the time of creation of the idea, yes. But from then on - rolled sleeves, shovel and pick!

This new book, SEABIRD, has the same format as PADDLE. But the story takes in much more  territory in space and time.

The story thread hangs on a seagull carved in walrus ivory which sails with four seafaring generations, starting in an 1830 whaling ship off Greenland and ending in a plane. My illustrative struggle was a struggle only in the necessity for deletion. (I really love my work). For each page of pictures, data and sketches had been amassed, enough for a book.

The finished material had to be axed unmercifully to emerge basic, concise, yet comprehensive.

Thus your  questionnaire was laid aside for a day and was literally buried under hundreds of sketches. The completed illustrations have now been mailed. And now, coming out of a daze, your letter of January 2 is the first of many groups to be answered.

Your outline of the subjects to be included in your book is appealing. It is flattering to find my simple PADDLE in such good company. Please put me on your sales list for an autographed, first edition copy! Sincerely, Holling Clancy Holling                                                     

Holling continues three months later:

Dear Mrs. Montgomery,
You've done a swell job with the PADDLE story. It could  go as is. However, because it is so darn good, I've nudged it here and there to sharpen facts in some places and broaden meanings in others; so that from here on out i can refer questioners to your anthology for the real dope on how PADDLE got under way.
Your title, I am afraid, may get me in wrong with some of my Indian friends. I can hear them now - "Huh! So this guy knows more about us than we do? Ho! Wait till we [word missing?] this him again! Boy, will we pour it on!"... In other words, because I can change a car's tire doesn't
mean i know the secrets of its motor. And really knowing Indians is akin to understanding atomic fission....
Perhaps you could snare a title which would,  instead of being boastful, point a moral for the young reader. nothing so trite as "helping others we help ourselves" but with that general idea. Lucille and i helped the old woman with no thought of reward (our reward was in proving to ourselves that we were smart enough to remember certain designs), yet she gave us an extension on our original ideas which formed the book's character.... Or you might pick up a title from something like HOW BITS OF BIRCHBARK HELPED TO BUILD A BOOK....(When I started on this title thing I really meant to help. Hope I haven't driven you into a bog).

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Holling's “Keep It Simple” Formula

One of the secrets to Holling’s enduring interest by young people is his simplified vocabulary.  Dr. Seuss — Theodor Geisel — also realized this with his severely truncated lexicon in stories like The Cat in the Hat. 

Holling’s Paddle-to-the-Sea has a Fog Index of 6.9, meaning 91% of everyday words we use are harder.  His Flesch Reading Index score is 75.2, meaning 90% of other vocabulary is harder.  Similarly, only 5% of Holling’s words are “complex.  His word choices have just 1.4 syllables per word.  And, there are just 12.3 words per sentence.

This doesn’t mean Holling wrote down to youngsters or was patronizing.  It does mean a fifth grader can easily pick up a Holling book and understand the story.  Home schooling sources regularly cite Holling’s books for their educational value.  But, to a nine-year-old, Holling is a captivating, comprehensible guide to new worlds. 

(A note of thanks for to E.J. Hirsch, Jr. for What Your Fifth Grader Needs to Know: Fundamentals of a Good Fifth Grade Education, from which these statistics are cited.)

Fog Index: 
9% are easier
91% are harder
Flesch Index: 
10% are easier
90% are harder
Flesch-Kincaid Index: 
12% are easier
88% are harder

Complexity (learn more)
Complex Words: 
5% have fewer
95% have more
Syllables per Word: 
11% have fewer
89% have more
Words per Sentence: 
24% have fewer
76% have more