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Wednesday, June 20, 2018

From Sketchbook to Finished Art

Holling will forever be known as a multi-talented writer, illustrator and naturalist.  The world — in all its naturalistic forms — was forever with him.   
Before Holling was recognized for his magnificent books of nature, wildlife and native American people, he illustrated children’s magazines.  He was a regular illustrator for Junior Home Magazine. Something to Do Magazine for Mothers and Children, and many others.  Holling would write a story to go with each picture.  This illustration of a circus horse appeared in 1928 or ’29. 

He would also add drawings to cards and letters sent to family members.  The outline of a horse, seen below, was executed when Holling was 3 years old, according to family members.  

My thanks to Joan Hoffman, curator of the museum in Leslie, Mich., for caring for these treasures from the past — our past as a nation.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Holling Material on Display

I rarely fail to run my finger over the titles in our library’s young readers section and in bookstoresto see if a Holling title will appear.  But, no, all the titles are recent entries in the publishing world.  And I wonder, has Holling Clancy Holling completely disappeared except for titles available from online retailers?
I’d like to make the case that stories like Tree in the Trail and Paddle-to-the-Sea are timeless, and of interest even to adults.  I’ve had no response from my letters to publisher Houghton Mifflin, so it’s left to small voice like the museum in Leslie, Michigan, to display his books and materials. 
In this picture Curator Joan Hoffman sent to us are many of the ever-popular titles but also small models and materials associated with the author, artist and naturalist.  Look closely at the top shelf, she writes, and you’ll see the long bow that he made and used.  This six-foot-long work of art dates at least to the mid-20th century.  His books will also remain timeless.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Hollings on the Road

Joan Hoffman was kind enough to send along a picture from the past.  She notes, “Holling and Lucille were traveling around the United States gathering material for future books.  This picture was taken Aug. 19, 1937, during a newspaper interview in Seattle, Washington.
“Holling talked about how they lived off the land during their trip.  In one of Holling's letters he talked about the white cat they are holding.  This cat always slept on their bed at night.”
Most cats never like to ride in a car so it’s surprising that it rode so well on the Hollings’ extensive road trip.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Past Will Always Be Part of the Present

Holling’s work has always been timeless, which is what Joan Hoffman, docent of the Holling museum and collection in Leslie, MI, was thinking when she created the montage poster now hanging there.  The poster’s elements include a man reading Holling’s Book of Indians, her grandson reading Paddle to the Sea and her cat reading The Blot: Little City Cat.  The art is titled “A Holling Book for Everyone.”  I love it!  Thank you, Joan! 

The Blot: Little City Cat is a new title for me.  It was published in 1931 or, according to Amazon which advertises it, in 1930.  Illustrated by Holling, it was written by Phyllis Crawford, Jonathan Cape & Harrison Smith and published by Cape and Smith.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bringing Paddle to the Sightless

The Holling museum in Leslie, MI, has a new acquisition that is both wonderful and somewhat unusual.  The museum acquired a copy of Paddle-to-the-Sea in Braille for young people—and elders—without sight.  

This edition was published by Seedlings, Braille Books for Children, a publisher located in Livonia, MI.  Joan Hoffman, curator of the museum, explains that there are no illustrations.  The book is apparently out of print now, although the museum’s copy had a publisher’s date of 1993.

 [My apologies to those who follow this blog that I’ve been physically incapacitated this summer but hope to play catch-up.  My thanks to a new friend in Scotland who wrote this week seeking information on Hazel Gibb Hinman, whose 1958 thesis at the University of Redlands (CA) has been a font of information on Holling Clancy Holling.  And earlier, we were so happy to hear from a Holling fan who teaches in Peru while working on his doctorate.  We’re always glad to help and see this blog as a forum for keeping alive the memory of a wonderful children’s book author, illustrator and naturalist.]

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nipigon, Ontario, Revisited

About 10 years ago, residents and visitors gathered in Nipigon, Ontario, to dedicate a park where little Paddle-to-the-Sea began its journey.  The community proudly unveiled a wooden sculpture commissioned for the occasion by from local chain saw artists.  Water features replicate the Great Lakes flowing saucer-like one into another and offer up a water park toimmerse yourself. 
Friends of Joan Hoffman, who manages the Holling Museum in Leslie, Mich., recently visited Nipigon and passed on their thoughts and photos to Joan on their way back home.  Earlier last year, Mimi and Phyllis were at a presentation Joan gave on Paddle-to-the-Sea’s 75th anniversary.

A visitor stands in the oversize model of Paddle at the park.
This is a place where people of all ages can explore and enjoy and learn.  The Park includes the “Cascades” feature, where toddlers to teens have a blast playing in the water buckets, and opening and closing the dams in the water troughs.  Other features include a gentle misting leaf, flower dumping buckets, a spraying snail, and fountain spouts.  After you play, relax with an ice cream across the street at Rotary Park, visit the Nipigon Historical Museum, check out the local shops, or enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
The Nipigon Museum.
The Paddle-to-the-Sea Park was more than 10 years in development.  The Nipigon Historical Museum on Front St. in town collects, protects, and displays artifacts representing a time period of before European contact to present day.  More at

Filmmaker Bill Mason has created a marvelous video based on Holling’s classic, Paddle to the Sea.  Take a few moments and watch Paddle’s story come alive in this video, at  And share it with your children.  The Nipigon site also carries multiple photos, directions and news.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A New Examination of Holling’s Environmentalism

One of the joys of writing about the Hollings is the number of unsolicited queries and thank-you's I receive.  Recently, an e-mail came from Lowell Wyse, a PhD candidate in American Literature at Loyola University Chicago.  He came across this blog while doing research on Paddle-to-the-Sea. 
Paddle's route through the Great Lakes.

At this moment, he’s teaching at a college in Peru and drafting a paper on Paddle for the biennial conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE), which will take place at Wayne State University in Detroit.  His topic will be (whew!) “Ecospatial Orientation in the Great Lakes Watershed: Holling Clancy Holling’s Paddle-to-the-Sea.” 

In an abstract, he states, “The Great Lakes are bowls on a hillside pouring into one another.  Lake Superior is a wolf’s head, and Lake Michigan is a summer squash.  Lake Saint Clair is a heart pumping red iron ore, ‘the life blood of industry.’  These are a few of the many memorable images from Holling Clancy Holling’s Paddle-to-the-Sea (1941), a remarkable work of children’s literature that is also an imaginative natural and cultural history of the Great Lakes bioregion. 

“This slim little picture book details the journey of the eponymous toy canoe, carved by a schoolboy in Ontario's Nipigon Country, north of Lake Superior.  The boy places Paddle in the snowy hills before the spring thaw and trusts the watershed to do its work, carrying the toy boat through the entire Great Lakes system and out to the Atlantic Ocean.  Urged on by water currents, human intervention, and plenty of good fortune, the toy figure becomes not only a tourist of the watershed, but also a traveling palimpsest and a cartographic index, as the people who find it carve inscriptions and locations into its hull.” 

His position in presenting this paper is that “Paddle-to-the-Sea is an important and highly accessible work of Great Lakes environmental literature, a text that highlights the spatiality of the natural world — which I refer to as ecospatiality — a dynamic too often ignored by contemporary ecocriticism.  Through its unique story, maps, and other illustrations, the book deftly demonstrates the connectedness of nature, geography, and culture.  Written at the dawn of World War II, it also glorifies American industrialization in a way that is troubling (for an ecocritic), yet somehow quaint, as we look backward from the Rust Belt Era.” 

Much has happened — culturally, economically and sociologically — in the 75 years since Paddle was published.  But it’s heartening to feel that one of the great writers of books for young people has remained a positive force as we wrestle to better understand our environment and climate change.