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Saturday, January 5, 2019

The World Comes to Your Livingroom

It’s curious that I continue to see references to and receive e-mails from people who use Holling’s works in home-schooling their children. Theirs is more than just a bucolic trip through a naturalistic world; they focus on the wealth of information Holling’s books that include: science, history, geography, writing, and more.  And their children are richer for the exposure.

Kim, a Chicago native and creator of the blogsite, 730 Sage Street (https://www.730sagestreet.com/holling-c-holling-books-teach-geography-literature-nature-studies)/, says, “Holling C. Holling books are like a banana split of books: literature, geography, history, nature study, travelogue, and all topped with great illustrations. For homeschoolers, his books can be a spine for many subjects, or the basis for a unit study. Even if you do nothing else, you should read [Holling’s books], because your family will enjoy them.”  

Kim begins, “We started with Pagoo, the story of a hermit crab, because we had a bit of a hermit crab obsession going on.  I really didn’t have an idea of how good the book would be.  Pagoo follows the life of a hermit crab from birth through adulthood in a tide pool.  Readers will learn so much about marine life in this book.

“Similarly, Minn of the Mississippi follows the life of a snapping turtle as she travels down the entire length of the Mississippi River.  The book delves into the geology and history of the river as well as the animals that inhabit it.  He also explains how humans interact with and have changed the river.”

She continues that the next three books feature  inanimate objects as the main characters, “which is an interesting change in children’s literature:” Paddle-to-the-Sea, Seabird, and .Tree in the Trail.

.One of her resources is from the Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW), Geography Based Writing Lessons.  She hails it as a source for writing assignments. “We were very happy with it; it solidified the skills learned with IEW Level A, without being boring,” she reports.

Holling’s books can be a “launchpad for science and nature studies.”  They can also revive a world that’s becoming more distant as we thrash our way into the modern age.

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?

Sunday, April 26, 2015

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

 
One of the satisfying elements of writing the Holling blog is that mysteries present themselves and, often, they’re solved.  I received a letter this month asking about an 11 x 14” picture — originally rendered in ink and colored charcoal or pastels — in an old frame that was discarded in Florida.  The only identification was the imprint “Mountain View” and the publisher “Platt & Munk.” 


 












“Possibly,” the writer suggested, “it might be an unused scene from [Holling’s 1936] Book of Cowboys … because the art style is strikingly similar and fits the storyline.  Or, it might have been an original background mockup.”

 The resident expert in this case, Joan Hoffman of the Leslie, Mich., museum, came to the rescue.  She noted that the museum has a package of 12 illustrations about Children of Other Lands.”   The publisher’s name appears in the bottom left, she adds, but only on the envelope is it noted that the illustrations are by Holling C. Holling.

Also in the museum’s collection is a box of six Indian jigsaw puzzles and a box of six Cowboy puzzles.  Same identification of publisher and illustrator on the box.  If the mystery art is not from the puzzles or the book, perhaps this is an outtake — a piece Holling produced but was sold singly by P&M.  Joan Hoffman states, “The publisher was within its right [to publish the art], but profited more than the Hollings did…in these examples and their other work.”

So, art detectives, keep your eyes peeled!  Someday we may have a definitive catalogue raisonné of all the commercial art that Holling and his wife, Lucille, produced.
A comparison of the mystery art (right) with similar Holling
technique in rendering landscape and trees.