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Monday, October 29, 2018

Creating Shelf Appeal

I think many visitors to book sellers walk the aises and run their fingers over the covers before majking a selection.  Before Internet search engines, this was the accepted means of reachi9ng prospective customers.  When I worked at the parent company of Funk & Wagnalls, I learned that about 10 percent of the public visited book sellers.  But 100 percent shopped at supermarkets for food, which is why F&W sold its encyclopedia at supermarkets.

Platt & Munk, publishers of Holling’s 1936 book Cowboys, may have attempted similar “shelf attraction” by changing the cover of Cowboys at least three times!  It's not known whether the cover art was created by Holling or the advertising department.

Our able researcher. Joan Hoffman, discovered this curiosity.  She notes, “A visitor brought to the Museum a copy of Holling's Coyboys  to add to our collection.  It had a book jacket that was different from what we had.  The hard cover beneath the jacket is the same.  It looks like we have three different Cowboys books.  

It is similar situation as with the three Holling Indians books.”  Sure ‘nuff, this is what the Indians covers look like from 1935.
(Readers: Please excuse this horrible layout and formatting.  Google is unforgiving in terms of layout!)



Thursday, October 4, 2018

Looking Back, Waaay Back

Let’s step back a bit and look at Holling’s beginnings. And, let me borrow from a piece published five years ago in Michigan News by Jack and David Dempsey ( 
“Almost equidistnt in the southern peninsula from two of the great lakes, Erie and Michigan, a point exists. Imaginary boundaries intersect here: one, a meridian, slices the Lower Peninsula into two halves; the other, mirroring the equator, forms a base line. Where these lines cross once served as the key reference point for surveyors to devise Michigan’s township lines. Today, the site is a unique historic state park—inaccessible to the public, completely surrounded by wood lots and private lands.

“Less than a mile from here, as two centuries intersected, Holling Allison Clancy was born on August 2, 1900. The house in which he was born, still standing, is multigabled, a complexity belying its rural setting. The boy was awarded his mother’s maiden name as a legacy of her pioneer stock and to prolong it one more generation, for she was the last of her line. From this rural boyhood would emerge an imagination that fashioned magnificent journeys through American history and geography, a creativity that found its fulfillment on the written and illustrated page.

“Henrietta Township, the Hollings’ neighborhood, was equal parts farmland and forest. North of Jackson and south of Lansing, the area is thoroughly rural; there are just a few hamlets, carrying names like Fitchburg and Munith. [ed. note: Henrietta’s population in 2000 was 1,582.]

“Today, not far away, the Phyllis Haehnle Memorial Audubon Sanctuary provides a wildlife refuge for descendants of the fauna that fascinated the boy Holling in the meadows around his home. He grew up roaming these woods, reading nature books his father (a principal and school superintendent) and mother would bring home.

“His interests early on were fixed on animals, Indians, and camping. Like many children, Holling loved to draw at an early age. But by age 3, he was fashioning images of animals worthy of an artist far beyond his age.  It became obvious that his life would be devoted to something creative, and he  on the goal of creating children’s books. 

“In 1941, Houghton Mifflin — publisher of school textbooks — came out with a different kind of picture book, uniquely designed by the man from Henrietta Township.  The tale told and pictured inside this children’s volume challenged its reader far beyond what was typical.

“For one thing, the pictures were treated differently than in nearly any other such book: the righthand page was filled with a beautiful watercolor, a work of art that advanced the story line, while the left-hand page held the text — but not conventionally so, for in the margins, top, left, or bottom, were found small maps and pictures, miniature diagrams and other instructional images, which delved deeply into details of the story. These marginalia were intricate. Nothing had been done like this before.
House in Henrietta Township where Holling was
born in 1900. Photo taken in 1912.
 “The fields surrounding Nims Cemetery are plowed up in spring. The country lanes are bordered by mature trees, and the one-acre burial ground is as much a part of the landscape as any living thing. The site is bucolic; the grounds start on Nims Road and gently rise toward the west, cresting on a small hill. It is here where, on the western slope, Holling’s grave marker can be found, facing east toward the rising sun. It bears an image of an open book, within which is his pen name in cursive form. The stone has no dates, but rather this apt statement: ‘Part of Him Lives on in His Books.’”
The same house as it appeared in 2010.

Dave Dempsey is an environmental consultant and a Michigan Notable Book Award winner for his biography of Governor William G. Milliken. Brother Jack Dempsey is an attorney, historian and author of Michigan and the Civil War, which won a Michigan Notable Book Award.  The above article is adapted from Ink Trails: Michigan’s Famous and Forgotten Authors published by Michigan State University Press.


Friday, August 24, 2018

What’s in a Name…or Its Art?


Reproduction of this edition by Forgotten Books.
One of the toughest tasks confronting anyone wanting to know more about Holling’s work is to find a complete professional bibliography.  As I researched the man I found disparate dates, omissions of his publishers, and details of his graphic output.  Further complicating record-keeping is the fact that publishers (mostly Platt & Munk) would reissue a book with new covers and rearranged story contents.
For an  inveterate book collector, there’s a world of publishing variations. 
My guide to this has been our treasured resource, Joan Hoffman, at the museum in Leslie, MI.  She writes, “I found that the three Holling books titled The Book of Indians at the Museum have different covers, but the contents are identical, all published by Platt and Munk, and have the same copyright number.  

“We saw this with two of [Platt’s] fairy tale books, but the contents were  rearranged and the number of tales differed.”  The front covers of three Indians books were each different.  Sounds like clever merchandising. 
As I say in the Bibliography at the end of this blog, “There are more discoveries to be made.”  It’s a little like stamp collecting, isn’t it?

The description for this edition was translated to
English from the Russian

Another cover from Joan Hoffman’s collection.


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.