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Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Publisher as Marketer

The Depression was an innovative time for publishers struggling to sell new titles.  It gave rise to the arrangement for publishers to take back any unsold books as an incentive to the bookseller.   

Platt & Munk approached the marketplace by marketing books that changed only the cover art and story lineup.  The Road in Storyland, illustrated by “Lucille W. and H.C.Holling,” is a case in point.  Platt & Munk was a prolific publisher, with more than a score of its books still available on Amazon today.  “Watty Piper” was the pen name for Arnold Munk, Hungarian immigrant and co-owner of the publishing company. 

They published The Road in Storyland in 1932, a 10x12” hardcover in red cloth with a paste-on illustration.  There were 106 (unpaginated) pages with decorative end papers.  It also came out in a blue cloth cover.  Same book, different appearance, a rearrangement of the contents.   

The colored full-page illustrations are from one of the original Junior Home Magazine covers. by the Hollings.  The printing plates were bought by Platt & Munk when the magazine went out of business. The short story that Holling wrote to go with the magazine cover illustration was not used, but was replaced by a longer story.

In 1952, it was republished as a 11.8x9.9 ”hardcover with no tip-on cover art but with a
full-color illustrated paper book jacket and only 102 pages. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

The Museum Where Holling Lives On

So many writers’ lives remain bound up in the books they wrote, but it’s fortunate that Holling Clancy Holling’s legacy also lives on in a museum in Leslie, Mich.  Leslie is a town of 2,000 people located 28 miles south of Lansing.   

Joan Hoffman has kindly provided information about the Holling collection she curates in a large room downstairs in the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) Hall.  The stone building, constructed in 1903 is on Leslie’s main east-west road, 107 East Bellevue, across from City Hall.  (Tel. 517-589-5220)  Besides the Holling collection, she notes, there are displays about the town’s history and the surrounding communities.
The G.A.R. Hall is home to the museum and can be found on Facebook at
“Leslie Area Historical Society and Museum.”  

Among the displays, note the long bow Holling made that is resting on top of the book cabinet.  On the wall are framed original paintings and Holling’s portrait.  Display items are changed periodically and may include items from Holling and Lucille’s adventures or graphic cutouts created for children.

In the front of the glass case are two murals.  They were painted by Holling in 1916 on an upstairs wall at his grandparents’ house on Main Street in Leslie.  Holling stayed with them four years attending high school.  Three families lived in that house after the last of the Hollings left. One family cut these murals out of the wall during a remodeling project.  “It is a miracle they were saved all those years.” Joan says.

The second upstairs mural.

Friday, January 6, 2017

A Little Marginalia on Those Illustrations

At times, I feel like Bullwinkle or Rocky visiting Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine to recover the past.  Here are two snippets of intelligence that crossed my desk during the holidays:

First, I saw Nedd Mockler’s 1999 review of Tree in the Trail on Amazon and asked if I might retell his story for you.  He agreed.  He had said, "Fifty-seven years ago at the request of his [my?] mother I visited Holling C. Holling at his California ranch.  I was eight years old.  He asked me to pose for a few sketches he wanted to do.  Later that year he sent me the book Tree in the Trail. Inside the front cover he had written, ‘For Nedd Mockler, who posed for the Indian boy in this book.  With best wishes, Holling C. Holling.’  The inscription is dated "Dec. 1942." 
A color plate from Tree in the Trail
Nedd added, “I have all of his books and enjoy looking at them still.  Lucille Holling, his wife, was a water color artist and helped with many of his projects.”  He added, “I am delighted to hear that a museum has been created and devoted to Holling in Leslie, Michigan.  I would very much like to see photos of the museum and any literature you make available there.  I have a collection of Holling's books, and would appreciate anything you might make available to this 82-year old fan.”  Thanks, Nedd! 

The second item comes from Joan Hoffman in Leslie, Mich.  She adds another insider note about Holling’s models.  “Jack Bickel, young son of the Hollings' friends, Harold and Sally Bickel, posed as the model for the boy in Seabird.  Holling dedicated Seabird to Jack.”  This item of intelligence, she reports, came from one of Holling's letters

Friday, November 11, 2016

Another Day, Another Puzzle

Judith, a reader of the Holling page on Facebook, wrote from the U.K., “Would you be able to help me date these jigsaws illustrated by Holling C. Holling or tell me anything about them?  Thank you.”  (The Facebook page is at  The jigsaw came a house clearance in Sheffield. 

I immediately went to my source of all Holling knowledge, Joan Hoffman at the museum in Michigan.  Boy, were we in luck. 

She quickly wrote back, “That is one of Holling’s signed 9x11” illustrations in Little Folks of Other Lands.  It is a chapter about gypsies.  The book was published in 1929 by Platt and Munk.  These publishers commonly made puzzles from Holling book illustrations.  In the chapter, it mentions that there were many gypsies in Romania.  In 1956 the first edition of six children’s jigsaw puzzles was reproduced from that 1929 Little Folks of Other Lands book.” 

I put Joan’s information back up on Facebook and asked her permission to share this with you.  Judith agreed and mentioned she loves Holling’s illustrations…as do I.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Passing on Holling’s Heritage to Another Generation

Rum-Tum-Tummy, still alive and doing well.

In this 75th anniversary of the publication of Holling’s Paddle-to-the-Sea, our good friend Joan Hoffman created a special exhibit for the local children of Leslie, Mich.

“There is a an elementary school across the street for the town’s public library, so they get many young visitors,” she says.  “And the library has a nice display case.”  With the library’s permission, Ms. Hoffman put up a display for children during the first three weeks of October.  
Part of the display was about elephants arranged in something like a circus formation,” she said.  “Holling’s fat blue elephant was announcing ‘I'm Rum-Tum-Tummy,’ one of Holling's elephants.”  She adds that Holling saw his first real live elephant at a circus in Jackson, Mich., and was fascinated.  And that is how the elephant can be found in his stories.  You can find Rum-Tum-Tummy the Elephant Who Ate, still in print after 80 years, at Amazon. 
Another little addendum: The Leslie library has a set of the five Houghton Mifflin books written by the Hollings.  You might ask your own librarians if they have any Holling books.  If enough people ask, they just might find a way to stock them...or accept your donation.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

An Artist, Even to the End

Lucille Webster, Holling’s wife, was a striking woman of many talents, chiefly an artist in her own right and a collaborator to Holling’s writing, research and illustration.  Born on Dec. 8, 1900, in Valparaiso, Ind., her initial interest lay in art fashion and she attended the Art Institute of Chicago.  In Chicago, she designed theatrical scenery and costumes, and she drew for fashion publications.   

A woman of many talents, she flew a Piper Cub and coined the term “hero” for a hoagie or sub sandwich because “you had to be a hero to eat it all.” 

No less a personage than food critic Clementine Paddleford in This Week magazine asked  Lucille about Pagoo when she was a dinner guest of the Hollings at their home in Pasadena, Cal.  “Holling did the writing,” Lucille said, “and the 20 full-page color plates.  I did the black and white detailed marginal drawings.”  That day, Lucille prepared the dinner of chicken Hawaiian to celebrate publication of Pagoo, the hermit crab, their fifth book in the children’s series. 

When Holling died on Sept. 7, 1973, Lucille did not come to Michigan for the funeral, possibly because she was not well at the time.  But she wrote out these detailed instructions for the monument and left handwritten instructions for type sizes, fonts and measurements. 
In researching this, Joan Hoffman of the Holling collection in Henrietta Township, Mich., said, “[Lucille’s] pattern was printed on cardstock weight paper.  It has been rolled up for years, probably since the early 70s.”  She carefully unrolled it to take the photo seen here.
She says, “I assume she purposely did not include Holling’s birth and death dates to send the message that he lives as long as his books are read.”  The silhouette is, of course, Paddle-to-the-Sea, Holling’s most popular and representative icon.  That marker is at the Nims Cemetery near our home in Henrietta Township.