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Sunday, April 24, 2016

It’s a Great Story (Pass It On)


It’s remarkable, but not unusual, for a book to remain popular 75 years after it is first published.  That’s been the case with Paddle-to-the-Sea, Houghton Mifflin’s 1941 entry.  We can all think of other popular children’s stories, and mainstream novels like Gone with the Wind, the 1939 epic, but Paddle is still special to many after all these years. 

Up in Leslie, Mich., Joan Hoffman is helping with a small celebration of Mr. Holling’s classic.  She wrote to me, saying, “What I greatly enjoy is talking with individuals who have a special interest in Holling.  That doesn't often happen at the museum.  [She curates the Holling collection at the Leslie Area Historical Museum .]  People come to the museum for many different reasons related to local history.  Only three times in the past year have visitors come with a specific interest in Holling.  Those were great times for me.”

That may change soon.  “Two opportunities are coming up soon which were generated from our Holling article in the Michigan History magazine,” she says.  “One is a family of four coming from Albion, Mich., the other is a retired fifth grade teacher from California who will be visiting a friend here in May.  She is a great admirer of Holling and wants to get together.  I plan to meet with these two parties on non-museum days so I can spend more time with them without interruption.”  How many museum curators offer that kind of attention? 

Visitors will also be able to see the poster Joan created to commemorate those 75 years in which children of all ages have experienced the wonders of America and its people.  And, if you’re passing near Lisle, drop in and say hello to a wonderful woman who’s helping to keep the past in our present.

 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

What a Funny Name! It’s a Tautonym*



It may be worth repeating that Holling’s name was the first thing that captured me as a child reader.  Who on earth has the same first name as his surname?  Further,  Holling Clancy Holling has the strange beauty of a harsh Irish name bookended by two action words, or gerunds. 

Mr. Holling, however, was born Holling Allison Clancy in the eponymous Holling Corners, Mich.  His forebears had lived and farmed there for generations.  Holling was his mother’s maiden name, according to Joan Hoffman, who curates the Leslie Area Historical Museum.  “While attending the Art Institute of Chicago,” she writes, “he used Holling as his signature and became known as Mr. Holling, except by those who knew him well.  Another contributing factor [to the name change] was that there were ample Clancy cousins to carry on the name — his father was one of 12 children — unlike the surname Holling that had come to an end.” 

He legally changed his name in 1925, the year that he married Lucille Webster.  Holling’s friends asked if Lucille would now be known as Mrs. Clancy or Mrs. Holling, The couple thought about it, and since Holling had been writing as Holling Clancy Holling they decided to make the change legal.   

(The Irish judge who approved the identity change challenged, “And why, begorra would anyone with a perfectly good Irish name of Clancy want to change it to the English name of Holling?” 

If a writer wants to keep his or her name on readers’ lips, there are worse ways than to name yourself redundantly.  There’s the British writer Jerome K. Jerome (1859-1927), whose father was responsible for the surname change.  And Ford Madox Ford (1873-1939), who changed his name in 1919 because “Hueffer” may have sounded too German. 
 
William Cole whimsically outlined the situation in his limerick, “Mutual Problem,”  

Said Jerome K. Jerome to Ford Madox Ford,
‘There's something, old boy, that I've always abhorred:
When people address me and call me, ‘Jerome’,
Are they being standoffish, or too much at home?’’
Said Ford, ‘I agree; it's the same thing with me.’  

* A tautonym is a scientific name in which the same word is used for genus and species.  For example, the red fox is Vulpes vulpes and the black rat is Rattus rattus.  Thus, Holling Clancy Holling is both genus and species for author, artist and naturalist.  Makes sense, no?