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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Opening a New World and Revisiting an Old One

Readers who have become adults will often happen across a writer or illustrator and have a flash of memory about what that work meant when they were eight years old or 10 or 12.  It mirrors the discovery they experienced at that age when a new world opened up. 

My friend (and guide to all things Holling) mentioned such an incident.  Joan Hoffman recalled that this summer two boys — probably fourth or fifth graders — were sitting on the step of the museum door in Leslie, Mich. 

She asked “Are you going to the museum?”  It seemed like a new thought to the boys and they came inside soon after to wander and wonder.  She says “They especially liked the hermit crab model by Holling’s Pagoo book, and then the large snapping turtle shell by the Minn of the Mississippi story.”  One of the boys couldn’t imagine carrying that shell around on his back all day.  The children left later with a lot to think about, and they left a curator happy to have opened the eyes of two kids to another world.  That’s the beauty of Holling Clancy Holling’s work. 

And there was another incident this summer.  Joan had popped into the museum unexpectedly and encountered a visitor from Lansing, Mich.  “He asked if there was anyone who knew about a one-room schoolhouse in Henrietta Township,” she reports, where Holling had grown up.  She was speechless for a moment because he was talking about Holling School and told her he had attended kindergarten and first grade there many years ago. 

All of the one-room schools in the area had been consolidated, and a new elementary school with nine classrooms was erected.  The Holling School was demolished in 1963. 

Joan took the visitor to the spot where the school had been and where a new home sits on the foundation.  She pointed out the home where Holling was born and other buildings in Holling Corners.  Then they walked up the hill to Nims Cemetery where Holling is buried.  Oh, and Joan made one more stop, at her own home where her husband scanned an old photo of Holling School for the visitor before they returned to the museum. 

It’s such things like these discoveries and recollections that provide a writer with a certain immortality.