Become a Fan

A growing number of people who love children's stories, nature writing and Americana are turning to Holling as a timeless teacher of geography, culture, history, and adventure. Become a fan and continue sharing the excitement!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Bringing Paddle to the Sightless

The Holling museum in Leslie, MI, has a new acquisition that is both wonderful and somewhat unusual.  The museum acquired a copy of Paddle-to-the-Sea in Braille for young people—and elders—without sight.  

This edition was published by Seedlings, Braille Books for Children, a publisher located in Livonia, MI.  Joan Hoffman, curator of the museum, explains that there are no illustrations.  The book is apparently out of print now, although the museum’s copy had a publisher’s date of 1993.

 [My apologies to those who follow this blog that I’ve been physically incapacitated this summer but hope to play catch-up.  My thanks to a new friend in Scotland who wrote this week seeking information on Hazel Gibb Hinman, whose 1958 thesis at the University of Redlands (CA) has been a font of information on Holling Clancy Holling.  And earlier, we were so happy to hear from a Holling fan who teaches in Peru while working on his doctorate.  We’re always glad to help and see this blog as a forum for keeping alive the memory of a wonderful children’s book author, illustrator and naturalist.]

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Nipigon, Ontario, Revisited

About 10 years ago, residents and visitors gathered in Nipigon, Ontario, to dedicate a park where little Paddle-to-the-Sea began its journey.  The community proudly unveiled a wooden sculpture commissioned for the occasion by from local chain saw artists.  Water features replicate the Great Lakes flowing saucer-like one into another and offer up a water park toimmerse yourself. 
Friends of Joan Hoffman, who manages the Holling Museum in Leslie, Mich., recently visited Nipigon and passed on their thoughts and photos to Joan on their way back home.  Earlier last year, Mimi and Phyllis were at a presentation Joan gave on Paddle-to-the-Sea’s 75th anniversary.

A visitor stands in the oversize model of Paddle at the park.
This is a place where people of all ages can explore and enjoy and learn.  The Park includes the “Cascades” feature, where toddlers to teens have a blast playing in the water buckets, and opening and closing the dams in the water troughs.  Other features include a gentle misting leaf, flower dumping buckets, a spraying snail, and fountain spouts.  After you play, relax with an ice cream across the street at Rotary Park, visit the Nipigon Historical Museum, check out the local shops, or enjoy lunch at a local restaurant.
The Nipigon Museum.
The Paddle-to-the-Sea Park was more than 10 years in development.  The Nipigon Historical Museum on Front St. in town collects, protects, and displays artifacts representing a time period of before European contact to present day.  More at

Filmmaker Bill Mason has created a marvelous video based on Holling’s classic, Paddle to the Sea.  Take a few moments and watch Paddle’s story come alive in this video, at  And share it with your children.  The Nipigon site also carries multiple photos, directions and news.

Monday, June 5, 2017

A New Examination of Holling’s Environmentalism

One of the joys of writing about the Hollings is the number of unsolicited queries and thank-you's I receive.  Recently, an e-mail came from Lowell Wyse, a PhD candidate in American Literature at Loyola University Chicago.  He came across this blog while doing research on Paddle-to-the-Sea. 
Paddle's route through the Great Lakes.

At this moment, he’s teaching at a college in Peru and drafting a paper on Paddle for the biennial conference of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment (ASLE), which will take place at Wayne State University in Detroit.  His topic will be (whew!) “Ecospatial Orientation in the Great Lakes Watershed: Holling Clancy Holling’s Paddle-to-the-Sea.” 

In an abstract, he states, “The Great Lakes are bowls on a hillside pouring into one another.  Lake Superior is a wolf’s head, and Lake Michigan is a summer squash.  Lake Saint Clair is a heart pumping red iron ore, ‘the life blood of industry.’  These are a few of the many memorable images from Holling Clancy Holling’s Paddle-to-the-Sea (1941), a remarkable work of children’s literature that is also an imaginative natural and cultural history of the Great Lakes bioregion. 

“This slim little picture book details the journey of the eponymous toy canoe, carved by a schoolboy in Ontario's Nipigon Country, north of Lake Superior.  The boy places Paddle in the snowy hills before the spring thaw and trusts the watershed to do its work, carrying the toy boat through the entire Great Lakes system and out to the Atlantic Ocean.  Urged on by water currents, human intervention, and plenty of good fortune, the toy figure becomes not only a tourist of the watershed, but also a traveling palimpsest and a cartographic index, as the people who find it carve inscriptions and locations into its hull.” 

His position in presenting this paper is that “Paddle-to-the-Sea is an important and highly accessible work of Great Lakes environmental literature, a text that highlights the spatiality of the natural world — which I refer to as ecospatiality — a dynamic too often ignored by contemporary ecocriticism.  Through its unique story, maps, and other illustrations, the book deftly demonstrates the connectedness of nature, geography, and culture.  Written at the dawn of World War II, it also glorifies American industrialization in a way that is troubling (for an ecocritic), yet somehow quaint, as we look backward from the Rust Belt Era.” 

Much has happened — culturally, economically and sociologically — in the 75 years since Paddle was published.  But it’s heartening to feel that one of the great writers of books for young people has remained a positive force as we wrestle to better understand our environment and climate change.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Found Objects Define Our Subject

One of the rewarding things about writing a blog and maintaining a Web site is the information that comes through by chance and circumstance.  Joan Hoffman, who curates the Holling collection at the historical society museum in Leslie, Mich., wrote that “a couple interesting Holling things have happening here.” 

She was recently contacted by a doll collector.  “She was scheduled to give a presentation at the Leslie Library and wanted to connect dolls with books and with Leslie if possible,” Joan wrote.  “She wanted to know if there were any dolls in the Holling collection.  There was a lovely Asian doll that probably came from the Hollings’ year-long trip around the world with university students.  Holling was chosen as the art instructor because of a booklet he had put together for a cruise company. 

“The doll collector and her husband arrived at our house just in time for a power outage.  However, we were able to work at our dining room table with the light from a large window.”  Joan reports her visitor went away with photos and data, and contact information for Holling's nieces. One of the nieces had saved a box of 25 dolls that the Hollings had gotten during their travels around the world and given to her each Christmas.  And she provided photos.  “The presentation was last evening and it was nice,” according to Joan.

Rocky Billy: The Story of the Bounding Career of a Rocky Mountain Goat,
by Holling Clancy Holling, 1928. NY The MacMillan Co.
Then there was the recent visit from “an older gentleman who came to our house with a large box of Holling books in excellent condition.  He wanted to give them to the museum.  One book was Rocky Billy, which we didn't have, so I was especially glad to see it.  There were Platt and Munk books that I hadn't seen.  I learned that not all of those P&M folk tale books were illustrated by Holling.  Not only did the publisher do strange things by mixing up the tales, but the illustrators were also switched.”  A true detective, Joan is now trying to sort all of that out.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Antidote to Anxiety

I’m like a lot of people of a certain age who are bewildered that young adults and kids spend hours glued to their digital devices.  I’ll confess that I check my e-mail umpteen times a day and stay overlong on Facebook.  But a book review for The Nature Fix: Way Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative in the New York Times delivered an ah-ha moment. 

Author Florence Williams avows that “we suffer from an epidemic dislocation from the outdoors…  The more nature, the better you feel.”  As little as 15 minutes spent in the woods weekly can reduce the stress hormone, she reports.  Spend 45 minutes a week outdoors and most people improve their cognitive performance.  And, in England, studies show that exposure to green spaces reduces mental health disparities.  

Reviewer Jason Marks of the Sierra Club magazine said, “Maybe what we get out of nature is…a connection to the larger community of life.” 

Literary Rx for Stress
I thumbed through my 1942 copy of Tree in the Trail and remembered the long trips I took as a kid through the Rockies, the Southwest desert, the endless Plains.  Holling’s careful thumbnail drawings of arrow heads reminded me of the collections I used to have, and how I wondered who had carved those delicate points for shooting small game.  My 1935 copy of The Book of Indians brought back memories of Oregon’s sea lions, endless meals of salmon Dad brought back from Vancouver Island, and totem poles in Seattle and Vancouver. 

This was integral to my childhood, but then, I didn’t have a cell phone or a digital device on which to play games.  Instead, my world had no endings when I was growing up in an Oregon farming and logging town.  Only beginnings.  Fields and groves were endlessly green, the Columbia and Willamette flowed forever, and country roads led to new adventures.  Life was a page of Dylan Thomas’s poetry.   

The Past Is Still Alive and Can Revive You
I confessed I stay overlong on Facebook, but this is where I saw a page from the Leslie Area Historical Society and Museum.  I haven’t been to that part of Michigan, but a note I put up about wanting to see their Holling collection brought a great comment from Andrew Campbell.   

He returned to his hometown, Leslie, a few decades ago and said We went into my kindergarten room, which had originally been an outbuilding behind the Congregational Church, a part of the set, I guess, also with a couple of real brick buildings there: the church, Jupp Funeral Home and…next to the church, maybe a parsonage.  Not only the entire physical building was there, just as it was when I was a student, except that it had been built into the church.  We entered through the Congregational Church.  I tentatively count it as the high point of my life for  ‘all the good things in life’: games!, sand box! lunch! band (I think in Leslie I/we had band every year of school!) nap!...  The odor and ambiance was just as I remembered it!!  I have always wished someone had taken me in there without telling me where we were for ultimate proof of what I say.” 

I know my new friend is also a fan of Holling.  Leslie, Mich., was Holling’s home town too.  Holling drew on the past again and again to create his books of history and naturalism and anthropology.  Getting outside of those handheld devices is a prescription for getting us back in touch with a real world.  Even if you spend just 15 minutes a week walking through a park or the woods. 

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