Purpose of this Blog...

You may have noticed that not all books are equal in capturing children's imaginations and in cultivating those innocent, tender souls. My goal is to help you find the ones that do!
(Painting by Mary Cassatt: "Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren" -1888)

Thursday, January 20, 2011


PADDLE-TO-THE-SEA is also a film.
Kids love books full of adventure. The genius of Holling C. Holling was that he knew how to teach through adventure, by filling his entertaining tales with well-researched historical, geographical, and scientific data that might otherwise be boring to children had it not been presented in an exciting work of fiction.

This author/artist/naturalist was born in Jackson County, Michigan, in 1900.   His father was superintendent of schools, so as a boy, Holling had access to all the books he could want at home (but his mother would also make trips to the library to find books that he especially liked about animals and Indians.)

He not only loved reading, he loved being in the outdoors - roaming the woods, camping and exploring. “At three, he was an avid artist, drawing very advanced pictures of horses, cows, and other animals. In his youth, his father once brought him a dead owl. The investigative boy became fascinated with it, making an Indian headdress from the feathers and a belt with the claws. His love of Indian customs and ways was a constant throughout his life.” (as noted in Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, 2nd ed., Gale Group, 2002)

Holling Clancy Holling graduated from the Art Institute of Chicago in 1923. He then worked in a taxidermy department of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and spent time working in anthropology.  He married Lucille Webster and within a year of their marriage they had both accepted positions as art instructors for a year (1926-1927) on the first University World Cruise, sponsored by New York University.

For many years of his life, Holling C. Holling dedicated much of his time and interest to creating books for children.  I'd like to focus on a set of large format books he started in the 1940's.  Much of the material he wrote about was known to him firsthand through field and library research. His wife worked with him on many of the illustrations.  Each story is rooted in the natural world: set on the sea, rivers, the coast, and inland trails. Each story involves a journey.

"The story lines of these books are well-complemented by their art. Of special interest are the sidebars that make a reader linger. They may be a detailed, hand-lettered pen and ink of a ship’s rigging in Seabird or the Great Lakes displayed “like bowls on a hillside” in Paddle-to-the-Sea. Learning new information was never more inviting and entertaining. Holling was a writer/illustrator who tapped into children’s secret consciousness and curiosity.  Such richness in storytelling and illustration still makes for classical favorites, which says much about this master of children’s literature." -Walter Giersbach, (Grinnell College Book Review).

These stories are especially loved by homeschooling families.  Click here to see Beautiful Feet Books wonderful "Geography Through Literature Pack" that uses these books.

PADDLE-TO-THE-SEA the four year journey of a miniature wood carving of an Indian boy in a canoe from its starting point in Lake Nipigon, Canada, through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River to its final destination in the Atlantic Ocean.  Paddle receives help staying on course from people who read the message carved on his canoe: "Put me back in the water. I am Paddle-to-the-Sea".  Middle readers will learn about the history, industry, geography, seasons, tides, currents, locks, inhabitants, animals of the region.
Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books)

TREE IN THE TRAIL the story of the passing of history as seen by a stationary cottonwood tree, located on what eventually becomes the Santa Fe Trail. (The wood from the tree is eventually made into an ox yoke and ultimately makes a journey to the end of the trail.)
Tree in the Trail

SEABIRD - Through the travels of Seabird - an ivory gull carved by a cabin boy from a walrus tusk - the history of America at sea is traced. Your child will delight in this story of sailing, whaling, ships and ship building, while they learn world geography and much more!

MINN OF THE MISSISSIPPI Minn (a snapping turtle) travels over many seasons and years from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico.  Children will learn about the history of the Mississippi River Valley and its fascinating world of bayou's, steamboats, river pirates, flatboats and keelboats, French and Spanish explorers, plantations, floods, and even Mark Twain.
Minn of the Mississippi

PAGOO studies life in a tidal pool through the story of a hermit crab named Pagoo.  Every detail of tide pool life is presented. Holling's wonderful illustrations bring to light the many microscopic forms of life found in the sea, and the habits and methods of survival are clearly explained.

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