Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy New Year!  1942
 by Ann Mulloy Ashmore

McCain Library and Archives
University of Southern Mississippi

1942 New Year's Card

     “The Statue of Liberty greeted us through the morning mist,” Hans recalled. It was a cold, crisp October day in 1940 when the ship bringing the Reys to New York from Rio de Janeiro sailed past Lady Liberty. Fifty-four years earlier, on another foggy October day, President Grover Cleveland dedicated the statue, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States, with these words: “We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home, nor shall her chosen altar be neglected. Willing votaries will constantly keep alive its fires and these shall gleam upon the shores of our sister Republic thence, and joined with answering rays a stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man's oppression, until Liberty enlightens the world.”

But in 1940, “our sister Republic” could only remember with longing the sweetness of liberty and freedom. Crushed beneath the boot heel of the Nazi war machine, the fires of Liberty’s torch no longer gleamed on the shores of occupied France, a fact Hans and Margret Rey knew only too well.  Since June of that year, they had been on the run. First, escaping on bicycles as the German army marched into Paris. Later, avoiding a narrow brush with authorities on the Spanish border on their way to Lisbon, and passage to Brazil. As Louise Borden has written in The Journey that Saved Curious George, ironically, it was the pictures of the loveable monkey that Hans carried in his knapsack that saved the day.
Mississippians, young and old, will soon be able to view Hans’ 1942 New Year’s greeting card when the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson hosts Curious George Saves the Day: The Art of Margret and H. A. Rey exhibit March 3 through July 22, 2012 Until then,  visit your local library and read more about the Reys in “Curious About Them: Reliving the Magnificent  Margret and H. A. Rey” in the Winter 2010 issue of Children & Libraries. The llustrated, full-text article is provided through Mississippi’s MAGNOLIA  Academic Search Premier database.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Holiday Wishes!
 by Ann Mulloy Ashmore

Ann Mulloy Ashmore 1999

         Christmas came early to the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection in 1999. At the beginning of the year boxes began arriving from Boston—boxes containing the literary estate of Margret and H. A. Rey. As staff unpacked and documented treasure after treasure, it was clear the Reys and Curious George had given the University of Southern Mississippi an unbelievable gift—the legacy of 42 years of creative collaboration. By fall semester it was time to share the Reys’ gift with the university community and the public at large.  “Curious George Comes to Hattiesburg: The Life and Work of H. A. and Margret Rey” opened September 1, 1999. The exhibit, designed and mounted by curator, Dee Jones, displayed more than 400 illustrations, manuscripts, photographs, diaries, letters, books, pottery, and needlepoint, as well as the original drawings for Curious George, published by Houghton Mifflin in 1941.
One could say that Curious George was quite the Santa in 1999 and as the holidays approached, Jones, an accomplished seamstress, decided the collection’s 6-foot tall stuffed Curious George needed a make-over. Previously owned by the public library in Clarksdale, Mississippi, George came to the collection wearing a pair of print overalls. After many years of children crawling into his lap for story time, the pants were a little grimy. “I thought it would be neat to have him dressed as Santa for our Holiday Book Fair that year,” Jones responded. “So I put my sewing skills to good use and whipped up his outfit.”  It took nearly five yards of red velvet and a size 4X tee shirt for a pattern, but thanks to Jones’ skill, George was dressed as Santa in time for the November event.  “The nice part was that after Christmas, we took off his hat and he was good for Valentine’s Day.”
After working 23 years at de Grummond, Jones moved to Louisiana in 2003. Today she is head of cataloging in the Department of Medical Library Science at LSUHealth in Shreveport. Still, she remembers her tenure at de Grummond with fondness. Like the day she and archives director Toby Graham had to carry George across the courtyard from the McCain Library to the Cook Library for an event, or the time the she asked him to “introduce” one of the librarians dressed in a Curious George costume handing out bananas to members of the audience at the first de Grummond Seminar funded by the Mississippi Endowment for the Humanities. “No one ever told me when I was in library school that I’d be carrying a giant monkey around,” Jones recalled the director’s remark. “At de Grummond, we always considered George things as “other duties as assigned.”

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How Curious George Came to Live in Hattiesburg  
 by Ann Mulloy Ashmore

Lena Y. de Grummond

Photograph courtesy of
McCain Library and Archives
University of Southern Mississippi

       Whenever I give a presentation about Hans and Margret Rey and their children’s books, one of the first questions I’m asked is “Why did they leave their literary estate to a university in Mississippi? The answer lies in the personality and perseverance of Lena Y. de Grummond, professor of children’s literature in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of Southern Mississippi, and founder of the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection in 1966. 
       A children's author herself, de Grummond wanted to demonstrate to her students the steps required in publishing a children's book--from the first glimpse of an idea to the final published volume. To accomplish her goal, she wrote personal notes in longhand to each of the major authors and illustrators of the time asking them if they would like to contribute their manuscripts, illustrations and publishing production items, galleys, page proofs, color separations, etc., to the collection. “Sometimes I wrote 400 to 500 letters a week,” she recalled in a brochure detailing the history of the collection in 1972. “Some were surprised and wrote that they had never saved any of their materials….” Her reply: “Please mail your trash basket to us.” Hans Rey was one of many authors and illustrators who responded to Lena’s warm, charismatic Southern charm. In customary fashion Hans illustrated his reply with a drawing of George on his way to Hattiesburg, books and manuscripts in hand. To see the image, go the collection’s home page.
            Now internationally known as a premier children’s literature depository, the de Grummond Collection’s online contributor list reads like the index to Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults. Strengths include 18th, 19th and 20th century American and British children’s literature with more than 250 editions of fable books, including thirty pre-1750 imprints. Other highlights include hornbooks and early primers, woodblocks engraved by Edmund Evans for six of Randolph Caldecott’s picture books, 300 original watercolors and pencil sketches by Kate Greenaway, and an extensive collection of 20th century production materials from McLoughlin Brothers Publishers.