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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Field Trip to the Kerlan Collection

On a Friday in mid October, Solomon and Nova and I went on a field trip to the U of M's Kerlan Collection.  The archive houses the personal papers of writers and illustrators of children's books.  They have first drafts, rejection letters, gallies, sketches, fan mail, correspondence between authors and illustrators, color-separated plates for inking, etched stone--just about anything you can imagine.  Another homeschool parent (who happens to be an English Professor and children's author) organized the field trip.

Meredith, the librarian at the Kerlan Collection, did a wonderful job sharing the collection with our group.  After a presentation covering what the collection has and how to request materials, we got nearly two hours to sift through boxes of materials of well known children's authors and illustrators.

The first box she opened was of from D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, (this happened to be one of the sources we referenced when making our final decision on Ariadne's name).  Solomon found an uncorrected copy of Hatchet in Gary Paulsen's box, as well as an early manuscript of Tucket's Gold filled with the editor's suggestions.

Nova plunked down with a large box of author/illustrator Don Freeman (creator of the Corduroy series), determined to get through the whole thing.

I flitted back and forth, looking at family photos of Wanda Gag, illustrations by Maurice Sendak,Tomie dePaola, and an idea journal of Anne Ursu's from The Shadow Thieves.  We were free to look at any of the 30-plus boxes they had brought up to the reading room.

Chris Van Allsburg playing with negatives
We got a special treat when Meredith offered to take the group down to the 'bat cave.'  The place where all the books are housed actually is a cave.  Ninety feet underground, nestled in naturally existing limestone caves in the Mississippi river bluff, are shelves upon shelves of books, pictures, posters, comic books, and periodicals.  There are walls so it doesn't feel too spooky--though there are giant cardboard cut-outs that appear at the end of the stacks here and there.  We ran into Officer Friendly an Paul Bunyan.  As a matter of security, no pictures are allowed so you'll just have to imagine.... Nova mentioned that it seemed sort of military, and we found out that some Urban Explores had found the site during construction and posted pictures online, claiming the U of M was building an underground missile silo.  As we passed the comic book collection, Meredith our librarian mentioned that there had been a court case attempting to ban all comic books.  There was a collective gasp from all the children.  It made me smile to know they all take their freedom of speech (and their comic books) so seriously.  The day was full of fun moments like that.

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