Not too long after moving to the Midwest 27 years ago, I learned about an amazing place and put it on my “Must Do List”. A mecca for kidlit lovers, The Kerlan Collection of Children’s Literature at the University of Minnesota’s Elmer L. Anderson Library, houses one of, if not the, largest, most extensive, most magnificent, collection of original manuscripts, artwork, and rare books pertaining to Children’s Literature, in the world. In March, I finally got to go.
I know that if you are reading this blog you are a Children’s Book enthusiast. I also know that many of you will not be able to travel to Minnesota and peruse the archives. So, I thought I would take you with me. A bit of eye candy and inspiration…
I emailed a few weeks in advance and sent an impossibly long dream list of “I would love to see” superstars. When I arrived at the Library, I was permitted to have my phone, a pencil, and sheets of paper. My phone I used often. The pencil only as a size reference for my photos. And my paper remained blank.
I met the acclaimed and esteemed curator, Lisa Von Drasek, who graciously gave me a ‘behind the scenes tour’ of the archives. We rode an elevator 90 feet down into the Mississippi bedrock where the treasures could be kept at a constant temperature and humidity. Picture something from “The Invincibles.” Expecting to bump into Edna Mode momentarily, I followed Lisa through the air decompression chamber and finally arrived at a jaw-dropping landscape. Surrounding me were rows, upon rows, upon stacks upon shelves, touching the heavens above… of boxes.
“Would you like to see Kate DiCamillo’s first page, first draft for BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE?”
“Yes, yes I would.”
There it was.
“Would you like to see Melissa Sweet’s original dummy book for BALLOONS OVER BROADWAY?”
“Yes, yes I would.”
Lisa held before me models of Billy Twitters and a Blue Whale hand-crafted by Adam Rex.
Yes. Yes. Yes…
I was Charlie in the Chocolate Factory with Willie Wonka dazzling me at every turn.
I thanked Lisa there and I will thank her again and again, here, there, and everywhere— what an overwhelming and unforgettable tour!
Back at my quiet table in the library, I tried to muffle my gasps and squeals as I held these magnificent and delicate originals in my hands.
Maurice Sendak. One of his early picture books (1952) was written by Ruth Krauss and is called, A HOLE IS TO DIG. It’s a tiny little book in published form— about 5 x 7 inches. The illustrations feature black and white line drawings of little children doing darling kid activities. Teeny tiny final art drawings, done on terribly brittle tracing paper~
And here’s my own worn, little copy…
And I took several pictures in admiration of his incredible line work…
There were a few sketches that I recognized right away from a favorite— REALLY ROSIE, which was a picture book as well as a Broadway show and an animated television special with music by Carole King.
I enjoyed seeing how Maurice Sendak worked on the kids in the first rough and then tightened up in the second sketch.
From Wikipedia, “Sendak based the story on a demonstrative little girl who used to sing and dance on the stoop of her building, whom he observed while he was a little boy growing up in Brooklyn.”
I hope to share more of my trip with you over my next several posts. Seeing all this original artwork was affirming for me. It reminded me that Picture-Book-Making, writing, and illustrating, is a bumpy process. Even the most renowned artists and creators of our dearly beloved books, used white-out, wrote production notes, re-did, and edited.
I hope you enjoy this little journey. Thank you so much for coming along with me!
Annnnnnnndddddddd, the winner of Sarah Nelson and Ellen Rooney’s Book, A PARK CONNECTS US is— Dedra D.!
Congratulations, Dedra! Please contact Sarah through her website https://sarahnelsonbooks.com so that she can mail the book out to you.