Posted by: jeannineatkins | November 13, 2009

Once Upon a Time

Yesterday I gave a talk called Once Upon a Time: A History of Children’s Literature to a group of about forty seniors at Greenfield Community College.
It was sort of my semester course shrunk down to about an hour and a half. We began with fairy tales

And horn books

And Mother Goose

We took swift looks at Alice in Wonderland, Beatrix Potter, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Winnie-the-Pooh, The Hobbit, then scrambled through Little Golden Books, Dick and Jane, and The Cat and the Hat.

Of course we looked at picture books, most lucky children’s introduction to literature, though I resisted the temptation to just pull a few out and read. People seemed happy to see images of old friends – Wanda Gag’s cats and McCloskey’s ducks –and meet new ones: Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret got a lot of oohs and ahs. And yay, my fifty plus powerpoint images went off without a hitch. Afterward, a couple introduced themselves as Dick and Jane. I also saw two old friends and Nancy Frazier, who’d been my husband’s boss when I met him, overseeing black and white illustrations for the local newspaper. She said, “We had a lot of fun.”

I spoke on the invitation of Margo Culley, who currently oversees the senior symposia program, and years ago was my professor for a class called Lost New England Women Writers, a course which ignited my passion for research. I was so lucky to have her as a professor, and am so lucky to be friends with her all these years later.



  1. Wish I could have been there, too. Lucky seniors!

  2. Man oh man, I so wish I could have been there! I can just imagine all the oohs, aahhs and awwws…. 🙂

  3. Wish I’d been there too. I love the Invention of Hugo Cabret, went out a bought it after I read the library copy.
    So who are the lost New England Women writers? I want to read some. I am a Yankee on my mother’s side (she was named Constance, I’m Patience, called Patty as a kid) and am 11th generation in this country, as well as having been born in the Boston Lying-In Hospital in 1943…
    I love New England.

  4. Ravishing pictures! And I love that Dick and Jane were there.
    I hope you’ll give this talk again sometime — and that I’ll have a chance to hear it.

  5. Just sounds like the perfect evening, surrounded by people who loves books as much as you! 🙂

  6. It would have been lovely to see your smiling face in the audience! I think a few non-seniors slipped in. I don’t think anyone was carded.

  7. Once you get past the — eeek! 400 years in 90 minutes thing — there seems to be a lot to be said for deciding what might be highlighted. And thank goodness for Q and A, a chance to mention some things left out.

  8. Oh, Hugo Cabret. Two people told me they were planning on getting this for grandsons, and I expect they’ll read it first.
    And, Patty, yes, you have excellent New England credentials. And I could go on and on about the lost writers: some in our class researched relatives,others, like me, once-well-published women, since pretty much forgotten. Alice Brown who wrote many volumes about country life in the 19th century was my focus. One day I’ll have to dig out my notes…

  9. Dick and Jane seemed more interesting as adults, so I was happy to meet them.
    And I’d love to give this talk again, tweaked, of course: I did learn a lot, squishing history together like that: certain footprints were intriguing.

  10. Yes, these were booklovers who seemed to enjoy time traveling! And my kind of “evening”: in the afternoon, for we who are near sighted, far sighed, foggy sighted, not crazy about driving after dark.

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