Listening for the Scratch of a Pen

Museums Devoted to Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Authored by: Elizabeth Hammill

Handbook of Research on Children’s and Young Adult Literature

Print publication date:  October  2010
Online publication date:  April  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415965057
eBook ISBN: 9780203843543
Adobe ISBN: 9781136913570


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Elizabeth Hammill has long been devoted to children and their literature. As bookseller, literary critic, and advocate for the preservation and presentation of the artistic making of texts, she takes us on a round-the-globe visit to the world’s greatest children’s literature museums. She begins with the house museums of Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Beatrix Potter, moves to the pioneering work of Dromkeen in Australia and the Chihiro Art Museum in Japan, and then arrives at the more recent creations of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in America and Seven Stories, which Hammill co-founded in England. Whether inviting us to contemplate the magic and meaning of a beloved author’s home, or the experience of entering the invented worlds of Tove Jansson’s Moomins, Colin McNaughton’s Preston Pig, or Robert Westall’s Machine Gunners, Hammill eloquently puts on display the philosophical, political, and playful spaces devoted to children’s literature.

Words and pictures on the printed page look fixed, perfect, immutable—waiting to take our imaginations out into the world. How did they get there? Where did they come from? Searching for their origins, we find fascinating, hidden stories coming into view as we uncover the creative processes that lie behind a book’s making to reveal how writers write and artists illustrate. Until recently, such creation stories could only be found, if at all, by researchers in national archives or university and public library special collections. Here, on the whole, they have remained invisible to the world at large as Karen Nelson Hoyle with Leonard Marcus’s chapter recounts, unless dedicated exhibition spaces exist where collection treasures can be placed in the public eye. Today, however, in a small but growing number of museums worldwide, the words and images of picture books, stories, and poems for children from first preparatory notes and sketches to finished text and artwork now find themselves not only being collected, but occupying center stage in purpose-built galleries, mounted, framed, and presented to us as independent and meaningful art.

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