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Little Hands

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Terry Morris’s Formative Reading Experiences

In a land at the edge of Africa, in an time before this golden age of local publishing, and before she ever had the faintest dream she’d one day be Managing Director of Pan Macmillan South Africa, Terry Morris had little hands and this is what she read …

Terry’s earliest memory of books and reading:

I remember reading and re-reading (or being read to I can’t remember) a rather scary book Struwwelpeter that was both horrifying and yet fascinating. By today’s standards people would never allow their children to read such scary stories at such a young age but I think children love this kind of thing (and actually it had some very stern perspectives on misbehaving and the consequences).

See this frowsy “cratur”
Pah! it’s Struwwelpeter
On his fingers rusty,
On his two-head musty,
Scissors seldom come;
Lets his talons grow a year
Do any loathe him? Some!
They hail him “Modern satyr -
Disgusting Struwwelpeter.”

From Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffmann translated by Mark Twain

Terry’s picture books:
Max in his wolf suit I loved the Maurice Sendak Where the Wild Things Are and also an amazing book about a tiger that travels the world (for the life of me I can’t remember the title but I am going to track it down). As an independent reader I loved Flat Stanley.

“Let the wild rumpus start!”
– so said Max, in his wolf suit, in Where the Wild Things Are.
Here is a Wild Things video link, but the book is much better, although this reader’s gruff voice is quite impressive!

Terry, as an adult, reading with children:

I don’t have my own children but I love to see other children’s reactions to the wonderful world of books, be they interactive books like jigsaw books or touch and feel’s for newborns. I love watching children learn to turn the pages of their books and retell their favourite stories.

Extract from Terry’s paper at the Wiser symposium on The Politics of Publishing in South Africa, reproduced in the Mail&Guardian’s article: Local Books Boom and some more sobering facts from Terry in the Sunday Times article: How to get into bed with a publisher

Great artist or a mere illustrator?

He [Maurice Sendak] is plagued by the question that has repeatedly been asked about Norman Rockwell: was he a great artist or a mere illustrator?
“Mere illustrator,” he said, repeating the phrase with contempt. It’s not that Mr. Sendak, who has illustrated more than 100 books, including many he wrote, is angry that people question Rockwell’s talent; rather, he fears he has not risen above the “mere illustrator” label himself.
Never mind that Mr. Sendak’s originality and emotional honesty have changed the shape of children’s literature; that his work is featured in museums; that he has designed costumes and sets for operas, ballets and theater; that he has won a chest full of awards and prizes including a National Medal of the Arts. As the playwright Tony Kushner, one of his collaborators, said, “He’s one of the most important, if not the most important, writers and artists ever to work in children’s literature. In fact, he’s a significant writer and artist in literature. Period.”
–Read the rest of this article Concerns Beyond Just Where the Wild Things Are in the New York Times

Another helping of Struwwel anyone?
Fidgety Philip

The Story of Fidgety Philip
From Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffmann

“Let me see if Philip can
Be a little gentleman;
Let me see if he is able
To sit still for once at table.”
Thus spoke, in earnest tone,
The father to his son;
And the mother looked very grave
To see Philip so misbehave.
But Philip he did not mind
His father who was so kind.
He wriggled
And giggled,
And then, I declare,
Swung backward and forward
And tilted his chair,
Just like any rocking horse;-
“Philip! I am getting cross!”
See the naughty, restless child,
Growing still more rude and wild,
Till his chair falls over quite.
Philip screams with all his might,
Catches at the cloth, but then
That makes matters worse again.
Down upon the ground they fall,
Glasses, bread, knives forks and all.
How Mamma did fret and frown,
When she saw them tumbling down!
And Papa made such a face!
Philip is in sad disgrace.
Where is Philip? Where is he?
Fairly cover’d up, you see!
Cloth and ll are lying on him;
He has pull’d down all upon him!
What a terrible to-do!
Dishes, glasses, snapt in two!
Here a knife, and ther fork!
Philip, this is naughty work.
Table all so bare, and ah!
Poor Papa and poor Mamma
Look quite cross, and wonder how
They shall make their dinner now.

Nein! Nine! More wicked Struwwelpeter stories with illustrations at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Foreign Languages

Another Struwwelpeter survivor (in Greece) says:

In German with English subtitles. Not for kids. An interpretation of Dr. Heinrich Hoffmann’s appalling 19th century book of children’s stories, ‘Struwwelpeter.’
When I was 4, my mother showed me this book saying, ‘See? This is what BAD mothers show their children.’ Well, parents, be careful what you show your kids. Decades later, I woke up one morning and started making this[video].

Aims of The Little Hands Trust
• To support initiatives that promote reading for enjoyment.
• To mentor African literary artists, including writers, illustrators and editors, to produce creative, suitable and appropriate children’s storybooks for children of various ages with a focus on early childhood (ages 0 to 9 years).
• To collaborate with African publishers to increase and sustain publication of children’s books in African languages. To initiate and support translations of stories between African languages, from African languages to ex-colonial languages and from ex-colonial languages to African languages.
• To help to orientate and educate adults in the importance and significance of reading to and with children.