I’m a Hornet, Are You?

Last week at this time, I was getting acquainted with Emporia State University, home of Kansas’s annual statewide Reading Recovery conference. Title of my luncheon keynote speech: “Teach Reading Like a Jazz Musician!” Jazz musicians specialize in what I call the three I’s: Improvisation, Interpretation, and Ingenuity, abilities that teachers often hone on the fly.

The mascot of Emporia State U., however, is the hornet. The bothersome insect is probably not an image many teachers and librarians would choose for themselves after graduating from the university’s famed education programs. But Corky, by gosh, is a pretty cute bronze statue. And maybe it was the industry he embodies that inspired movers and shakers to move the May Massee Collection from New York City to the campus library.

May Massee (1883-1966) was a pioneer among children’s book editors. She established two of the first three “junior books” divisions in major publishing houses in the United States: Doubleday, Page and Company (1923) and Viking Press (1932). In all she worked on over something like 1,400 books, including those illustrated by Ludwig Bemelmans (the “Madeline” books), and Robert McCloskey (“Make Way for Ducklings,” “Blueberries for Sal,”) etc.

Thousands of sketches, book mock-ups and letters written by Massee are included in the collection. Kylie, an industrious grad student (no doubt a Hornet!), works tirelessly cataloging the documents and welcoming local school children on field trips. The biggest “Ah, hah!” moment for elementary school students? It’s when they surmise that the computer terms “cut” and “paste” once upon a time meant literally just that!

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