Children's book collection - - Jackson, MS

Children's book collection

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It's no fairy tale that one of the nation's finest collections of children's books and original manuscripts for children's books is right here in Mississippi. The collection started out as a way for library science students to see the process of writing, and has ended us as a valuable research tool. 

Curious George is right at home here, as well as the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew and Dr. Seuss, and thousands of other childhood characters and writers from all over the world.

 "And we now have over 1200 authors and illustrators represented in the collection. We have over 120 thousand books to compliment over 1200 authors and illustrators with the manuscripts." 

That's Ellen Ruffin. She is the curator of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection housed in the McCain Library at the University of Southern Mississippi at Hattiesburg. This astounding collection of printed books as well as a wealth of original manuscripts and story boards and original art was started by Dr. Lena de Grummond because she thought people driving to the night class she was teaching on library science, some of them coming over 100 miles one-way after a day's work, deserved something extra for their effort. So, Dr. de Grummond started writing letters, a hundred a week, to writers of children's material asking for anything pertaining to the process of writing so she could let her students see firsthand what it was all about.  

And she would tell them, "If it's something you are going to throw away, send it to us. But if you've already thrown it away, send us the trash can." 

And over the years, the material has rolled in, and is still coming. Pretty much everything pertaining to Curious George, including the authors, Margaret and husband H.A. Rey's escape from Paris just before it fell to the Germans in World War II, up to centuries before and all the way to today. 

 "We're constantly collecting.  We're constantly getting books from donors, papers from authors, illustrations from modern illustrators," said Ruffin. 

The de Grummond collection has grown to one of the most important bodies of children's book materials in the nation, since Dr. de Grummond sent out those first letters in the 1960s asking for material. And just as an aside, Dr. de Grummond was already a retiree when she started the collection; proving you don't have to be young to do important things. Just have good ideas and determination!  

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