Historical Fiction v. Historical Document: An 8 year-old’s Perspective

I read this book the summer after 2nd grade and I didn’t realize that it was fiction because I was under the impression that scholastic “discovered” girls diaries and then edited and published them (to be fair the series only had like 5 books then instead of 30 so this seemed much more plausible). Not to mention the fact that the author’s name was NOT on the cover–a first for me.

The Item In Question:

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Anyway, long story short I sent a letter to Scholastic asking if they had any information on “Hattie Campbell” from the book because we shared the same family name and I was curious if we might possibly be from the same lineage. To further compound the confusion, I actually had a relative named Hattie and a relative named Wade (just like two of the main characters in the book). Any actual understanding of genealogy, however, would have told me that even if this wasn’t a work of fiction they could not have been connected to MY Wade and Hattie, but then again I was eight.

Of course, no one in my family at all deterred me from doing this. In fact, they encouraged me. My parents were probably too excited that their eight year-old wanted to write to a publisher to explain to me the difference between fictitious diaries and historical documents. And then like a year later I saw the disclaimer at the back of the book saying that it’s a work of fiction and I was totally and utterly embarrassed because I had written to a major publishing company “on Broadway!” nonetheless.

Finally, I had the explanation for why I had never received a response to my inquiry. They never ever wrote me back even to break it to me gently that there was no actual Hattie Campbell. In my adult years, I feel like that was unfair because it is a children’s publishing company and if there is a child who is trying to research her family’s roots then you at least owe her the courtesy of telling her that she might want to try some public records. I don’t care to listen to reason or consider the fact that they may have been inundated with actual business correspondence. I’d like to think that I would never be too busy to drop a quick note to a confused child who mistakenly believed a book my company published somehow linked back to her ancestor. I’m grateful for the experience though because it makes for a fun story. It was always one of my favorite books growing up and I absolutely cherish to this day, so when I found this hellogiggles article it was totally fun to see the book again!

If you’d like to relieve your childhood reading days, check out “A 20-something Rereads ‘Across the Wide and Lonesome Prairie’ by Heather Taylor here:

http://www.hellogiggles.com/a-20-something-rereads-the-dear-america-series-across-the-wide-and-lonesome-prairie

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Bragging Rights

Okay, okay maybe it’s not the best way to start off a blog with a little bragging, but I’m really proud of myself so I’m going to do it anyway. I really killed it this year with Mother’s Day. I’m a classic “card and take you out to lunch” kind of gal, but this year I was struck with a rather brilliant idea.

When I was a little girl, my mom used to tell me stories. As in elaborate-multi-parted-hours-long stories that would span the length of our road trips. Probably the best story she ever told came about when I was in the first grade. It turned out that she had been writing a little bit each night until she had a full length story about a little girl growing up with her grandmother after her mother dies. The plot was comprised of these lovely little vignettes about small town life and every day encounters contributing to the protagonist’s personal growth. She even wrote some songs to go along with the story and soon every teacher at my elementary school was asking her to read it to their classes. Everyone told her she should publish, but unfortunately she never did. So I decided to do it for her. Kind of.

I used MyPublisher, which I think is mostly for photo books but they had a storyteller layout that was perfect for this, and added “photos” from illustrations (mostly collages) that I added to the text of her story. The MyPublisher software isn’t great, but their customer service is, so I would definitely use them again. Plus, the final product looked really good and my mom got to open a package with a bookstore quality version of the story she had written decades ago.

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This page pictured above is my favorite and includes a lullaby that my mom used to sing to me when I was a baby.

This was a really cool project for me to do for my mom and it’s definitely a gift idea that I will never be able to top! I also think that this would be a great project for people with kids. I know in elementary school we got to make our own books using drawings that our teachers would ship off to an independent publisher somewhere. But nowadays this is something that parents and children could easily do at home together. Anyone with a scanner and basic computer literacy could totally pull this off. I can recommend MyPublisher but I’m sure there are other good ones out there too that I haven’t tried. I for one can say I would have loved to make a picture book like this as a kid…well and even now 🙂