The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

June 26, 2017

June 26, 1936

Nancy Willard (June 26, 1936 to February 19, 2017) an American writer, published in various genres including children's literature. Some of her book titles:

The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon, illustrated by David McPhail, 1983.
The Marzipan Moon, illustrated by Marcia Sewall, 1981.
The Mountains of Quilt, illustrated by Tomie de Paolo, 1987.
The Tortilla Cat, illustrated by Jeanette Winter, Harcourt, 1997.

And she wrote many books for adults: poetry, criticism, novels, such as:

Skin of Grace, (University of Missouri Press), 1967.
A New Herball: Poems, 1968.
Testimony of the Invisible Man: William Carlos Williams, Francis Ponge, Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda, 1970.
Childhood of the Magician , 1973.
The Left-handed Story: Writing and the Writing Life, University of Michigan Press, 2008.

It was only decades after she won a Newberry prize (1982) for one of her children's books
A Visit to William Blake's Inn: Poems for Innocent and Experienced Travelers, (1981),
that it was discovered a poem Nancy Willard wrote had been attributed to William Blake. This misattribution was disseminated by leading British educational authorities. Here is the text of Willard's poem, and we deviate from our usual policy of not quoting entire texts, since this is brief, and, the news value considerable.

Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room

“Ah, William, we’re weary of weather,”
said the sunflowers, shining with dew.
“Our traveling habits have tired us.
Can you give us a room with a view?”

They arranged themselves at the window
and counted the steps of the sun,
and they both took root in the carpet
where the topaz tortoises run.

We will quote a report on this scandal in the librarian's world:
For more than a decade pupils have been taught "Two Sunflowers Move into the Yellow Room" was the work of William Blake, the radical 19th century English poet and painter.
But research by Thomas Pitchford, a librarian at Hitchin Boys School, has discovered that it was written by Nancy Willard, a 20th century American poet and novelist.
Somehow her work, which appeared in the 1981 anthology “A visit to William Blake’s Inn”, has been attributed to Blake - even though the Willard book won the Newbery Medal, America’s highest award for children’s literature.
What Mr Pitchford describes as a “sizeable” blunder appears to have been accepted by the Times Educational Supplement, one OFSTED inspector and two eminent American organisations, the National Council of Teachers of English and the International Reading Association.
The error, according to Mr Pitchford’s detective work, appears to have started in 2001 on the Oracle Education Foundation’s website where a group of students attributed Ms Willard’s homage to Blake to the poet himself.
Thanks to the power of the internet the misinterpretation became accepted wisdom, being reproduced in aids for teachers.
“In less than ten years a simple, rather innocent and easily fixable error has evolved into school policy and good practice simply due to the blind acceptance of quick and easy “research”,” Mr Pitchford has written in his blog, the libraryspider.....

David Millward is the journalist who wrote the above. I may just point out that the book A Visit to William Blake's Inn is not an anthology. And the picture of Blake accompanying Millward's article is mislabeled, though the journalist did not write the caption. And you should visit the website:

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