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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Mitchell - Biting Marion - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

Digger at top of our hill
The bigger the boy, the bigger the toy is the saying.  Little boys love earth moving machines and some never grow out of their love of them.  I'm grateful to have found one of them, Tom Purves, who grew up in his father's excavating business (so it still says A. Purves Excavating). He's not big on having a website, too busy digging, but that link includes my unsolicited five star review.  We've had him on an earlier smaller job and now he's replacing our septic field.

My husband's groaning over "my poor torn-up yard!" That was his title for the photos he sent me.
This shows both the digger off to the right and truck down in the valley with gravel and sand just dumped.

Here's where the septic tank sits and the pipe starts down to the field over the hill.
This is just the start of the chaos!  I've seen a neighbor's septic field and know that gravel, sand, and the box of pipes are just the beginning of "my poor torn-up yard!"  It won't be quick, it won't be cheap, but I'm happy the "mole" digging up our yard is the same boy my yoga teacher knows as Tommy and he is the one doing it.  Our whole (the pun of "hole" also fits) neighborhood is starting to need "poor torn-up yards."  It's enough to excite a preschooler.  By the way, if my opening sentence seems a bit sexist, today's story is mentioned as being a favorite of a little girl named Lydia.

On a blog called The Earthling's Handbook, the author, 'Becca, in 2016 wrote about 4 Great Poetry Books for Young Children for her daughter, Lydia, who was then two years old.  Today's story was mentioned as a favorite in the first volume of the My Book House series edited by Olive Beaupre Miller, whose work has been mentioned here before.  A few pages earlier is the tale of "The Big Street in the Big City", also by Lucy Sprague Mitchell, with the comment that the
"city street scene looks dated to me, but Lydia’s not yet familiar with the stylistic changes in vehicles over time, so to her this is a story of everyday life and how that traffic she sees is all humming along and getting things done as 'little feet skip and patter and dance' in their right place."
It's true the series shows its age in the illustrations, but 'Becca continues her review with
Lydia also loves “Biting Marion”, a story about a female digging machine who loves to chomp through asphalt and spit big mouthfuls of dirt into a truck. (Luckily, imitating Biting Marion at the dinner table is a game that has not occurred to Lydia.)
I might correct her as "Marion" is the male name and "Marian" is the female form of the name, but what the heck, the story reminds me of the classic picture book, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel by Virginia Lee Burton, first published in 1939 (and definitely not yet in Public Domain).  Mike Mulligan's steam shovel is named Mary Anne and the story was ranked by the National Education Association as one of the "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children."

Today's story may not earn that exalted ranking, but the author, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, was an educational pioneer founding the justifiably famous, Bank Street College of Education.  She started out being home-schooled because of  uncontrollable nervous twitches.  Eventually she was able to move on, including graduating with honors from Radcliffe College.  Her fascination with Dewey's Progressive Education Movement led her from being University of California, Berkeley's first dean of women students to founding BEE and Bank Street.  Today's story originated in the school's early days when it was still called the Bureau of Educational Experiments (BEE).  It's not Mike Mulligan, Burton's story was a Caldecott Medalist, but that medal is for the illustrator of a story that should also be worthwhile.  I think little Lydia shows Mitchell's story matters where it counts, with the young  audience, and, yes, it includes a bit of poetry.
I think you can see why little Lydia loved Biting Marion and how powerful earth movers are like modern day versions of prehistoric creatures delighting the same children who probably also gobble up books about dinosaurs.  

That same age group loves fingerplays and Flint Public Library's wonderful book Ring a Ring o' Roses, has been mentioned here before.  Here's their bit of poetry:

Steam Shovel

The steam shovel scoop opens its mouth so wide
Extend left hand in front, palm up, fingers closed.  Slowly open fingers.
Then  scoops up the dirt and lays it aside.
Lower hand, dig up dirt, move arm to left and dump it out.
Fortunately for our hillside, the equipment isn't steam powered or it really would result in "my poor torn-up yard!"  Our yard again will eventually look like the park my husband tries to make it, but in the meantime lovers of earth-moving vehicles are welcome to look as long as they stay out of the way.
******************** (The fine print)
This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  

At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it.
Other Public Domain story resources I recommend-
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key.
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.

    Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
The email list for storytellers, Storytell, discussed Online Story Sources and came up with these additional suggestions:            
         - David K. Brown -
         - Richard Martin -
         - Spirit of Trees -
         - Story-Lovers - is now only accessible through the Wayback Machine, described below, but Jackie Baldwin's wonderful site lives on there, fully searchable manually (the Google search doesn't work), at .  It's not easy, but go to snapshot for October 22 2016  and you can click on SOS: Searching Out Stories to scroll down through the many story topics and click on the story topic that interests you.
       - World of Tales - 
           - Zalka Csenge Virag - doesn't give the actual stories, but her recommendations, working her way through each country on a continent, give excellent ideas for finding new books and stories to love and tell.
You're going to find many of the links on these sites have gone down, BUT go to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine to find some of these old links.  Tim's site, for example, is so huge probably updating it would be a full-time job.  In the case of Story-Lovers, it's great that Jackie Baldwin set it up to stay online as long as it did after she could no longer maintain it.  Possibly searches maintained it.  Unfortunately Storytell list member, Papa Joe is on both Tim Sheppard's site and Story-Lovers, but he no longer maintains his old Papa Joe's Traveling Storytelling Show website and his Library (something you want to see!) is now only on the Wayback Machine.  It took some patience working back through claims of snapshots but finally in December of 2006 it appears!
    Somebody as of this writing whose stories can still be found by his website is the late Chuck Larkin -  I prefer to list these sites by their complete address so they can be found by the Wayback Machine, a.k.a., when that becomes the only way to find them.
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

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