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Picturing a World

And then there's sport

In thinking about the Circleville “back story” for my new heroine, Mattie, I wondered what games were played by Ohio children of her era. Outdoor Sports for Boys gave quick answers—and its (and Girls) points to the need for feminism! Among the copious illustrations claimed by the title page are a few with girls playing lawn tennis and croquet, ice skating and riding side saddle. I can imagine a copy’s being kept in the offices of Gephardt and Evans, my fictional literary agency, for the partners to use as inspiration when they need a sport for a plot twist in one of their books for children.

Dearer to my heart, because I once owned (lent and thereby lost!) my great-aunt’s copy, is The American Girls Handy Book (1897). It gives instructions on how to collect and preserve wildflowers, make a hammock, throw a Hallowe’en party, etc. The activities are, on the whole tame, but they encourage girls to use initiative and imagination.

Not really for children at all, but a fascinating note on life in Circleville in the last quarter of the 19th C was the production of a superb publication, Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio (1879–1882). In a passage that was edited out of Where the Light Falls, Mattie sends Jeanette an issue of the monthly family newspaper she is writing and putting out. Surely I can imagine her knowing the Jones family and learning about both birds and printing from them! Or would it be better to make up a botanizing family based on the Joneses?
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