October 23, 2014  

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CATCHING UP WITH ELLEN RUFFIN

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Ellen Ruffin

Q: What is the de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection?

A: The collection is one of the top research collections of children’s literature in the country. It contains American and British works. The collection consists of 1,300 authors and illustrators and over 160,000 books, dating as far back as 1530. We encompass contemporary and historic pieces, original manuscripts and illustrations.

Q: When and how was it founded?

A: The collection was founded in 1966 by Dr. Lena Y. de Grummond. She came to Southern Miss after retiring as Director of School Libraries for the Louisiana school system and taught children’s literature to grad students. She wanted more than a textbook, so she began contacting authors and illustrators in the 1960s and a little before then and asked for sketches, research and editorial notes. She asked them to send what they planned to throw away or if they had already thrown it away, just send the trash can. The collection began because of her dedication.

Q: What are some key elements of the collection?

A: Some significant collections are from H.A. and Margaret Rey, who authored Curious George and the Ezra Jack Keats collection. We have an amazing historic collection of Aesop’s fables that were printed in 1530. We also have an impressive Kate Greenaway and Randolph Caldecott collection.

Q: Where is it located?

A: It is in the McCain Library and Archives on the Hattiesburg campus. There is also a de Grummond Collection exhibit in a gallery in Cook Library.

Q: What is your role as curator and what do you like most about your job?

A: As curator I became more or less the face of the collection. There are many other people involved with the collection. Even though we have a small staff, the collection is so well-known that it is a gem of the university.

Q: What is your favorite children’s book?

A: That is very hard for me to say. I appreciate the work of so many. Without question, I will read one picture book and think this one is my favorite, that is, until I read the next one. We’re living at a great time to see, read and be a part of it.

Q: Who do you think is the most influential author in this field?

A: I couldn’t say. There are too many to name. Each period in children’s literature is just standing on the shoulders of the previous one.

Q: Have you written a children’s book or been inspired to?

A: No. A lot more goes into creating a children’s book than most realize. An author has to be very careful when writing for children’s books. A really good children’s book will not be described as cute. It goes deeper and broader than that.

Q: Which role do you think is more challenging – writing a children’s book or illustrating one?

A: They are two different things that are equally challenging. There’s an interdependence between the words and the pictures that bring them to life.