Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Mother Goose - Interview with the Artists Part I   as part of the exhibit:
Mother Goose Re-Imagined
Flinn Gallery, Greenwich Public Library 
101 West Putnam Avenue
Greenwich, CT 06830
on view December. 6, 2012 – January. 16, 2013
Event day Sunday Jan. 6 begins 1:30pm:
artist panel discussion moderated by Donna Miskend with:
Roberta Rivera, Clare Pernice, Marilyn Papas, H. R. Karpes, Lisa Lavoie
artist demo by Roberta Rivera
picture book readings

exhibiting ARTISTS: Angelique Anderson, Deborah Cuneo, Diana Ting Delosh, Laura Goetz, Leeza Hernandez, Mike Herrod, Sara Kahn, H. R. Karpes, Anna Kim, Ann Koffsky, Sarah Lisa Lavoie, Kitty Leech, Donna Miskend, Sawaka Norii, Marilyn Papas, Clare Pernice, Barbara Mason Rast, Roberta M. Rivera, Vicky Rubin, Tatyanna Starikova, Cheryl Taborsky, T.T. Tyler, Wallace West, Brian Yanish

I chose to highlight this particular question as it ties into the importance of being read to as a child, the lasting impression that experience has on adults, and the enduring quality of mother goose stories. 
Donna Miskend

DM Do you have any memories you wish to share of reading Mother Goose or being read to as a child?

My fondest memories are my parents reading Mother Goose rhymes to my brothers, sisters and me at bedtime. It was comforting being read to, and those short rhymes were delightfully silly.     – Roberta Rivera

I first learned about Mother Goose nursery rhymes when I was about three years old. They were read to me by my mother in Ukraine. It was a beautiful translation by Russian children’s book writer Korney Chukovskiy. My favorite rhymes that I knew by heart were “Humpty Dumpty”, “There Was an Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe”, “There Was a Crooked Man”.

After my daughter was born, Mother Goose again gave me many warm, cozy moments of reading with her. This special time I will treasure all my life.

- Tatyana Starikova
I remember being thrilled that I could actually read something aloud that sounded so silly and also something that was recognizable by everyone.
- Wallace West
My mom has a picture of me as a toddler reading, “The Three Little Kittens,” it may have been my favorite.  I remember playing a record of rhythms and songs that my younger brother and I would dance and sing to.  
– Laura Goetz

I have fond memories of being read books by my father. It was fun to follow along and look for new things in the pictures. When I was older, my mother would read to me as I drew. To this day, I listen to audio books as I work. – Lisa Lavoie

My parents had one of the collections of Mother Goose stories and I remember hearing about Jack and Jill and Humpty and all the rest, imagining what would cause both kids to tumble down the hill and who in their right mind would be a cradle on a tree top? I was also fascinated by the concept of living in a giant shoe. I still am. 
– Brian Yanish

Yes, I had a wonderful edition of the Mother Goose rhymes when I was a child. The illustrations were superbly rich in color and content. I hope to come across it again in a vintage book store some day.   
– Barbara Mason Rast

I must have heard the mother goose stories millions of times when I was little, but I don't think it was until this exhibit that I thought much about what really happens in them. They're so strange!                     –Mike Herrod

Hearing, singing and reading nursery rhymes were a huge part of my early childhood. Classics like Little Robin Redbreast, Humpty Dumpty, Sing A Song of Sixpence, Hot Cross Buns and Wee Willie Winkie were some of my favorites and they still are today.
Leeza Hernandez

The Mother Goose rhymes featured prominently in my early childhood. My mother read them out loud to me from the classic Volland edition, which had been in my family for a long time. 
                                                           – Kitty Leech

As a very young child my parents read Mother Goose to me.  The lilt of the rhyme was very comforting despite a lot of the rhymes being scary. The enjoyment was truly in the blend of sing song rhyme with the not so nice cautionary tale being told. I liked chanting them out loud at nursery school too.              - Clare Pernice
I grew up in Korea. There were other stories based on Asian traditional folktales.  I first learned of Mother Goose nursery rhymes from reading books, singing songs for my nieces.                                                                  - Anna Kim
I remember a very special Aunt was always reciting different Mother Goose rhymes to me in almost a sing-songy way during my early childhood and how happy and secure it always made me feel. But… the most wonderful memory was watching her reciting those very same rhymes in that same sing-songy way to my own children and seeing the same feelings of joy and love in their eyes that I felt with her as a child. 
- Deborah Cuneo
When I was very young, my mother read Mother Goose rhymes to me from a gift I had received.  I can recall unbound pages of rhymes that had black and white illustrations in between them.  They were contained in a black portfolio with laces that needed to be tied into a bow to close it.  “Jack and Jill”, “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, and “There was an old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe” stand out in that introduction, but there were many others in it. The loose pages would get out of order, and it didn’t matter.    
                           – Marilyn Papas

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


a conversation with FRED KAPLAN
as part of the exhibition:
August 25 – October 31, 2012
Yonkers Riverfront Library
One Larkin Center, Yonkers NY 10701

September 13 and October 13
Including Dickens Discussion Panel, moderated by Donna Miskend, CBIG exhibit curator with guests: Elizabeth Bird, Youth Materials Specialist NYPL and children’s book review blog creator A Fuse #8 Production, Fred Kaplan(in absentia, Q&A selections read from interview. Full transcript posted here ) Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Queens College and the Graduate CUNY, biographer (Dickens, A Biography)Mike J. Quinn, founder Friends of Dickens NY chapter, actor and writer, Catherine Robson, Associate Professor of English NYU specializing in 19c British literature and culture, faculty member of the Dickens Project.
Fred Kaplan, biographer and literary scholar. His latest book Visionary American, A Biography of John Quincy Adams is scheduled to be published in 2014 by Harper Colllins.

DM. You focus a lot on Dickens’ family and relationships in your book. How did they influence his writing?
Fred K.  The family Dickens was born into was a fertile source for many of his fictional characters. Like many writers, Dickens transformed some of the characteristics of both his parents & some of his siblings into memorable fictional representations. That's hardly surprising. After all, most of us are formed irreversibly from the start by the people who bring us into the world & raise us. Most Dickens biographers have highlighted the resemblances between Dickens father & various father figures in the novels, including Micawber in David Copperfield, & Dickens' mother makes many partial appearances. There's a consensus among biographers, starting with Forster & the blacking factory incident, that John Dickens' imprisonment for debt & Elizabeth Dickens' desire that young Charles continue at menial labor had an immense long-term influence on Dickens' life & novels.

DM.  Dickens edited a few different publications. Was this significant to his writing or overall career and, in what way?
Fred K.  Dickens had a career as a journalist & editor simultaneous with his career as a novelist. In the case of the two weekly magazines he edited, Household Words & All the Year Round, he solicited contributions, made the editorial decisions, & had a financial interest in their success. The success of the magazines & the money he earned was important to him. Numbers of his novels were published in weekly installments in these magazines, including Great Expectations &  A Tale of Two Cities. The demands & the structure of weekly magazine publication were considerably different from those of monthly serial publication. Consequently, Great Expectations & A Tale of Two Cities are much shorter than novels like Pickwick Papers & Our Mutual Friend & they have different ways of organizing narrative energy.

DM.  Dickens as an actor continued to perform even with his success as a writer. Do you think his understanding about acting affected his writing and how?
Fred K.  Dickens had a fatal attraction to performance from any early age. Well, not "fatal" in the negative but in the determinative sense. As he wrote, he performed his characters, as if he  were simultaneously the writer, the director, & the actor. He was not shy about public performance, from childhood on, in every aspect of his life. No wonder, then, that this performance personality found the actual stage attractive. His writing & his acting were facets of a single personality. His public stage performances, all for charity, & his public readings, mostly for private profit, were the overflow of his life as a writer & inseparably connected to it.

DM.  What influence did the visits Dickens made to morgues, public social institutions: hospitals, prisons, etc., even a hanging have on his writing, the characters and settings?
Fred K.  It's difficult & unrealistic to separate Dickens' social consciousness & fascination with such institutions from his life as a writer. Prisons, morgues, schools, etc. appear over & over again in his novels. Part of his interest was in improvement & reform; much of it was psychological & thematic; some of it had its roots in his own experience, such as his father's imprisonment in the Marshalsea. And Dickens, like all of us, could not but sometimes be obsessive about the power of the many forms of dying & the mystery of death.

DM.  Did his fascination with the ills and underbelly of society play a part in the success of his novels or cause controversy?
Fred K.  Yes, to some minor extent. But such matters were not central to the success of his novels at the time of initial publication. And they took on greater importance to later generations than to their initial readers.

DM.   Many of Dickens’ protagonists are children at a time when children were not viewed the same way as they are today. How did his writing help to change society’s attitude toward children?
Fred K.  Hardly at all, except to the extent that they were another of many fictional, poetic, philosophical, & intellectual depictions & discussions of childhood on the Continent, in Great Britain, & in America from Rousseau & the Romantics through the 19th-century. Over time the culture changed the way in which childhood & children were defined. This was a long term transformation & had many sources. It would have occurred if Dickens had never existed.

DM.   How did he contribute to social welfare?
Fred K.  Not in any meaningful or sustained way. Novelists rarely do. It's accurate to say, I think, that none of the social reforms in 19th-century Great Britain were influenced significantly by Dickens' novels. The social & institutional ills that Dickens highlighted in his novels were widely discussed in the society as a whole. Dickens is one small current in the social zeitgeist, part of an ongoing larger stream which would have flowed as fully as it did if he had never published a novel. And Dickens' novels often highlight social & institutional miseries that were at their height in his childhood. For example, the poor laws that Oliver Twist  highlights had been substantially reformed by the time Dickens wrote the novel.

DM.   How was Dickens influential in his own time?
Fred K.  Influence is a variable & complicated process. In his own time, Dickens was most influential as an entertainer & as a cultural icon. He was immensely influential in creating respect for & popularizing the novel as a literary form & giving heft to literature as a profession. He had eminent predecessors, like Scott. But he gave the novel a great lift into respectability & contributed to the emphasis on literacy & reading that grew during the Victorian period. But what readers went to Dickens' novels for was entertainment: emotion, suspense, drama, fascinating characters, & themes that resonated in their own lives.

DM.   Were his trips to America important to his career, and what was the Boz Ball in 1842?
Fred K.  Yes, they were important, but not in overwhelming ways. He first visited America in 1842 out of curiosity & in a search for subjects. He was disappointed in America, politically & socially. In practice it was not the republic that he had imagined & had come to believe it was. And it was crass & materialistic. Hence the criticism in Notes from America & the satire in Martin Chuzzlewit, both products of this first visit.  He also abhorred slavery. He did, though, enjoy the adulation, including the Boz Ball, a grand dinner in New York in his honor. His second visit to the United States was undertaken for profit, a series of public readings.

DM.   Why do you think his work has endured and is relevant after more than 100 years?
Fred K.  Because he had a genius for language, for description, for character portrayal; because his words are alive with an electric vitality; because he loved & was fascinated by the concreteness of this world, its people & things; because he has a distinctive style & personality; because he deals with universal themes that still interest us: human nature & society in all its peculiar manifestations -- money, greed, love, benevolence, ambition, hate, power, justice, family, death.

DM.   Dickens wrote several Christmas novels. Why did he return to this theme in particular?  
Fred K.  Christmas sold well. But also, like his fellow Victorians, he contributed to the invention of Christmas as a major holiday, a semi-sacred but mostly secular celebration of human fellowship.

DM.    A Christmas Carol is the most familiar from this group. Were the other Christmas stories as successful in his day and what was it about this one work that appears to have become the public favorite?
Fred K.  Almost all his Christmas tales & stories were successful, published either as separate small volumes, like A Christmas Carol, or as short stories in Household Words & All the Year Round. The long-term greater success of A Christmas Carol results, I think, from its combination of a more memorable cast of characters, like Scrooge & Tiny Tim, with a more powerful plot than the other tales & stories.

DM.    As an author, why do you focus on biographies?
Fred K.  I've discovered that it's what I do best, in the sense that the genre draws the best out of me as a writer & scholar, & that of all the possibilities for me it provides the largest potential audience. It gives me the chance to have readers & to contribute to the on-going cultural dialogue about  who we are.

DM.    You open your book with an anecdote of Dickens burning his letters so he would be known by his work rather than his personal history. How did you approach writing his biography, i.e. sources, research, angle or theme?
Fred K.  This is a huge question. The short answer is that I immerse myself in everything written by & about my subject. I look for patterns & themes in the writings & the life. And I emphasize those that seem to me most significant & that most interest me. I try to write a biography (do I have an alternative?) that embodies the interaction between who I am & who my subject is & the interaction between the culture that produced my subject & our culture now.

DM.    What did you enjoy most writing about Dickens?
Fred K.  I enjoyed living along with him. I enjoy writing & enjoyed making a book. And this process & his life contributed to my life, gave it life & meaning.

DM.  Tell me something you discovered about Dickens that surprised you.
Fred K.  Nothing comes to mind as a surprise. I was not even surprised when my eyes swelled with tears & my throat with sobs when I wrote his death.

DM.   Who is your favorite Dickens character or book?
Fred K.  Probably Our Mutual Friend, though at another moment I might claim another one is my favorite. I suppose I really don't have a favorite.

DM.  What would you like people to take away from reading your biography of Dickens?
Fred K.  A desire to read Dickens; a heightened sense of our common humanity; a restrained hope that we & our society can do better; an appreciation for how inseparable are the comic & the tragic, happiness & unhappiness; & a better understanding of the relationship between literature & life. 


For further information and a schedule and visit     for more info on cbig exhibits and events
the library’s Facebook page the Yonkers Public Library Riverfront Branch!/pages/Yonkers-Public-Library/73400644755
or call the library at 914-337-1500
This exhibition programming is underwritten by the Yonkers Public Library Foundation.
Free and open the public.
Full Bio: Fred Kaplan is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is the author of Lincoln, the Biography of a Writer (2008), The Singular Mark Twain, A Biography (2003);Gore Vidal, A Biography (1999); Henry James, The Imagination of Genius, A Biography (1992); and Charles Dickens, A Biography (1988). His Thomas Carlyle, A Biography (1983), was a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and was a jury-nominated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Lincoln, the Biography of a Writer was a Lincoln Prize book. His Sacred Tears: Sentimentality in Victorian Literature (1987), Dickens and Mesmerism: the Hidden Springs of Fiction (1975), and Miracles of Rare Device: The Poet’s Sense of Self in Nineteenth--Century Poetry (1972) are contributions to the study of Romantic and Victorian British literature and culture. He has edited Dickens’ Book of Memoranda (1981), the Norton Critical Editions of Dickens’ Oliver Twist (1993) and Hard Times (2001), and Traveling in Italy with Henry James (1994). He has held Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowships, and been a Fellow of the National Humanities Center, the Huntington Library, and the Rockefeller Study Center at Bellagio. His latest book Visionary American, A Biography of John Quincy Adams is scheduled to be published in 2014 by Harper Collins. He lives in Boothbay, Maine. UPDATE: CSPAN Interview with Fred Kaplan on John Quincy Adams book. HERE

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Art - Artists of the Dickens Exhibit

as part of the exhibition:
August 25 – October 31, 2012
Yonkers Riverfront Library
One Larkin Center, Yonkers NY 10701

September 13 and October 13
Including Craft session with Doreen Mulryan MartsDickens Read and Craft session with T. T. Tyler, 2 sessions: Drawing Dickens’ characters, demo/instruction and his Illustration Process, demo with Wallace West, BOOK SALE AND SIGNINGS WITH EXHIBITING CBIG ARTISTS
exhibiting members: Lisa Cinelli, Deborah Cuneo, Diana Ting Delosh, Peggy Dressel, Doris Ettlinger, Laura Goetz, Leeza Hernandez, Mike Herrod, Sara Kahn, H. Ruth Karpes, Lisa Lavoie, Doreen Marts, Donna Miskend, Sawaka Norii, Marilyn Papas, Clare Pernice, Roberta Rivera, Vicky Rubin, Cheryl Taborsky, T. T. Tyler, Wallace West

DM. Why did you choose this scene/character/story to illustrate? 
ARTIST: I love words and no one dishes up a better serving of words than the master himself, Charles Dickens. I have taken a famous scene from the two books that are his most known and loved by children (Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol). I chose these moments to illustrate from each book as they are a dramatic snapshot of character study. Dickens was famous for his never-ending plethora of characters. My third art piece is Charles Dickens.
                                                        - Clare Pernice

Like many fans of Oliver Twist, I remember the famous request, "Please Sir, I want some more." Oliver an orphan, who is in a workhouse with desperately hungry boys, asks Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle for another portion of gruel. 
I chose to illustrate the poor and less fortunate children in this scene, because unfortunately, hunger is still a reality in today’s society.
                                                        - Laura Goetz

I picked the story of Bleak House because it has a great cast of Dickensian characters and a complex plot - everything seems tied together and every character is out to get the other.  I also liked that it's one of Dickens’ lesser-known stories, and hasn't been depicted as often as his more famous ones.
                                                        - Mike Herrod

DM. Did you discover something new or interesting while doing your research for this exhibit?    
ARTIST: Yes. He liked animals. He had a favorite cat named Bob after his character, Bob Cratchit from "A Christmas Carol".  Bob the Cat would sit on his desk and keep him company while he wrote. Apparently Dickens loved holding Bob's paw so much that when the cat died, Dickens had the paw stuffed and made into a letter opener - so he could continue holding his paw. This artifact resides at the NYPL. Dickens also had a pet canary named Dick that he pampered by feeding a thimbleful of sherry every morning.
                                                     - Diana Ting Delosh

ARTIST:  In 7th grade our English Lit anthology was 2 inches thick and had NO PICTURES. When we read Dickens’, A Tale of Two Cities, I doodled pictures of Madam DeFarge, Lucy Darnay, etc. 

Early Work, ©Doris Ettlinger
My classmates were very interested in how I visualized the characters. Little did I know that when I grew up I would do this for a living. Here is a picture I show kids when I do school visits.    

                                        -   Doris Ettlinger

DM. Tell me about your illustration process.
ARTIST: I usually come up with ideas and layouts when I'm walking down the street. I do very rough sketches from these before researching the era, clothing online and in books or prints. I like to draw from life, but if I can't, I use photography, sometimes my own or found photos. Then I carefully sketch in the lightly finished lines and add in the color in whichever medium I choose based on the subject.
                                                        - MARILYN PAPAS


                                                       - ROBERTA RIVERA

There's always a gesture and expression I have in mind before I start. Then I try to create that gesture and expression by memory or image research and shooting my own photographs. The eyes are my favorite part. They can make or break a character or emotion.
                                                       - WALLACE WEST
This exhibition programming is underwritten by the Yonkers Public Library Foundation. Free and open the public.
For further information and a schedule and visit    for more info on cbig exhibits and events
view the catalogue
the library’s Facebook page the Yonkers Public Library Riverfront Branch!/pages/Yonkers-Public-Library/73400644755
or call the library at 914-337-1500
This exhibition programming is underwritten by the Yonkers Public Library Foundation. Ages children - adults Free and open the public.



as part of the exhibition:

August 25 – October 31, 2012
Yonkers Riverfront Library
One Larkin Center, Yonkers NY 10701

September 13 and October 13
Including performance readings by Friends of Dickens
Mike J. Quinnactor, educator, writer and retired parole officer living in Riverdale, NY, Mike is the founder and former executive director of The Friends of Dickens New York chapter. Along with his colleagues from the Friends of Dickens, Mr. Quinn frequently presents stated dramatic readings of the famed author’s works for libraries and service organizations.

DM. Tell me about Friends Of Dickens, what you do, who your members are and how you promote Dickens' literature.
MJQ. We are more than a book discussion group. We are Dickensians, members of local branch no. 197 of the Worldwide Dickens Fellowship, founded more than one hundred years ago in London, England. We share with our members and friends our love for the words and works of Charles Dickens, the Inimitable Boz. Our members mostly hail from the metro New York region but some live as far away as Pennsylvania, Delaware, Virginia and California. We promote Dickens by our website,, by word of mouth and business cards, by our newsletter, Our Monthly Letter, and by free public readings from the works of Dickens in libraries and service organizations.
DM. Can anyone join?  
MJQ. We are open to all people and no specialized knowledge is required.

DM. What is it about Dickens that inspires you to champion his writing? 
MJQ. Dickens writes from the heart and his passion for justice, charity and his love for humanity, resounds in all his writing. 

DM. Dickens wrote about all strata of society, from the very wealthy to the very poor. Did his readers identify with the characters in their same social status or did it cause controversy?  
MJQ. In the 1800s there were elements in British society that condemned Dickens for his vivid descriptions of social institutions and unjust economic conditions as breeding grounds for crime and social unrest. However, more progressive elements applauded his efforts. Dickens did, in his own way, strike a powerful blow for humanity.

DM. Fred Kaplan wrote in his biography of Dickens that Dickens visited social institutions to get a first hand look at the characters, both people and settings that would populate his novels. Do you think these experiences make his characters more real and appealing to readers in his day and now?
MJQ. I'd answer that by pointing to his novel Bleak House. In preparing for it and in writing it Dickens regularly accompanied policemen on their rounds; he visited workhouses, orphanages, slums and jails. He accumulated and published information poverty rates, disease rates and such.

DM. Few writers achieve fame outside their native country. Dickens was popular here in America during his lifetime. Why?
MJQ. Dickens loved America for its republican form of government and its attempts to forge a democracy. He was disappointed in many things he saw here but he also saw hope for the future. Americans loved to read his books and flocked to his readings in record numbers on his 1867-68 reading tour.

DM. Words and phrases from Dickens' work have found their way into the English language. What are they and how are they used?  
MJQ. Scrooge, a miser, taskmaster and reformed misanthrope • Fagin - a thief and trainer of youngsters as pickpockets  • Pickwickian - a retired gentleman in search of adventures and learning • Micawber - an inveterate optimist unable to balance his budget but loyal, loving and courageous.

DM. What is your favorite book and why?  
MJQ. Generally I say that whatever Dickens book I happen to be reading at the moment is my favorite. Beyond that I say Bleak House is my favorite for in it I believe Dickens created his most lasting master work. I believe its cast of characters is the greatest Dickens ever achieved and its dual narrative broke new ground for the 19th century novel.

DM. Who is your favorite character?
MJQ. Hard to say. Esther Summerson (Bleak House), Pip (Great Expectations).

DM. What did you discover about Dickens that you didn't know before you became involved with Friends of Dickens?
MJQ. I discovered that Dickens, the human being, was a complex person beset with many fears, foibles and contradictions. I discovered a man passionate about living. I discovered someone always learning and trying to do his best. Ultimately he may have failed in his quest but if he did fail it was a magnificent failure.

DM. Tell my why it is important to read Dickens and/or what do you want people to know about Dickens' work.
MJQ. I want people to know that Dickens, like Shakespeare and all great writers, contributes a vision to us. His vision is based in reality, filled with humor and pathos, simple yet profound. His analysis of human nature may seem simplified at times but taken as a whole his vision is true. 
For further information and a schedule  and visit      for more info on cbig exhibits and events
the library’s Facebook page the Yonkers Public Library Riverfront Branch!/pages/Yonkers-Public-Library/73400644755
or call the library at 914-337-1500
This exhibition programming is underwritten by the Yonkers Public Library Foundation.
ages: children - adults Free and open the public.