Girls on the go Ger­ald G. Hotchkiss

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Ger­ald G. Hotchkiss’ first book for chil­dren, Emily and the Lost City of Ur­gup: An Ad­ven­ture In Ara­bia, had its be­gin­nings with a fa­mil­iar re­quest. “My grand­daugh­ter Claire came into our bed early one morn­ing while we were vis­it­ing,” Hotchkiss e x pl a i ned f r om hi s home in Te­suque, “and asked me to tell her a story. I did, and the next morn­ing, she asked me to con­tinue that story. I named t he girl Emily be­cause Claire wanted that name, her best friend’s name. On the third day our daugh­ter, Claire’s mother, came in, too, and thought it would make a good chil­dren’s book and sug­gested I could con­tinue the story via email when we re­turned to Te­suque. Half­way through, I asked Claire to help me with the first three chap­ters I had told her. My mem­ory wasn’t as clear as hers.”

The stor y t akes place in t he e arly 1920s. A twelve-year-old girl is in­vited to leave her New Eng­land home and ac­com­pany her father’s friend Prof. Witherspoon on an ar­chae­ol­ogy ex­pe­dit ion to t he Middle East. There she dis­cov­ers a hid­den pyra­mid, foils thieves and her own kid­nap­pers, and gen­er­ally up­stages the adults at ev­ery turn. Emily and the Lost City of Ur­gup was fol­lowed by Emily In Khara Koto: A Young Girl’s Ad­ven­tures in Mon­go­lia; Claire at the Crocker Farm: A Young Girl’s Ad­ven­ture; and Zoe and the Pirate Ship Re­venge: A Young Girl’s Ad­ven­ture on a Pirate Ship. (Hotchkiss, who had a long ca­reer in mag­a­zine pub­lish­ing, in­clud­ing stints at Life, Look,

Newsweek, and Psy­chol­ogy To­day, has also writ­ten two books for adults, Mu­sic Mak­ers: A Guide To Singing in a Cho­rus or Choir With a Short His­tory of Choral Mu­sic and a col­lec­tion of es­says, Life Be­gins At Seventy.)

Hotchkiss’ hero­ines — in­tel­li­gent, re­source­ful, and in­de­pen­dent — are all ex­cel­lent role mod­els. In t hat, he said, t hey mir­ror his grand­daugh­ters. Not only have his grand­daugh­ters pro­vided ideas and i nspi­ra­tion for t he books, t hey also

Hotchkiss’ hero­ines — in­tel­li­gent, re­source­ful, and in­de­pen­dent — are all ex­cel­lent role mod­els.

par­tic­i­pated in the edit­ing. Claire, his el­dest grand­daugh­ter, ques­tioned the premise of Emily and the Lost City of Ur­gup. “She told me, ‘ Gramps, I would never go out on along trip like that with an older man. What if he were a child mo­lester?’ So I added a French lady, the chap­er­one, Madam Bibi.” His wife of 56 years, Pa­tri­cia, a for­mer pro­mo­tions writer for

Life, also helped with the manuscripts. “We’ve been great edi­tors for each other’ s work over the years,” Hotchkiss said. “We could ask ques­tions, make sug­ges­tions, and never feel threat­ened .” The more he wrote for young adults, the bet­ter he got. “I’d writ­ten all my life but was amazed by how much bet­ter the se­cond book was af­ter the first. At a cer­tain point, you know what you’re do­ing.”

The his­tor­i­cal set­tings and, in the case of the Emily books, ar­chae­o­log­i­cal de­tails found in the books re­quired ex­ten­sive re­search to es­tab­lish their au­then­tic feel. Though Hotchkiss has trav­eled widely — he served in Korea as an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer for a Marine bat­tal­ion in the 1950s — he had not been to ei­ther Egypt or Mon­go­lia. “Thank God for Google,” he said. Adult read­ers and, no doubt, some young ones as well, know that Emily and the Lost City

of Ur­gup is set in the 1920s within read­ing the first few pages, from clues planted by the way Emily dresses. Her shoes, the length of her skirt, and her mother’s re­quest that she wear her Lib­erty Lawn dress for her first meet­ing with Dr. Witherspoon all help de­fine the pe­riod.

Hotchkiss, who ad­mits to hav­ing lim­ited draw­ing skills, did the cover and in­side art for all his chil­dren’s books ex­cept the first. His draw­ings, done in ink and col­ored pen­cils, are prim­i­tive in the same way that draw­ings made by chil­dren are, with an invit­ing in­no­cence and twisted per­spec­tive. As an il­lus­tra­tor, he did the whim­si­cal draw­ings for One Hun­dred Mil­lion Wom­bats by chil­dren’s au­thor Richard Lemon, a friend from his days at Yale. He claims a cer­tain gen­er­a­tional ad­van­tage in both his writ­ing and draw­ing. “It’s about mak­ing your own visu­al­iza­tion. I grew up a ra­dio kid, be­fore tele­vi­sion. We lis­tened to it but we saw it, too. Th­ese peo­ple, the places we heard about on the ra­dio were all seen in your head.”

A fifth book, Where Is Jed?, writ­ten for his youngest grand­child and only boy, is look­ing for a pub­lisher.

— Bill Kohlhaasse

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