Picture this: Flat Stanley gets around
by Marguerite Cline
August 22, 2013 09:37 PM | 1549 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A few weeks ago, my son, Joel, was speaking at a veterinary convention in Kentucky. Anne and the children were with him on the trip.

While Joel was touring a horse farm with the conference group, Anne, Grace and Joseph went to Churchill Downs. They unexpectedly witnessed a very exciting event.

A horse arrived in a trailer that identified it as a winner of the Kentucky Derby. It was surrounded by bodyguards. Anne, Grace and Joseph were nearby and were able to take pictures as the 2009 Derby winner was unloaded.

The horse, Mine that Bird, was to be stabled in the museum at Churchill Downs for a few weeks. Promotional materials touted that for the first time the public would be able to get close to a Derby winner.

Suddenly a woman went up to Mine that Bird’s entourage.

She was holding something up in her hand and someone took a picture of it. Anne, Grace and Joseph may have been the only people there who knew what it was.

It was Flat Stanley. He is the main character in a series of children’s books by author Jeff Brown.

Most of us know how hard it can be to get a child in bed. They can be experts in delaying tactics. That was how the author got his inspiration for Flat Stanley.

He was tucking his children in for the night when one of them said he was afraid. It was just another delaying tactic.

There was a bulletin board on the wall over the bed. The child claimed he was afraid the bulletin board would fall on him during the night.

His dad told him that was ridiculous. But then he added that if the bulletin board did fall on him, when he awakened the next morning he would be flat.

The dad and his sons began imagining what life would be like if they were flat. One of the ideas that put the author’s imagination working overtime was that you could go anywhere you wanted to go with little expense.

How? Just fold yourself up, put yourself in an envelope and mail yourself there for the cost of a postage stamp.

Thus was born the idea for what because a series of books beginning with “Flat Stanley.”

Without a doubt, teachers are the most creative people on earth. While their work may not be featured in the world’s finest museums, most children never forgot how their teachers made learning fun.

After reading “Flat Stanley,” one teacher had an idea for what became the “Flat Stanley Project.” The students would make paper Flat Stanleys and mail them.

The recipients would take a picture of Flat Stanley in an interesting place and then mail him and his photo back to the child who had sent it to them.

The lady with the Flat Stanley at Churchill Downs was having his picture taken while Mine That Bird was being unloaded so she could mail it back to the child that had mailed it to her.

I had never heard of him until a few weeks ago. Anne had sent an email to friends and relatives saying that Joseph was doing a Flat Stanley project as a part of his schoolwork this year. Friends and relatives were asked if they would volunteer to help.

Naturally, this grandma was first in line to say, “Count me in.”

Then I began thinking about where I would take Flat Stanley to make his picture when he came to me. Would it be Gibbs Gardens, the Rock Barn, Reinhardt University, the Tellus Museum and Turner Field?

I am afraid Joseph’s Flat Stanley is mailing himself to places he might think are more exotic than Waleska. Personally, I do not understand that.

Anyway, the last I heard he was in Texas. Soon after that, he will be mailing himself to friends in Europe.

The teacher in me never dies. I find myself wishing I had known about Flat Stanley when I was in the classroom. That would have been such a fun way to teach social studies.

When I was teaching for Brenau College, I could have used that in my children’s literature classes, too.

You know, you might be one of those lucky ones who receives a Flat Stanley in your mailbox. You know what to do with it. Take a picture of him and mail him and the picture back to the child who sent him to you.

And remember that while he is at your house, you can have no hiding places. You see, Flat Stanley can slide under every door in the house including the closets.


Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska.
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