For some characters the world is flat

Published Wednesday, September 5, 2007

 

It’s a preposterous idea, really.

A boy can’t be physically flattened just because a bulletin board falls on him. But silly or not, Flat Stanley is a craze that’s traveled the world — literally.

The children’s book “Flat Stanley” written by Jeff Brown in the 1960s gained interest in the 1990s when a schoolteacher started the Flat Stanley Project.

Students in elementary school start off by reading the humorous book, which tells of how a newly flattened Stanley Lambchop takes advantage of his state by traveling the world via mail.

The students then color, decorate and cut out their own Stanleys — there’s a template on the Internet.

Each student mails his or her Stanley to friends, family and others, requesting that the recipient take Stanley on a tour of their town.

The recipient is asked to take photos of Stanley seeing the sights and perhaps send back a few souvenirs.

Upon his return, Stanley can be used to teach geography, culture and even letter writing.

According to Wikipedia, in 2005 more than 6,000 classes from 47 countries participated in the Flat Stanley Project.

This boy’s seen the world.

And now he’s seen Natchez. And Ferriday too.

When I got an e-mail from my mom last week saying my aunt wanted my mailing address for my cousin’s school project, I had a feeling I knew what was coming.

I’ve covered the education beat for this newspaper for more than three years now, and I’ve come across my fair share of Flat Stanleys.

We’ve reported on the adventures of Stanleys from Adams County Christian School and Vidalia Lower Elementary School before, and I’ve seen the paper Stanley many times.

But this time, the Stanley was mine to tour with.

So Monday, a friend and I loaded up a camera, a folded Stanley and a few ideas and hit the local sites. This Stanley — handcrafted by my cousin, Brandon Sparks — took a drive by musician Jerry Lee Lewis’ childhood home, and stopped to pose for a photo by the “Welcome to Ferriday” sign boasting of Lewis and his relative Mickey Gilley, also a musical star.

Stanley then explored the cotton fields between Ferriday and Vidalia and even saw what will soon become a corn maze open for visitors.

Next, we crossed the bridge and snuck around behind the old Ramada so Stanley could catch a breathtaking glimpse of the Mississippi River. When he looked north he could see straight up the river, which would eventually lead to Brandon’s hometown, Memphis.

We stopped by the Natchez Visitor Reception Center to grab a few postcards, then we headed to Rosalie. Stanley posed on a fence in front of the antebellum home, circa 1820.

Tuesday, Stanley tagged along at work with me, and witnessed a printing press in action.

Sometime this weekend the little guy will get folded three ways again, sealed into an envelope and sent on his way back to Memphis.

It’s a preposterous idea, but a good one.

What better way for young children to learn about the world than to see it through the eyes of a paper doll? This flat boy has traveled more than any of us ever will and with each trip, he brings back a world of knowledge.

I hope Brandon enjoys his Stanley lessons. And though I know some of his classmates will receive Stanley photos from places that are farther away, Natchez can surely rank among the most unique.

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat.

© 2007, Natchez Newspapers, Inc. (Used with permission)