On October 13, 2001, the Women’s League of the Armenian Community School of Fresno (ACSF) and the Arne Nixon Center Advocates (ANCA) of the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature held a luncheon at the Smittcamp Alumni House on the campus of
California State University, Fresno. The Arne Nixon Center is housed at the Fresno State Henry Madden Library. Angelica Carpenter, Curator of the Arne Nixon Center, was the featured speaker whose topic was “Arne Nixon’s Vision: Celebrating Multicultural Children’s Literature.”
Friends and members of the Women’s League of ACSF (a support group for the Armenian School) and ANCA (a support group for the Arne Nixon Center), as well as parents of the Armenian Community School of Fresno were invited guests to the luncheon. Ms. Carpenter talked about Dr. Arne Nixon, The Arne Nixon Center, and Dr. Nixon’s ideas on the value of multicultural children’s literature. The other part of her lecture was on what inspired her to be a writer of children’s literature.
Before lunch was served, the guests mingled and tasted assorted Armenian mezza (appetizers) such as rolled grape leaves, boregs, tourshi, hummous, and flat bread. Then University Catering served a wonderful lunch with several different kinds of Armenian desserts that included gata, namura and Napoleons. All the mezza and dessert items were made by the members of the Women’s League.
When lunch was over, Penny Mirigian-Emerzian, President of the Women’s League, welcomed everyone and expressed how wonderful it was that the Women’s League and ANCA are working together to help enhance the collection at the Arne Nixon Center by adding Armenian childrens’ literature to it. Denise Sciandra, President of ANCA, also spoke and expressed how delighted she and her group were that the Women’s League and ANCA were working together for the Arne Nixon Center.
Ms. Carpenter gave her lecture and showed a video about the Arne Nixon Center and showed slides of how she came to write books with her mother. The audience enjoyed her presentation because there were several mother-daughters in the audience who related to Ms. Carpenter very well.
Then, Ms. Carpenter explained that Dr. Nixon began teaching at Fresno State in 1961. He was loved and respected by many and was a sought-after speaker who delighted in telling stories to children. During his many travels around the world, he bought children’s books and it was his vision to build a collection of multicultural children’s literature in the Library. In 1995, Dr. Nixon donated his collection of 22,000 children’s books to the Henry Madden Library and founded the Arne Nixon Center for the Study of Children’s Literature. Upon his death in 1997, he bequeathed a generous gift to the Henry Madden Library in support of the Arne Nixon Center.
Although Ms. Carpenter never met Dr. Nixon, she felt she has gotten to know him very well through his books and the stories his friends have told her about him. Since the grand opening of the Arne Nixon Center in 2001, over 130 individuals have joined ANCA in support of the center.
Ms. Carpenter discussed Dr. Nixon’s international vision of children’s literature in various languages and described her plan to add children’s books in Armenian to the Arne Nixon Center. She encouraged the donation of Armenian children’s books to the center. As Fresno has a large Armenian population, it is fitting that there be such a collection in the library and Ms. Carpenter certainly has the right spot for it. As a matter of fact, right after the lecture, Zar DerMugrdechian and several others donated a number of Armenian children’s books to the Arne Nixon Center.
Ms. Carpenter became the curator of the Arne Nixon Center in 1996 after a nationwide search. She earned a bachelor’s degree in French and master’s degrees in education and library science, from the University of Illinois. She was the Director of the Public Library in Palm Springs, Florida.She co-authored with her mother, the late Jean Shirley, three illustrated biographies geared towards young readers. They are entitled Frances Hodgson Burnett: Beyond the Secret Garden, published in 1990, L. Frank Baum: Royal Historian of Oz (1992), and Robert Louis Stevenson: Finding Treasure Island (1997). She is currently working on a fourth book entitled Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass to be published in 2002. Ms. Carpenter is a member of the board of directors of the International Wizard of Oz and a contributing editor to the Baum Bugle.
An invitation was extended to all to visit the Arne Nixon Center housed at the Henry Madden Library on the Fresno State campus. The Arne Nixon Center is a research library; its materials do not circulate. The Center’s materials are listed in the library’s computerized catalogue at www.lib.csufresno.edu. The lecture concluded after Ms. Carpenter answered a number of questions from the audience. The Women’s League presented a gift basket to Ms. Carpenter as an expression of thanks for her work.
A special thanks goes to the following sponsors of the event and all of the individuals who made the luncheon a success: Anoush Chamlian, Peter and Raffi Dorian, Richard and Mimi Gunner, Penny Mirigian-Emerzian and Dr. Thomas Shekoyan.