Young author Jackson

The Cloudlanders
The Cloudlanders is a story I wrote at age ten. My previous "books" had been collected bits and pieces; this was a continuous novel, but picaresque--a series of adventures with the same characters. In it, my hero and heroine, with a guide bird named Talka (obviously a talker) get up into the clouds where they discover some are solid, and boast strange countries. When I ran out of what to tell about the situation the kids were in, I'd jump them to the next cloud-country. I was heavily influenced by the Oz books and Alice in Wonderland.

A visiting friend of my parents who edited the a weekly newspaper, saw the story in progress, admired my industry, and started to print it in the Galesburg (Illinois) Post. After a while the printed word caught up to my written copy, and I sweated under a deadline. One week there was a box on the front page, and within it the words, "Jackie Dougan! Authors mustn't let their publishers get ahead of them! Send in the next installment pronto!" It was too much pressure for me; I brought my kids down from the clouds shortly after. But they'd been up there four and a half months, and I was launched as a published author--one, however, who to this day rarely accepts a deadline on an unfinished manuscript.

Click a selection below to read the installments:
Installment 1-2 - Installment 3-5 - Installment 6-8 - Installment 9-11 - Installment 12-14 - Installment 15-17
Installment 18-20 - Installment 21-23 - More about the history of Cloudlanders

The Cloudlanders ©1938/39, Jacqueline Dougan Jackson

About This Book (A forward written by Jacqueline Jackson in 1978)

Jackie Dougan's book of 3rd grade, untitled, was a potpourri of paragraph-length stories, jokes, anecdotes, poems, and a magnum opus, a 6 page story, “The Mystery of the Old Schoolhouse.” Her book of 4th grade was more advanced, a collection of short stories about two anthropomorphic dogs, The Adventure of Bumpy and Billy Bones. The book of 4th-5th grade, the apex of her juvenile writing career, was a meandering picaresque novel, The Cloudlanders. A friend of her mother, Mary Creighton, saw it, summer of '39, in half-finished state, and written in pencil on large sheets of manila paper. She decided to publish it in her weekly newspaper, The Galesburg Post, starting first with an hors d'oeuvre, “Mollie the Maggot.”

I have not read this story since I wrote it till I organized it for this printing, from Xeroxes received from the Knox College Archives. I realize that at ten I was both sexist and racist. I ask your indulgence. I was a child of the culture and strongly influenced by my reading – which included Mark Twain in fourth grade. To his example I attribute the excellence of my negro dialect. Why I put such a stereotyped character in Cloudland, rather than, say, a Dickon or Martha type from The Secret Garden, whose Yorkshire dialect I spoke for three days every time I finished reading the book, I do not know. None of them belong there. Probably the strongest overall influence is L. Frank Baum's Oz series.

On the whole I am pleased with Jackie's efforts. I like her vocabulary and description. She has a fine character in Talka. I applaud her for such sustained effort and seem to recall that the only reason she ended the book was the gentle suggestion from the publisher that the story may have lasted long enough. Mainly, I remember as clearly as today the joy and excitement, the exquisite pleasure of creation, that suffused her as she wrote. I hope some bit of that pleasure may be sensed by the reader of this little volume.

My first work in print, written when I was 9, was Maggie the Maggot, originally Mollie the Maggot, but the editor changed the name because she feared it might offend a friend with a similar name. She missed a few Mollies in the text, however, which causes confusion. I wrote her this, pointing out that Maggie was Mollie's sister, and could have no story about her because she had met an early demise under the rocker of a rocking chair, but no corrections were ever printed. The Cloudlanders began shortly after.


By Jacqueline Dougan (aged ten)
September 1, 1938

Chapter I

    Maggie Maggot opened her door and swept out the remains of her dinner.
    “I hope I find another dead man,” she remarked, taking a deep breath of fresh air. “The last one was so delishus.”
    Maggie lived in a beautiful house next to a large garbage can. Her home was in a large decaying cheese, and smelled delightfully of rotten onions and dead fish.
Maggie was very tidy. She carefully made her bed of potato peelings and placed a dead beetle, which was to be her dinner (if she didn't find a dead man) in her cupboard. She placed the bag of eggs closer to the fire. Soon the house would be swarming with baby maggots, and Mollie would have to move. She hoped to find a dead man. Then she could settle down with her brood in his brains. There would be plenty of food for all. Mollie sighed happily.
    “I must go for more food, said Mollie. “A beetle is not enough for today.” She put on her sunbonnet and tied the strings. She closer her door tightly, and crawled along. She crawled along the bank of a river. Suddenly she saw something that made her gasp in delight. A dead man! Washed up on the bank! Mollie examined him. He was perfect. She went back to get her bag of eggs. In an hour she returned. She built a fire in the man's brains to keep the eggs warm. Here we shall leave her.

Chapter II

    “Mama! Mama!” shouted Willy Maggot. “I don't want to move!”
    “Now, now, dear,” soothed his mother, Molly Maggot. “We must. I heard that this man is going to be buried. We would die. We must move. Mildred and Marlene! Come Here! Go get Tommy! Let see! Are you all here! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 15, 20, 50, 90, 100. Yes! All here. Come now children. I've located a nice home in a rotton stump. We shall live there till I find a better one.”
    So 100 and one maggots moved into a hollow stump.
    Mrs. Maggot at once set to work to make it comfortable. Each maggot drilled a hole in one side of the stump to sleep in.
    “Now children,” ordered Mrs. Maggot, “I want you all to go and bring to me a large leaf.”
    The children obeyed. Mrs. Maggot put the leaves in the stump. Now everything was finished.
    The maggots were calling for food. “Come, children,” said Mrs. Maggot. “I saw a nice dead fish when we were coming.”
    All the little maggots scrambled down the hill.
    “Come, Michael,” said Mrs. Maggot taking the smallest maggot's hand. “We'll get the nice dead fishie, and you can have the eyes. I prefer the tonsils.”
    When Mrs. Maggot arrived, she ordered all the maggots to let little Michael have the eyes.
    That night, after a supper of garbage pie, Mrs. Maggot settled down to sleep in her new home.

The end.