Flat Stanley spends time in governor’s mansion

Wisconsin first lady Jessica Doyle shows students in Litza Janowski’s second grade classroom at Blessed Sacrament School, a photo album chronicling her adventures with the paper cutout Flat Stanley that the students sent her. Doyle returned the paper boy to the Blessed Sacrament students on Friday, May 1 in a visit to the Milwaukee school. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

Jessica Doyle personally returns paper boy to Blessed Sacrament

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

MILWAUKEE – Flat Stanley is one popular guy. The cutout paper boy seems to be popping up everywhere, going home with friends from school, doing homework, helping with chores, eating dinner, going shopping and playing video games. And his social calendar rocks. Every day is an adventure, whether practicing with the Milwaukee Wave, the Milwaukee Bucks, going to the dentist or visiting foreign countries, Flat Stanley has a blast.

Blessed Sacrament students from Litza Janowski’s second grade class could hardly believe their eyes Friday morning, May 1 when Wisconsin’s first lady, Jessica Doyle, entered their classroom toting a bright red album chronicling her adventures with Flat Stanley.

Stanley is a character author Jeff Brown created over a series of six books based on bedtime stories he created for his two young sons. Published in 1964, the book “Flat Stanley” describes how the average boy woke up one morning to discover that during the night he had been flattened by a bulletin board that once hung at the head of his bed. Unscathed but changed; Stanley quickly learned the advantages of being pancake-flat.

Mr. and Mrs. George Lambchop, Stanley’s parents, are sensible about their older son’s new shape. When Stanley wants to visit friends in California, the parents fold him into an envelope and send him – all for the cost of a postage stamp.

The concept of traveling for 44-cents is one Janowski’s students delight in replicating.

“This is my eighth or ninth year doing the Flat Stanley project with my students, and each year they seem to get more excited about doing it and try to outdo the grade before them,” she said. “They each make their own Flat Stanley and we generally send him to relatives and friends, but this year decided to also send them to celebrities such as the Bucks, the Wave, Archbishop Dolan, President Obama and Jessica Doyle.”

A cover letter asks the recipient to care for Flat Stanley and goes on to request a little information on the location he is visiting.

Eight-year-old Alfonso Deluna sent his Flat Stanley to Mexico.

“I sent him to my Grandpa in Mexico and hope he is having fun,” he said. “I am still waiting for him to send him back. I think he probably will; it just takes a long, long time to get here.”

Deciding to send Flat Stanley to the governor’s mansion was Janowski’s idea as Blessed Sacrament students participate in the Sharp Literacy Program each year and a couple of years ago donated their rendition of a Georgia O’Keefe Oriental Poppy painting to Doyle. They were surprised to receive a thank you letter from her with the message that the painting would be displayed in the mansion.

“I figured I would remind her of that when we sent her a Flat Stanley and hoped it would help her to respond,” said Janowski. “I sent it in March and figured it must have gotten lost. That is, until this week when her office called and said she wanted to make a personal visit to the school children. Apparently, she wanted to bring Stanley back in person because she had such a wonderful time with him.”

The students were nearly speechless as Doyle explained the political role of a governor caring for the people in the state, and compared his duties to that of the mayor who watches over the city, and a school principal who watches over students.

“And the president watches over us all,” she said.

Doyle explained her extensive responsibilities and noted how much Flat Stanley helped her at her home in Madison, on the road, and prayed with her during Mass at her parish, Queen of Peace.

The first lady’s album was packed with a variety of personal anecdotes, as well as photographs of Flat Stanley with school children, dignitaries and in the dining room.

“He helped me visit elementary students in Tomahawk where I gave a prize for a geography contest, he dined with state legislators at the executive residence with the governor and the first lady, and helped set the beautiful table,” said Doyle, reading from her album, titled, “Flat Stanley and Mrs. Doyle’s Adventures in the State of Wisconsin.”

“Flat Stanley was a great host when we opened the executive residence on Thursdays for tours to students,” she said, “But his favorite place was helping Chef Kevin in the kitchen. They became good buddies and his favorite thing to eat was chicken. It was really something, the whole time Flat Stanley stayed with us, chicken kept disappearing from the kitchen.”

Eight-year-old Isabella Charles was mesmerized by Doyle and let her see the bulletin board filled with Flat Stanley characters that had returned.

“This was awesome and fun,” she said. “I am very surprised to have Mrs. Doyle here at our school.”

While most of the characters eventually return via the U.S. Postal Service, Janowski admitted that this was the first time he was hand delivered to the classroom.

“This has just made my whole week,” said Janowski. “It is so cool and touching that she would do this for us.”

Doyle seemed genuinely moved by the experience, even making sure to include a photo of Flat Stanley posing in front of the O’Keefe Poppy Painting.

“Do you notice your painting in the background?” she questioned the students. “Flat Stanley loved it, as the governor and I do. It has been so wonderful to be here with all of you students in this wonderful school.”

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