June Vail is Professor Emerita in the Department of Theater and Dance at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

June’s new memoir, Folly Cove Sketches: Remembering Virginia Lee Burton (2022), paints a warm, honest portrait of her great-aunt, Virginia Lee Burton, author and illustrator of beloved mid-century children’s books Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and The Little House. Vail vividly recounts how living as a teenager with her great-aunt Jinnee broadened her awareness and motivated unforeseen life choices.

Illustration from Mike Mulligan and is Steam Shovel (1939)
Illustration from The Little House (1942)

Excerpts from Folly Cove Sketches:

Northeast of Boston, we reached Cape Ann, which extends like a lobster claw into the Atlantic. Near its northern tip is rock-bound Folly Point and next to it, Folly Cove, deep and narrow, rimmed with giant granite outcroppings. I immediately fell in love with Aunt Jinnee and Uncle George’s unpretentious, artistic way of living: their small New England farmhouse, pale gray with yellow trim; Jinnee’s big barn studio beside the house; the cozy kitchen. I admired the kitchen’s hardwood floor and old-fashioned black stove, the living room’s curtains and window-seat cushions with their hand-blocked prints, the garden’s fresh lettuce, and the meadow’s placid sheep—a bucolic contrast to suburban Ohio, but instantly it felt like home to me. (page 3)

Folly Cove’s unconventional way of life and its beautiful natural setting taught essential lessons, shaping my later approach to dancing, teaching, and writing: art should be woven into everyday experience. Every human being, with guidance, is capable of creat­ing original work. Focus, discipline, and perseverance are necessary to achieve desired goals in any context. And finally, at its best, making art creates community and, in turn, community nourishes individual creativity. Both Jinnee and George modeled ways of crafting art and community that have inspired me for a lifetime. (page 5)

Zaidee and her Kittens (undated)
Virginia Lee Burton and George Demetrios (1963)

View more from Folly Cove Sketches HERE.

June Adler Vail

June Adler Vail (AB Connecticut College, MALS Wesleyan University) founded Bowdoin College’s dance program and, as professor, chaired the department of theater and dance, teaching courses in choreography and dance ethnography. Folly Cove Sketches (2022) is her latest book. Previously,  she published Cultural Choreographies (1997) and The Passion of Perfection: Gertrude Hitz Burton’s Modern Victorian Life (2017), a biography of her proto-feminist great-grandmother. The Passion of Perfection was selected as a 2018 finalist, Maine Literary Award for Non-fiction. June lives in Brunswick, Maine, with her husband, David.

June is available for author presentations, readings, and discussions
at museums, bookstores, libraries, and book clubs.