Tom Lichtenheld of Geneva knew enough about pirates to make a name for himself as a writer and illustrator of children's books.
"My first book was 'Everything I Know About Pirates,' which I both wrote and illustrated," Lichtenheld said.
That was in 2000, and Newsweek just happened to name "Pirates" one of the best children's books of the year.
It gave Lichtenheld a pretty decent name in the industry, and not a bad start, considering he completed the book at the urging of his nephew, who had simply requested he draw a picture of a pirate for him.
Fast forward to this Friday night, when Lichtenheld will be recognized for another major achievement in illustrating children's books. A celebration of his most recent work, "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site," being ranked No. 1 on The New York Times' best-seller list will be held during an open house from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Art Box, 514 W. State St. in Geneva.
The Rockford native who has lived in Geneva since 2000 drew the pictures in the book for author Sherri Rinker, who wrote the book to help her son go to sleep at night.
"Her son was way into construction vehicles, and she thought a book about construction vehicles going to sleep at night would help settle him down," Lichtenheld said.
Because the same publishing company that handled another Lichtenheld book called "Duck Rabbit" had picked up Rinker's book, Lichtenheld was their obvious choice to contact when illustrations were needed.
Lichtenheld has a few more projects in the works, but for the time being he's ready to enjoy the party at Art Box, where he'll demonstrate the techniques he used in the book. Rinker, who also lives in the Chicago area, will attend as well.
Those who come are asked to bring either a cash donation or a new children's book for the Aunt Mary's Storybook Project, which provides books to children who have a loved one incarcerated.
Loyal in Batavia: Batavia VFW Post 1197 is taking applications for those who want to participate in the May 6 Loyalty Day Parade, which will have the theme "VFW Tree of Life" this year.
Any organization looking for a spot in the parade should call the Batavia VFW at (630) 879-9630.
A lively proposition: It sounds like a perfect fit, but one never knows for sure in these economic times. Still, Geneva city officials have to be optimistic that the former Tuscany Italian Restaurant in the former 302 West Restaurant site in the even more-former State Bank Building could soon come to life.
Building owner Eric Vesele talked last week about a restaurant and bar with live entertainment possibly coming to the location.
It's been sitting empty for a long time, and the right place at the right time could do much to bolster a key downtown intersection that has taken a few hits lately with Merra-Lee Shops and Grunwald Jewelers all announcing closings.
Hitting 'popular' button: With restaurants coming and going at breakneck speed the past few years, it has become more apparent than ever that if owners hit on a popular combination of location, setting, good food and reasonable pricing, it can thrive.
Such appears to be the case for Aurelio's in downtown Geneva. It's another restaurant taking up residence in a State Street site with plenty of "former" tenants -- Isabella's, Citizen Kane, Enye and Table 38.
Yet, Aurelio's is a bustling, high-energy and fun pizza joint for all ages. The fact that the pizza is darn good surely helps the cause.
Dining at Aurelio's reminds me that all of the stories about restaurants closing the past few years carry a heavy burden. When a restaurant hits its stride, it employs several people of all ages, which is a great thing in our small communities.
Update from quarterback: Former Geneva High School quarterback Matt Williams is one of those workers at Aurelio's in downtown Geneva. It was nice to chat with him for a minute and get an update on his future at Northern Illinois University.
He'll be at a football camp at NIU in June designed to get incoming freshmen familiar with the program. He'll also take a couple of classes this summer to help keep his class schedule manageable once the football season starts in the fall.
A spring renewal: Szechwan restaurant in St. Charles appears on track for a reopening in April. The Downtown Partnership alerted area residents that the restaurant continues to undergo renovations since it was forced to close last year when the floor buckled. An elevator and outdoor patio will be new features for the popular eatery.
Less pleasant news unfolded recently when owners of the Rx Café, in the lower portion of the building, announced it had closed after less than five years in business. Apparently, workers repairing the building were making noise and creating smells that didn't help a business that wasn't attracting large crowds to begin with. In a more stable economy, Rx Café and its casual atmosphere could have been a longtime winner.
Take fries with that: Thomas Jefferson did a lot of great things for his country, but he must have really scored some points with this: According to "Fun Facts" in the Kane County Farmer newspaper, in 1802 Jefferson was the first person to serve french fries in the United States. Good move, Thomas.