Children's author and illustrator Peter Brown is expected to visit Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville next month to promote the sequel to his award-winning first novel, "The Wild Robot."
But just last week he visited with Schaumburg students first and Northbrook students later in the day to promote his passion for creating children's books.
At Collins School in Schaumburg, Brown was the first author in years to visit, and he came to help launch "Celebrate Reading and Writing" week.
"The excitement for his visit was contagious," says Jenna Lejman, a kindergarten teacher at the school. "Classrooms throughout the school have been busy reading his books and using them as inspiration to create their own written pieces and works of art."
Brown headlined two assemblies, including one for primary grades and a second one for intermediate grades. At both, he had his audience in his hand when he described writing his first book at the age of 6. It was about his dog, Buffy, and his uncanny ability to climb trees.
"That's the best part about writing books," he told them. "You can make your characters do anything you want."
Brown has gone on to write or illustrate 15 books, including six New York Times best-sellers. But he cherishes the process, he told students, of story mapping his books and creating the artwork, using a combination of traditional and digital methods.
"Books were so important to me when I was growing up," Brown said later, "that I want kids to feel a connection to books and to reading.
"A lot of kids go back to a home without books," he adds. "I want to show them that a good story can just make life better and lead to more reading."
At the first assembly, he read from his book "Mr. Tiger Goes Wild," and he drew lots of giggles and applause by the end of it. But his audience became completely quiet when Brown began describing the technique he used to illustrate the book.
He started out by sketching shapes on white paper, including geometric shapes, which later would come together as the title character, and pages of plant sprigs and ferns, to which he added several varieties and texture.
Brown went on to describe scanning these sketches into the computer, where he could move them into place and layer them over each other to form a rain forest in this book and the city, where Mr. Tiger lived. One of the last steps was to add the color, he said.
"I was surprised to see how he could edit his drawings on the computer and make them smaller or bigger," said third-grader Shakti Santosh of Schaumburg. "But mostly I liked hearing how he started when he was 6 and grew up to make all these awesome books."
Her classmate, Maya Pietraszek of Schaumburg, agreed, adding that she liked meeting an author in person.
"He was just inspirational," Maya said, "hearing about his books, which I think are cool and wild and funny."
Brown followed up both assemblies by meeting with students, both in their classrooms and in the school's library. Students eagerly approached him, giving him high-fives and showing him some of his books they were reading.
"I just like how he inspires kids to be writing and illustrating," said Assistant Principal Katie Kurtz, who thanked the school's PTA members for sponsoring the author visit.