Best-selling author excites kids at Johnson Elementary in Warrenville
There was an endless stream of giggles in Johnson Elementary School's library Friday, brought on by animated presentations from New York Times best-selling author Aaron Reynolds.
Kindergarten through fifth graders at the Warrenville school were enchanted by Reynolds' bubbly personality and funny explainations of how his books become a reality.
The Fox River Grove resident said the Twilight Zone inspired him to write his most popular book, "Creepy Carrots!" because he likes to get scared by "creepy" things that are also funny.
The book -- also named an honor book for the Caldecott Medal, which recognizes distinguished American picture books for children -- follows a rabbit who loves carrots until he starts to think the carrots are out to get him.
Reynolds was invited to the school by Library Director Christy Heins.
Heins said she was reading through an alumni magazine from her alma mater, Illinois Wesleyan University, and saw an article about Reynolds, a fellow alum.
She was familiar with him because of the Monarch Award, which is given annually to an author whose book is voted as a favorite by kindergarten through third grade students in Illinois. Last year, 526 schools voted "Creepy Carrots!" as the third place winner out of 20 books.
Because many of her students read the book for the Monarch Award, Heins decided to reach out to Reynolds and see if he would visit. She was thrilled when he said yes.
"The kids have really been looking forward to this," she said. "I've been getting them psyched up for it for a long time. I did a video presentation, we've been reading his books in the library, I put together a website for them to read some of his books online."
Reynolds dedicates about six months a year to visiting schools and said it has become one of his favorite parts of being an author.
"Hopefully they have a blast and they walk away going, 'Wow, not only do I know the guy who wrote this book, but now I'm more excited than ever to read his books and other books,'" he said. "That's gold. The ripples to that are just huge."
Heins said the best part of Friday's visit was the kids' reactions as Reynolds read "Creepy Carrots!" to them.
"It was better than I could have even imagined," she said. "They were just so engaged and they were so well-behaved. I think that's all due to how entertaining he was."
For a group of kindergartners and first and third graders, Reynolds also demonstrated the process of getting a book published, with the help of three student volunteers who represented the author, the illustrator and the publisher.
He said he still has never met the illustrator of his book, but because of that team "something really cool" can be put together by two people anywhere in the world.
While the presentation was educational, Reynolds said it is most important to just get kids "fired up" about books.
"I want them to have fun," he said, "and I want to inspire them."