'Will & Grace' actor, Glen Ellyn native Sean Hayes visits 1,200 Palatine students on book tour
About 1,200 young children from Palatine Township Elementary District 15 squealed with delight over an appearance Wednesday by an actor from a popular NBC sitcom and his husband who co-wrote a children's book inspired by "The Nutcracker."
Glen Ellyn native Sean Hayes, who plays Jack McFarland on "Will & Grace," and composer Scott Icenogle read from "Plum," took questions and ended the afternoon visit by singing "Jingle Bells" with the students in kindergarten through second grade from across the district who gathered in the Winston Campus gymnasium in Palatine.
Wednesday's stop was the first school visit for the authors on a nationwide "Plum" tour that included ABC's "Good Morning America" this week. Geared for readers aged 4 to 8, the book tells how the Sugar Plum Fairy received her wings.
"This is the reason we did it," Hayes said of writing the book shortly before taking the stage. "It's right here, right before us. We're so excited to talk to the kids and hear their reaction. It's the whole reason we did it."
Hayes, a Glenbard West High School graduate, and Icenogle received a rousing welcome from the students before sitting yoga-style on the stage. The kids became even more excited when Hayes, who was not introduced as a "Will & Grace" actor, started reading "Plum" to them.
After the reading, the first-time authors took several questions from the students. One query was about what lesson they want to teach through "Plum," about a character with a pure heart who lives in an orphanage and is determined to save Christmas -- even for the kids who laugh at her -- after a heavy snowfall threatened the delivery of presents.
"It's just nice to be good to people," Icenogle said. "You know, you don't want to be mean to people. It's not fun."
Steve Marquis, a librarian at Palatine's Winston Campus and Virginia Lake elementary schools, said the visit stemmed from a business relationship the district has with Anderson's Bookshop in Naperville, which regularly lands major authors for visits. Icenogle and Hayes appeared at Anderson's on Tuesday night.
Rachel Bland, principal of Stuart R. Paddock Elementary School in Palatine, accompanied about 200 of her first- and second-grade students to the event. She said it was exciting to see children look forward to the visit by the authors.
"They've all read the book," Bland said. "They've been exposed to the book. And the teachers are talking about it. Lots of kids (were) excited to get their book signed."