Tony DiTerlizzi, author, illustrator, inspirer of my 8-year-old

Our local independent bookstore, Copperfield’s, does a fantastic job of bringing authors to their store and to schools in the area.  On Thursday last week, our sixth grade classes walked to a nearby school to hear Tony DiTerlizzi.  He was great–clearly a veteran at the book talk at elementary–animated, engaged with students, succinct and funny.  I bought a copy of the first Spiderwick for my 8-year-old son, Joshua.  I had it signed before we walked back to school.

Not related to the trip, but ultimately very impactful, I spoke with the Copperfield’s staff, exchanging pleasantries and thanking them for the great author visit.  One of the ladies mentioned that he would be at their store for another talk at 7pm.  Great.  Thanks again ladies.

So the day progressed, homework was assigned, students were dismissed, and I drove home.  It hit me like a ton of bricks–Joshua should hear this guy!

Upon arriving home, I told Joshua, “I have a surprise field trip for you and I this evening.”  He was all ears and very excited.  I whispered where we were going to his younger brother (get him in on the secret since an author visit isn’t quite up his alley, yet).

As we drove downtown, I shared with Joshua my afternoon’s experience with Tony DiTerlizzi and how I thought he would enjoy hearing this author.  I handed him his signed copy of The Field Guide (#1 in The Spiderwick Chronicles).  He hugged it just like he had his copy of The Familiars.  Cool.

We arrived, got seats up front and waited patiently.  Mr. DiTerlizzi was promoting his latest book, The Search for WondLa, which I bought in order to have signed.  After the afternoon presentation, I just had to have it!  It reminds me of Hugo Cabret–huge, beautiful, with lots of illustrations.

Joshua was on the edge of his seat.  You see, Mr. DiTerlizzi sketched as he spoke.  He began when he was a little boy in 5th grade–a big-headed boy (he sketched a very funny picture).  Joshua giggled.  As he sketched, told stories, asked questions, read from his latest novel, and sketched some more, Joshua sat grinning ear-to-ear, wiggling in his seat occasionally to shake off his excitement and nudging me once in a while, “This guys funny, mom,” “Wow, did you see that, mom?” “He adds details with just little marks.  I can do that.”

My goal: Inspire my reluctant reader to pick up a book and read it cover-to-cover

What actually happened: Joshua sketched and sketched and sketched.  Past his bedtime, up before me the next morning, in his free time at school and upon arriving home in the afternoon.  He has a sketch book full of dragons now and has started taping his artwork all over his room.

When I reflect on this turn of events, I realize it’s the first time one of my children has been 100% inspired to action by someone else, without suggestion, without prompting, without my influence.  My influence actually backfired in this case.  And I’m not disappointed.  Through my efforts to make a reader of my son, he’s found the artist in himself.  Perfect.


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