By reading lots of books and using one’s imagination, one has the key to being a successful writer.
That’s the message from children’s author and illustrator Joe Shandrowski.
The Fairfield resident led a “Reading Rocks!” pep rally Tuesday at Chatfield-LoPresti School.
Shandrowski has written a series of books featuring his imaginary character, Huga Tuga, a blue sea monster. The creature’s full name is Huga Tuga Alabuga Beluga. Shandrowski said he was inspired to create the sea monster while waiting in line at Sea World in Florida to see a beluga whale exhibit.
In a presentation for fourth and fifth graders Shandrowski stressed the importance of reading. “The more books you read, the stronger your imagination becomes,” he said.
“The number one rule if you want to be an author is they have to be your words,” Shandrowski said. The same is true for working as an illustrator.“They have to be your illustrations,” he said.
To demonstrate the importance of imagination, Shandrowski called up several students up to help him create the face of a cartoon character on a blank piece of paper.
One child drew eyes, another drew a nose, and so on. When the face was complete, Shandrowski asked, “Was it really the magic marker that did the trick?”
No, was the correct response. It was their imaginations they all used in creating the features.
“Our imagination is filled with a bunch of tiny little ideas,” Shandrowski said. Putting those ideas to paper in the form of words or drawings is the challenge.
“Adding depth (to ideas) is the most important and difficult part of writing,” Shandrowski said. And if one adds depth, “a book comes to life,” he said.
Shandrowski urged students to carry a notebook around to jot down their ideas if they want to become writers.
Principal Dave Olechna said the school’s students have been assigned to read a total of 5,500 books in a winter reading challenge that runs from November through February.
That works out to approximately 10 books each, since there are 542 students in the school, Olechna said. The pep rally was held Tuesday to inspire the students to read.
Fourth graders Evey Rafferty, 8, and Regina Saravia, 9, said they loved to read.
Evey said she enjoys biographies and recently read Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s biography.
“The books I like to read are informational books, like about history, and Cleopatra,” Regina said.