A Morning with Dan Santat

Libraries are amazing places. While my friends were playing “doctor” and “school” as kids, I was playing “library” with my fellow bookish BFF. (Okay, we played “school” too.) Our actual elementary school had a “Media Center” and we envied the way the librarian used a little, wand-like laser to check out books. When I saw a tire pressure gauge in the garage one day, I swiped it to “check out” books when we played. My dad was always looking for that thing.

Libraries in major cities are- dare I say- even more fabulous. There are numerous articles that note the wonderful things your library card will afford you- music downloads, free instructional videos, movies, magazines, language resources and more- but I think the events are what really makes the Los Angeles Public Library special.

Today I attended an event at the Central Library in downtown LA where Dan Santat, children’s book author-illustrator, was scheduled to speak at the final event in the Summer Author Program for kids. I didn’t really know what to expect but was happily surprised to see that the large (and very nice) Mark Taper auditorium was packed with students from nearby schools. A librarian informed me that an additional organization had helped plan this particular event that afterwards included lunch for all of the students and a tour of the library. (Sounds like the best field trip EVER!)

Now, if you’re not familiar with Mr. Santat’s work, he’s a pretty talented guy. He said during his presentation that he released his first children’s book twelve years ago and a quick Google search will show you that he graduated with a degree in Microbiology. He’s also the creator of the Disney animated show, The Replacements. He has collaborated with many other authors including two of my personal faves, Mac Barnett and Mo Willems. His book, The Adventures of Beekle, released in 2014, won numerous awards including the coveted Caldecott Medal.

The morning was full of amusing tales. He told stories about his children (he has two boys, just like me!) and showed us pictures of his own drawings from when he was young. He made a point that he didn’t feel he was born a great artist- he really practiced and worked hard perfecting images, including one he showed of Garfield and Odie that he drew over and over until he was satisfied. There was even a funny story of how he ‘almost’ met one of his personal heroes, the late Maurice Sendak.

Mr. Santat read four of his books aloud (Crankenstein (written by Samantha Berger but illustrated by Dan Santat), The Adventures of Beekle, Are We There Yet? and the unreleased book in the new Elephant & Piggie Like Reading! series, The Cookie Fiasco). Along the way, he included great tidbits on the art and inspiration for the characters and stories. (The title character from Beekle was actually his first son’s word for “bicycle” when he was learning to speak. His wife suggested he use the word as a name for a future character. She must be pretty smart, too.)

The presentation concluded with help from the students on a collaborative Mad Lib (so fun!) and a few animal sketches. Mr. Santat’s energy and enthusiasm never once waned. Three lucky winners, who were drawn at random, received their own autographed copies of Beekle. (More pre-autographed copies were available for purchase in the Library Store. I just had to have one!)

As an aspiring author, this was a great event to sit in on. I loved seeing how Mr. Santat connected with the audience (namely the kids, though there were plenty of entertaining anecdotes for the adults too). It was evident he really loves what he does. And he’s really good at it.

 

For more information on books by Dan Santat, you can visit his website at http://www.dantat.com. The Cookie Fiasco will be released September 20th. Another important note- DreamWorks Pictures is creating a feature film based on The Adventures of Beekle!

For more info about the Los Angeles Public Library, check out http://www.lapl.org. Most of the branches offer story time for young children in addition to other events. I’m also a fan of the ALOUD Lecture Series. And if you’re outside LA, I encourage you to check out the events at your local public library.

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