MONTVILLE, NJ – Children’s book author Dan Gutman visited William Mason Elementary School on Oct. 14 and discussed his writing not only with large-group assemblies of the students, but also with small groups who had won an essay contest and were able to have lunch with the author during his visit.
The two groups, eight fourth- and fifth-graders, and seven second- and third-graders, participated in a give-and-take few readers get to have with a beloved author.
While Gutman asked the kids what they’ll dress as for Halloween and about their after-school activities, the children were able to ask Gutman questions like third grader Hayley Edelstein’s seemingly simple question:
“How do you become an author?” she asked.
Gutman, who has visited Montville schools in the past and works with kids regularly, gave an enigmatically simple answer to young Hayley.
“You just write,” he said.
The prolific Gutman has 155 books to his name and another entry in his popular “My Weird School” series was just released last month. The series centers on a second-grader named A.J. who attends Ella Mentry School but hates school. Gutman admitted to the luncheon attendees, however, that he liked school and was a good student. He told the students that he compares himself to the character in the books named Andrea, a “smarty pants know-it-all.” He admitted to the group that Andrea is based off a real character he went to school with, although he lost touch with her through the years.
Second grader Zenon Blanarovich asked during the luncheon if Gutman liked to draw pictures as inspiration for his stories.
Gutman told the group that the pictures are “in his head.”
“I like to go across the street to Central Park with my laptop and work,” Gutman said. He explained he had recently moved to Manhattan from New Jersey.
During his larger-group assemblies he explained his process, which involves coming up with a “big idea” and then brainstorming.
“I come up with an idea, like a kid who runs for president, and then I write my ideas onto note cards,” he told the students in the assembly. “Then I write the book itself. It takes about a month for the shorter books. Then I revise and re-write.”
Another student asked Gutman during the luncheon if he went on vacation after he finished writing a book, and Gutman told him he actually went to Italy to write a book because it was set in that country.
“My parents went to Italy,” the student asked, “Did you see them?”
During the course of the luncheon, the students learned about Gutman’s love of KitKat™ candy bars, his love of riding his bike, and his dislike of coffee.
“I don’t know why every adult loves coffee!” he said.
In Gutman’s newest “My Weirdest School” book, released Oct. 18, the coffee machine explodes so the teachers go on strike, he told the students.
Gutman is a sports fan, and told the kids his favorite sport is baseball. Several of Gutman’s books center on sports. He has a sports series involving everyday kids doing extraordinary things, such as “The Million Dollar Putt.” He also has a series called the Baseball Card Adventures about kids’ interactions with famous baseball players.
Third grader Gavin O’Leary picked up “Coach Hyatt is a Riot!” last year in his first grade classroom because he is interested in football, he told TAPinto Montville.
“Gavin is Dan Gutman’s biggest fan and within less than a year went from being a non-reader to reading 16 of his books!” proud mom Dacie said. “He was so excited to have lunch with him!”
Making kids laugh and getting them to read are part of Gutman’s plan, he said at the large group assembly.
“I especially hope kids who don’t like to read will check out my books,” he said.