Published: Saturday, November 4, 2006
Schoolchildren eagerly greet kids author
The author was an economics professor before he turned to children's literature.
BY AMANDA GARRETT
WARREN Squeals of delight, howls of laughter and many eager hands raised in the air greeted well-known children's author J. Patrick Lewis on Friday when he visited McGuffey Elementary.
Lewis entertained the third- and fourth-grade pupils from McGuffey for 45 minutes with poetry and riddles from some of his 51 published works.
The pupils laughed as Lewis read several of his poems, including the epitaph of an underwear salesman from his book "Once Upon a Tomb: Gravely Humorous Verses."
"Our grief/Was brief," he read to laughter from pupils and teachers.
Several pupils eagerly raised their hands to answer riddles such as: What animal is a red, blue, yellow and green automatic answering machine? (The answer is a parrot.)
Lewis said he makes about 40 visits a year to school districts around the country.
"Nobody ever encouraged me to be a writer when I was your age," he told the pupils. "So I wanted to come here today and tell you that if you work hard, it's possible to be a writer."
Evolution as a writer
Lewis, 64, said he did not discover poetry until he was 39.
Before that time he was an economics professor at Otterbein College in Westerville.
"In the beginning, I wrote for an adult audience," he said. "I had some of my work published in adult literary journals, but nobody ever reads that stuff, so I decided to try children's books. Also, the marriage of art and words is more beautiful in children's books, and I wanted to be part of that."
McGuffey Principal Jill Merolla said Lewis' visit allows pupils to look at reading and writing in a different way.
"When students get excited about reading and writing, they want to go check out books in the library or even write some poetry of their own," she said.
Lewis, who lives near Columbus, is in the Mahoning Valley to attend the Trumbull Literary Conference today at Lakeview High School. Lewis is scheduled to speak on combining poetry with illustrations in children's books.
Lewis also made visits to elementary schools in the Howland and Bloomfield-Mesopotamia school districts while he was in the area.