A 10-year-old Stockton Elementary student, Truman Dodd, will have a book launch party alongside bestselling writer Victoria Kann, author of the Pinkalicious and Peteriffic series, and local author Virtuous Cornwall, author of the Animalsville series, on Thursday, March 23, at Cherry Hill West.
Dodd wrote his graphic novel, The Crazy Llama, in 2020 as a second grader during COVID, with the help of some of his brothers. He is also its illustrator.
“The story is basically about a really buff zebra scientist that turned into a very chunky, idiotic llama,” Dodd said.
Opportunity struck when he was referred to Stephaney Davis, creative director of Connection to Creativity, a provider of reading programs for students. Connection to Creativity helped Dodd publish his book after his brother won its Cuddle and Read contest where they met author D.J. Steinberg who connected him to Davis.
“When I read it, I realized that The Crazy Llama was just about being active. It was a kid’s imagination that was coming to life,” Davis noted.
Dodd drew inspiration from Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series and approached the publishing process with confidence, she said. In his free time, Dodd loves to draw and make stories with his brothers and friends.
“When some people said, ‘We should put it this way,’ Truman said, ‘No, if you do it this way it’s going to take away from the story,’” Davis recalled. “He was just convinced … I looked back and said, ‘You’re actually right, Truman.’”
While Dodd had no training in drawing, he understands how to create consistency in his illustrations and can explain to and help others recreate the designs on his YouTube channel. His mom Katie helps with editing and music.
When Davis brought Dodd’s book to schools she visited, she noticed that kids loved it, especially boys. Though she typically works with adults, Davis realized the value of books written by children and has made an effort to help more of them get published in recent years.
“Some kids struggle with reading, so I think when some kids see other kids writing and other kids doing books (and) it encourages them to read more,” she explained. “Our goal is to make sure kids see the value of reading. It’s not about big names, it’s not seeing who’s going to be there, it’s not about the craft. It’s all about, I want kids to see that reading is fun … ”
Tickets for the book launch are $30 at the door for the first child and $25 for a sibling discount. The ticketed event will begin at 6 p.m. and include a copy of the book The Crazy Llama, as well as autographed copies of Pinkalicious and Peteriffic Zoo Day, a stuffed animal and craft activities.
Cornwall will also be on hand with books from her Animalsville series available for purchase. Part of the proceeds from the event will be donated to Kingston Elementary School to help build a sensory wall for students.
To learn more about The Crazy Llama, email Stephaney Davis at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://www.connectiontocreativity.com/.
Tickets for the event can be purchased at https://www.connectiontocreativity.com/pinkerrific-party-cherry-hill.