Today I spent a terrific day with Erin and Brendan at the Inspire Toronto International Book Fair. Brendan was very excited to start our day with a presentation by Dav Pilkey about his Captain Underpants series.
Pilkey started his presentation with his own childhood story including that “school had a way of wiping that smile off my face.” He spoke of his challenges dealing with his ADHD including problems with behaviour, restlessness, disruptions and reading problems. His biggest challenge was dyslexia which became a huge source of anxiety. He joked that his anxiety would cause the “whole classroom to fill with sweat.” Because of his reading challenges, he focused on drawing and began to make comics. He shared slides of his original comics that he wrote, called Waterman, which was about a person who was fishing, got struck by lightning and turned into water.
HIs inspiration for Captain Underpants was his second grade teacher who did NOT think that he was funny and did NOT like comics. One day, when the teacher said the word underwear, the class laughed and were reprimanded “boys and girls, underwear are not funny”. Dave responded by drawing his first Captain Underpants character only to have it ripped up and to be sent in the hall. While in the hall, he made another Captain Underpants comic – the class LOVED it but the teacher ripped it up and told him to “grow up because he couldn’t spend his whole life making books”. Clearly, he can spend his life writing books and has been very successful with the Captain Underpants series, Mighty Robot and Dog Breath.
It was interesting to hear that Pilkey lives in Japan and likes to kayak. During one of his kayaking trips, he found a cave where he likes to write by a fire. If he ends up with a mind block, he just goes for a swim. He told the audience that they don’t need to find a cave to write because “creativity is all around us.”
The kids were treated to a reading and power point slides depicting his new, not yet published book, Dogman. He used fantastic voices for the characters and the kids were spellbound. The text was handwritten using the style that I like to call creative spelling (like my kids used to do).
He ended by sharing pictures of famous people who had also had trouble in school yet went on to be very successful, including: Harrison Ford, Mohamed Ali, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Kiera Knightly, Steve Jobs, Jamie Oliver and Johnny Depp. He told the kids that some people just learn differently.
“there really is hope for everyone if we use creativity”
Update: What was the best thing about the book fair? Getting up for swimming on Saturday morning and finding Brendan having an early morning read!! He is loving Captain Underpants, Book 11!!!!