LEWISTON – One of the biggest names in children’s books came to Montello Elementary School Tuesday to illustrate, literally, how he writes and draws the books that made him famous.
Standing in the gym with an easel, Steven Kellogg drew as he spoke. With humor and energy, he brought his characters to life. A Great Dane, a cat, mice from his books “A Rose for Pinkerton,” “Pinkerton, Behave!” and “The Island of the Scog.”
Kellogg spent the entire day at Montello talking, reading and drawing for all 895 students. He was invited last year by teacher Michael Parker, who frequently writes to authors.
Kellogg, 64, shared with first- and second-graders how he decided on his career.
“I love to draw pictures,” he said. “I love books. I love kids. So I thought, why not do all that together?” That was 40 years and 110 books ago.
Kellogg is still working on new books and still having fun, based on the animated way he told his stories. He urged students to write and draw their own stories.
“You write about something special to you, something you care about,” he said.
Growing up, he loved animals but his parents wouldn’t let him have a pet. Animals belonged in a forest, the jungle, the zoo, not a house, his mother insisted.
One of his earlier books was: “Can I Keep Him?” about a boy named Arnold who badly wanted a pet. Through the story Kellogg shared his longing with children all over the world. As he spoke, he held up versions of the book in English, French, Norwegian and Japanese.
When Kellogg grew up, he overcompensated for his childhood depravation by choosing “the most outrageous dog there is: a Great Dane.” He and his wife answered a newspaper ad for puppies. Each was the size of a football. They looked like little piglets.
“I said, Let’s take one of these puppies home, turn him into a pet and call him Pinkerton,” Kellogg said as he finished drawing a dog.
The Montello students recognized the Pinkerton of Kellogg’s books. They laughed and applauded.
After “Pinkerton, Behave!” was published, Kellogg received letters from kids, moms, dads, teachers. They related. They wanted more.
“The letters said, Your Pinkerton is exactly like my Chihuahua.’ Or, Pinkerton is exactly like my cocker spaniel,’ or exactly like my German shepherd.'” Some wrote that the huge dog was just like their son or their husband.
The kids giggled.
Kellogg gets animated about his stories at six to eight schools a month, he said. It helps him keep in touch with his readers, and he enjoys encouraging children to draw, read and write.
“It’s a lovely change of pace,” Kellogg said. “It’s very stimulating after the solitude of the studio.”