MEXICO — Children’s book author and illustrator Marty Kelley was at Meroby Elementary School on Monday and Tuesday to teach students about his writing and illustrating, and give them ideas about how to write their stories.

Kelley, a New Hampshire native, attended art school in Boston and said he’s always liked to write and draw, but it wasn’t until he started working as a second-grade teacher years ago that he realized what a “cool job” being an author for children’s books would be.

He’s not trying to teach children any “heavy moral stuff” in his books, he said, he just wants children to enjoy reading. “Most of my books get classified as ‘boy books’ a lot just because they tend to feature things like farts and underpants, which is not entirely uncommon now. When I’m reading books to kids, I just want them to laugh, I want them to enjoy it, and see that reading can be (fun),” he said.

Besides his ‘boy books,’ Kelley also writes a series titled “Molly Mac,” about an adventurous girl named Molly Mac and her best friend, Kaylee. The series is a chapter book series with four books published last year and four new titles in the series that he’s working on currently.

Asked how computers have affected children’s books and reading, Kelley said one huge change has been that word counts for picture books have dropped from 1,200 to about 350.

“Publishers think parents don’t want to sit there and read a book for half an hour, which is kind of heartbreaking, but it’s the reality of what parents will buy, and it drives what publishers will buy and sell,” he said. “There’s the market forces at work there, unfortunately.”

Asked if reading books is still important in this digital age, he said, “Books don’t feed you everything; like if you watch a movie or you’re playing a video game, I think there’s a lot more given to you. (But with) books, especially books without pictures, there’s a lot more thinking that you have to do.”

On Tuesday, Kelley spent time with second grade students in teacher Shelly Dupuis’ classroom. While he illustrated students’ suggested story characters and a setting on a board at the front of the room he asked them to think about what some “problems” in the story might be.

“What’s happening in this picture?” he asked. Every story needs a problem and a solution to the problem, he told them.

After Kelley’s demonstration, the students were paired together to come up with their own illustrations and story ideas. As Emily Gilbert and Jack Gerrish worked together to create their story they both said they liked Marty Kelley’s books. Emily said her favorite Kelley books are the “Molly Mac” series. Jack said he likes funny books such as “Almost Everybody Farts,” especially because of sentences like “moms don’t fart,” he said.

Author Days are held once a year at Meroby, according to Eileen Pew, district literacy coach for Regional School Unit 10. The two-day event, usually hosting a Maine author, is funded by federal and district funds.

“We feel it’s important,” Pew said, and children really respond to author visits. “After this students talk about it for a long time and they look more at themselves like writers,” she said.

On Monday night families were invited to a Family Literacy Night when students and their families listened to Kelley talk about his writing and illustrating process and his books. Families could also purchase his books.

“Reading to kids is probably one of the most important things that we can do as adults to help foster the love of reading,” Pew said. “Kids are never too old to hear a good story and enjoy a good story – or too young.”

[email protected]

Children’s book author and illustrator Marty Kelley talks with second grade students Jeremiah Wilcox and Brianne Bart at Meroby Elementary School in Mexico on Tuesday. 

Meroby Elementary School second grade teacher Shelly Dupuis discusses writing ideas with Wyatt Gordon, right, and X’Ander Bouchard during Author Days on Tuesday at the Mexico school. 

Children’s book author and illustrator Marty Kelley questions students at Meroby Elementary School on Tuesday during ‘Author Days’ at the school.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.