Don’t be frightened. The wild creatures inhabiting Westville’s Mitchell Branch Library seem like very friendly monsters.
You see them even before entering the library. Author-illustrator Frank W. Dormer’s lovable line drawings, which boldly fill every window pane of the library entrance, do not prepare one for the monsters’ lair that awaits.
Once inside, no surface seems to have been spared; counters…
... walls ....
... doors and windows are all emblazoned with the whimsical creations of the Branford author, who recently visited the library for an evening of fun activities. Special, washable paint pens were used on all permanent surfaces, though many will agree, it will be sad to see the monsters go.
The Monday event, billed as a “Storytelling and Art Workshop,” included readings of Dormer’s two children’s books, Socksquatch and The Obstinate Pen, a monster scavenger hunt, and two drawing stations that were quickly filled with the inspired creations of children and some adults who could not resist the call of colorful Sharpies and two blank mural-sized “canvases.”
Branch manager Sharon Lovett-Graff said she came across The Obstinate Pen at the library and fell in love with it. It quickly became one of her favorite books to read in groups: “What I like about the book is that Dormer is not afraid to use big words. It’s a great opportunity for students to learn new words. Even before the story is over, students are able to glean new word meanings through content and discussion.” Dormer, who noted that he is an educator as well as an artist, said he had to fight to keep the word “Obstinate” as part of the book’s title.
Lovett-Graff said she was delighted to learn that Dormer (pictured) lives in Connecticut. He is a full-time K-4 arts instructor at Branford’s John B. Sliney School. She invited the author to bring his monsters to the library along with an exhibit of his book art which will be on display in the library’s gallery through August.
The father of three boys, Dormer got the idea for Socksquatch, whose monster theme largely inspired the characters now filling the library, when he saw his kid’s socks on the ground, but no kids in sight. An inventive warning yelled at his kids sparked the idea for the book: “You kids better put on those socks on or SOCKSQUATCH will get you!”
During the reading of The Obstinate Pen, children sat in rapt attention, breaking silence with bursts of laughter whenever the obstinate pen wrote selective insults for various characters who were attempting to write their own words. When Mrs. Nookham Pigeon Smythe sat down to write her memoir, for example, the pen wrote, “Mrs. Floofy Pants has a spoon up her nose.” Amid the laughter, Dormer paused for a teachable moment, asking the children present if they understood the word “memoir.”
When children weren’t searching the library during a monster scavenger hunt ...
...they were busy drawing their own colorful monster creations.
Charlie Wortman, 9, said he likes to draw realistic portraits of baseball players and sports scenes. He created “Eggschmidt,” a character who is afraid of chickens. Elsa Holahan, 9, drew a buffalo-eating monster with horns. (“That’s why I’m so buffie.”)
Dormer, who continues to teach, said of writing and illustrating books: “It’s my passion and my playground.” For now, that playground extends to Westville’s Mitchell Library where monsters lurk at every turn.
Frank Dormer’s books are available at the Indieboundwebsite, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and independent book stores like R.J. Julia Booksellers in Madison. His new book, The Sword and the Stove, is scheduled for release in 2016.
For a complete listing of Frank Dormer books visit his website.