Elementary schools welcome author and illustrator James Burks

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On Monday, May 22, New Richmond elementary students and staff enthusiastically welcomed author and illustrator James Burks.

Burks has illustrated a number of books including the "Haggis and Tank" series by Jessica Young, the "Itty Bitty Kitty" series by Joan Holub, "Monstore" by Tara Lazar, and "Willy Makit in Space" by Greg Trine. The first book Burks wrote and illustrated was the graphic novel "Gabby and Gator." He also served as the author and illustrator of the picture books "Beep and Bah" and "Pigs and a Blanket." However, his best known work is the graphic novel series "Bird and Squirrel."

When speaking with New Richmond students, James discussed how he gets ideas for his books. One of his favorite things to do is put two characters together who are extremely different. In the "Bird and Squirrel" series, Bird is fun loving and carefree. On the other hand, Squirrel is in a constant state of worry. Burks also displayed how he draws his characters, beginning with basic shapes. Students had the opportunity to help develop new characters. Burks took suggestions from audience members about the type of animal, its hobbies and its difficulties. From these ideas, he sketched a new character.

Not only does Burks work as a children's book author and illustrator, but he also animates children's shows and movies. A few of the movies he has worked on include "The Iron Giant," "Home on the Range," "Space Jam," "The Emperor's New Groove" and "Treasure Planet."

Burks gave three presentations during the school day. After school, families were invited to come back for autographs, to buy books and a free pizza dinner.

"This author visit was a wonderful way to help close the school year. Students were ready to carry their enthusiasm for good books into the summer months. Thank you to all who made this day a success," said Hillside Elementary reading teacher and specialist Laura Ulrich.