What's inside of your hippopotamus?
That's the question Mike Thaler, children's book author, asked the 4- to 7-year-old students present in the Fredonia Middle School library recently for an after-school program.
Thaler read his newly re-released popular children's book, newly re-illustrated by Jared Lee, "A Hippopotamus Ate the Teacher," and encouraged students to use their imaginations and create their own stories.
OBSERVER?Photo by Shirley Pulawski
Children’s author Mike Thaler joined students at Fredonia Middle School to read from his latest release, “A Hippopotamus Ate the Teacher” which has been re-issued with new illustrations.
Thaler has been publishing well received children's books since the 1961 release of "The Magic Boy." More recently, his "Black Lagoon" series of books has become very popular, which includes a picture book series for children aged five to seven, as well as a chapter book series for six to nine year-old children.
"The Teacher from the Black Lagoon" was the first in the series, published in 1989, and has continued to be a Scholastic bestseller.
While Thaler also dabbles in illustration, most of his work is illustrated by Jared Lee.
Thaler's wife, Patty, said that writers and illustrators often don't work together, but that isn't the case with Thaler's work. "He and Jared (Lee) started working together 30 years ago. They talk on the phone nearly every day. This was their first book together, so they went back and re-illustrated it," she said of "A Hippopotamus Ate the Teacher."
As Thaler read, his young listeners were encouraged to make sounds as he read along. "When you hear the name of an animal, you can make the noises that animal makes."
Plenty of laughter filled the room when Thaler read about a teacher who ended up inside a hippopotamus, which came to school to teach the children until the teacher was able to get back out.
When Thaler was finished reading, he told students they could write stories, too. "You could write your own story about how you were eaten by a hippopotamus. You could have a swimming pool, you could have a movie theater, you can have anything you want inside, because when you write the story, you're the boss," he told them.
Thaler asked the students what might be found inside the hippopotamus in their stories.
In addition to writing and illustrating, touring is part of Thaler's routine, and he said spending time with kids doesn't feel like work to him. "Kids are great. They love the books, and they're responsive. Kids are exciting, fun to be with."
Books were handed out to each of the students, which Thaler signed individually for each child. "I've been doing it for 50 years, and it doesn't wear out. It's nice to make them laugh," Thaler said.
Thaler's visit to the after school program was sponsored by the SUNY Fredonia Campus and Community Children's Center, a United Way Community Partner.