TOWNSEND -- Author/ illustrator Brian Lies is helping to kick off summer at the Townsend Public Library.
On Wednesday, June 27, Lies will introduce himself to young readers and their parents and talking to patrons about his life and work. As an illustrator of more than 25 several children's books, Lies has written and illustrated five, including New York Times bestsellers "Bats at the Beach" and "Bats at the Library," "Hamlet and the Enormous Chinese Dragon Kite," and "Hamlet and the Magnificent Sandcastle."
Lies has been drawing since he was in fifth grade, and after graduating from Brown University in 1985, he moved to Boston and began attending the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. He began holding exhibitions and getting political illustrations published in the Christian Science Monitor and the Boston Globe. In 1989 he illustrated his first book for Houghton Mifflin, "Flatfoot Fox and the Case of the Missing Eye."
He resides in Massachusetts with his wife and daughter, who was the inspiration for his first bat book, an animal theme he would continue to explore in his later works.
"'Bats at the Beach' was sparked by my daughter, who saw four bumps of frost in a windowpane and exclaimed, 'Look, Daddy -- it's a bat, with sea foam,'" Lies said. "I agreed with her, and a little while later decided that bat families going to visit a beach the way you or I might sounded interesting."
He says he never intended to write about the winged mammals, but
The illustrations are like the covers of fantasy author Brian Jacques' "Redwall" novels: bats, usually at night, with friendly personification.
"I'm trying to rescue bats from their Halloween imagery," Lies said. "One of the challenges in doing a nighttime book is having it dark enough to be believable as taking place during night, but having it light enough that people can actually see what's happening in the story."
When it comes to writing and illustrating children's books with lessons or morals, Lies said he feels that is a recipe for a terrible story. For him, it is simply something he's always liked to do.
"Being able to share those stories with readers is an added bonus," he said. "When I was a kid, I thought that getting pulled into a story was a magical experience and it's great as an adult to know that some readers relate to my stories the way I related to those magical stories I read as a kid."
Given the opportunity, Lies said he prefers writing and illustrating. The self-contained nature allows him an un-bounded experience.
"I can tell part of the story in the words, and save part of it for the pictures," he said. "During the process, I might decide that on a particular page the pictures should tell more of the story than I first gave them, but when I'm illustrating someone else's story, I don't have the freedom to change the text."
As a children's author, Lies visits 50 to 60 schools around the country each year. He talks about writing and illustrating from the point of view of a grownup outside the school environment, he said. It's something all students do, although it's also important to reassure them that it's not easy to write a great story. The frustration is part of the game, according to Lies.
The 2012 Collaborative Summer Library Program connects 14,000 libraries across every state in the country by a central theme "Dream Big-- read!" Lies was selected as an illustrator to draw up spot illustrations for polo shirts, posters, stickers and more. Because of his nighttime imagery, he said the "dreaming" element came through.
"It's a real honor to have my work a part of such an inspiring and widespread program. Without a library, a community is missing a central cultural focus," Lies said.
From libraries, he explained, people can get caught up in the hard-to-describe experience of getting caught up in a great book. They are a portal into history, a place for meditation and a place to browse magazines and newspapers, Lies said, as well as somewhere to borrow movies and music and learn pretty much anything you want to.
"I can't imagine America without them," he said.
TPL was selected for the Support for Summer Reading Online grant program, one of 10 chosen from the more than 200 libraries statewide that offer online programming. They were selected for sucessfully using the Summer Reading Program last year.
Lies will be speaking on Jun. 27 from 10 a.m. to noon in the Storytime Room. Books and stuffed bats will be given away as door prizes.
For information contact Children's Librarian Molly Benevides at 978-597-1714 or email at email@example.com.
Follow Luke Steere at twitter.com/lsnashobapub.