Storytelling, signing on tap for Van Dusen event

Nov 09, 2019
Chris Van Dusen

Belfast — Left Bank Books invites the public – especially those who are in pre-Kindergarten through the second grade or so – to meet acclaimed children’s book author and illustrator Chris Van Dusen on Saturday, Nov. 23, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Lots of laughter, storytelling, and reading out loud will be on tap at this free event. Copies of his books will be available for purchase and for Van Dusen to sign.

Some of Van Dusen’s most popular books include "If I Built a Car," which won the 2006 E.B. White Read-Aloud Award from The Association of Booksellers for Children; "If I Built a House;" and the recently released "If I Built a School." Each features a young boy who has an imagination that knows no limits -- his school is filled with animals, tubes to transport students directly to their classrooms, and library books that come alive.

Van Dusen has also written and illustrated the “Mr. McGee” series that includes "Down to the Sea with Mr. McGee;" "A Camping Spree with Mr. McGee" and "Learning to Ski with Mr. McGee," as well as the perennially best-selling "Circus Ship," which is loosely based on a true historic event when a circus ship ran aground off the Maine coast.

As illustrator, he has collaborated with Newbery Medal-winning author Kate DiCamillo in their popular “Mercy Watson” series of chapter books for early readers. Mercy is a “porcine wonder” who experiences one madcap adventure after another.

Van Dusen consistently brings humor, adventure, lively language, and richly- colored illustrations to all of his children's books. He credits Dr. Seuss and Robert McCloskey as the two people who influenced him the most. “Dr. Seuss,” he says, “is the genius. If rhyme is done well, it's almost like you don't even recognize it because it reads so easily. But if it's not done well, it sticks out like a sore thumb. I really studied Dr. Seuss and the way he composed stories and the way he wrote the words.” Of McCloskey, Van Dusen says that he’s a “great writer,” of course, “but I really appreciate his illustrations more than his writing... [they] were so full of detail.”

Van Dusen studied fine art at The University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth. He worked for more than ten years as a freelance illustrator specializing in art for kids. One day, he said, “I started thinking about drawing a picture of a boat stuck high up in a tree. I thought that would be a really funny and intriguing illustration. At the same time, a refrain kept running through my head: ‘Mr. Magee and his little dog, Dee/Hopped in the car and drove down to the sea.’ The combination of these two things eventually became my first book [in 2000]... I’ve been busy writing and illustrating children’s books ever since.”

All are welcome to stop in at Left Bank Books any time between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to meet Van Dusen and have him sign copies of his books. No reservations are being accepted for this free event, but if you’d like to reserve copies of any of Van Dusen’s books in advance, please call 338-9009 or email The shop is located at 109 Church St. downtown, and there’s free parking in front of the shop and in an adjacent city lot.

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