Author makes students squeal with joy

Children's author Aaron Reynolds thrilled students when he acted out parts of his book that he read to them on Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

WINCHESTER –  On Tuesday, hundreds of excited students at Garland Quarles Elementary School gathered to hear author Aaron Reynolds read his new book, “Creepy Pair of Underwear.”

In the book, Jasper the rabbit wants a pair of creepy underwear he sees while shopping with his mother. Unbeknownst to Jasper, the underwear glows in the dark. Jasper, afraid to admit to his mother that they’re creepy, tries to find a way to get rid of them. He has quite a difficult time – hence the creepy aspect.

School principal Joanie Hovatter  was glad to welcome Reynolds back to campus.

“Two years ago we had just planted our Literacy Garden when we learned Aaron was coming to visit us,” Hovatter said. “So,  in turn, we planted carrots in honor of his book “Creepy Carrots.”

This year the walls and ceilings of the elementary school were adorned with hand-drawn green underwear celebrating his newest accomplishment.

Kindergarten student Aviela Meyn, 5, laughs as author Aaron Reynolds reads his newest book. Rich Cooley/Daily

Fourth-grader Jordan Coates, 9, of Winchester, laughed in delight when describing her favorite part of “Creepy Pair of Underwear.”

“I liked when the underwear kept coming back,” Jordan said.

Fellow classmate Tanmay Sood, 9, of Winchester,  listened with intent as Reynolds read to the crowd.

“My favorite part was when the underwear was buried in the ground,” Tanmay said.

The  story made many of the students squeal with joy.  As Reynolds read, he acted out each scene, changed voices and made sound effects, adding to the excitement level.

Pre-kindergarten student Kenadi Smith, 4, reacts to author Aaron Reynolds as he reads a story during his presentation Tuesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

Students had the opportunity to ask Reynolds questions during a question and answer segment. One fourth grader asked who his favorite author was. Reynolds responded with Roald Dahl. Another student asked which of his own books was his favorite. He said “Nerdy Birdie, because I can relate to being a nerd.”

Heather Campbell, Quarles reading specialist, said she believes being able to take a book and share it with the students, who might not have had the opportunity otherwise to listen to an author share the story, is why she loves her job.

“This is what it’s about,” Campbell said. “Sharing that love of literature with the children and being able to get them excited about an author is more magical than anyone knows.”

Jordan and Tanmay, like many of their fellow classmates, say they love to read. School staff members say they  have little mini authors and illustrators wandering the halls.

“We want to them to know that if they want to be an author, they can do it,” Campbell said. “Nothing is impossible.”

Author Aaron Reynolds signs one of the 450 copies of his book "Creepy Pair of Underwear" that each child at Quarles Elementary School in Winchester received following his presentation Tuesday at the school. Rich Cooley/Daily

Reynolds’ can attest to that fact. After 390 rejection letters over a five-year period, he has become a New York Times best-selling author and has written several highly acclaimed books for children, including  “Nerdy Birdy,” “Carnivores” and “Caveboy Dave.”

“I kept failing, but I kept going” Reynolds said.

As a child, Reynolds said he didn’t like to read. It wasn’t until the fifth grade that a teacher introduced him to reading.

“Every day Mr. Hunter would read a chapter a day to us,” Reynolds said. “It was because of him that everything changed. From that moment on I was hooked. It opened up a whole new world. For the first time ever, I felt like my big imagination would be appreciated.”

When Reynolds visited Quarles two years ago, he was signing copies of “Creepy Carrots” and a student approached him and told him he should write a story about creepy underwear. For two years, Reynolds pondered the idea. One night he sat down at his writing desk and the rest is history.

Adrionna Young, 9, left, Ashriya Acharya, 8, center, and Thurston Rollon, right, and his assistance dog Renegade, listen intently to Aaron Reynolds as he reads his book. Rich Cooley/Daily

For Hovatter and her staff, reading is everything.

“Seeing a child be able to read conjures up a big passion of mine,” she said. “Reynolds has the same infectious energy and passion about reading and writing we have here.”

“Creepy Pair of Underwear” is No. 4 on the New York Times Best Sellers list. It is now available in stores.