Standing in front of a group of Reede Gray Elementary School students Monday morning, Rick Chrustowski offered an admission.
“When I was a kid, I did not like to read,” he said.
While that might not be the kind of thing a children’s book author would readily say in front of his potential audience, Chrustowski confessed the truth to make a point.
Not every child is going to like every book on the shelf.
Chrustowski, who grew up in Indiana and now calls Wisconsin home visited students at the local elementary school to talk about his passion, which has obviously changed over time.
“I love books,” Chrustowski said, adding he has authored and illustrated five books and illustrated another four more.
Chrustowski said as a child he just did not find many of the books he found very interesting, but then he heard about a story he just had to read.
“I was told there was a story about a spider who wrote words in a spider web,” said Chrustowski, adding that exposure to “Charlotte’s Web” got him hooked.
It also provided the muse for the books Chrustowski has published, as the genre he has been writing is all about animals written in a non-fiction style for kids.
“I love animals, especially insects,” he told the students.
Among the titles Chrustow-ski has penned are “Bright Beetle,” ‘Big Brown Bat” and “Turtle Crossing.”
Chrustowski studied art in college, adding he took every art class he could. He also enrolled in a creative writing class, and even though he has graduated he told the kids he is still learning every day.
“I’ll keep learning for the rest of my life,” he said.
While writing books about animals, Chrustowski told the students he likes to get to know them as well as he can, which led him to dig a pond in his yard to learn more about frogs and to raise chickens for a book he was illustrating.
Being an author/illustrator is not easy, said Chrustowski.
“You have to work hard,” he said. “Sometimes you are going to get stuck, and it is OK to set something aside for a while and come back to work on it again later.”
He said one book he wrote took him nine years to finish, and it had only 250 words.
Chrustowski told the students to “find that something you enjoy” and then do it – whether that is writing, drawing or whatever.
He also told them to keep reading, because there are so many cool books to read.