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UP CLOSE: The truth about authors

Wilmington author ready to unveil new children’s book

March 30, 2018
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer (gkelly@adirondackdailyenterprise.com) , Lake Placid News

WILMINGTON - Maxwell Eaton III never really had plans write children's books. It was kind of a happy accident.

After graduating from St. Lawrence University in Canton, Eaton moved west to Colorado. He had a job lined up at the Arapahoe Basin ski area, but the season didn't start for another month. On a whim and out of boredom, he put some illustrations and text together and sent it off to an agent. She liked it.

"I went to school for English and fine art, and that seems to add up," Eaton said, "but I never thought in a million years of doing a picture book. I really don't know why it came together. It just struck me as something that was simple and straightforward to do, and I discovered it's anything but."

Article Photos

Children’s book author and illustrator Maxwell Eaton III of Wilmington poses with books from his “The Truth About” series. The latest addition, “The truth about dolphins” comes out May 8.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

Eaton has published numerous books, such as "I'm Awake," a story about energetic kids and parents who want to sleep in; "The Flying Beaver Brothers," a series of graphic novels for middle school students that focuses on environmental topics; and "The Truth About" series, a collection of non-fiction books for animal lovers. The latest addition, "The Truth About Dolphins," comes out May 8. He will host a meet-and-greet and book signing at the Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid on May 12.

Eaton wrote some of his books when he was fresh out of college. He now has a wife, Kristin, a 2-and-a-half-year-old daughter and another baby on the way. He said having a child definitely changed the way he approaches writing.

"I've certainly become more responsive to what a child, I think, will respond to," he said, "and I can fine tune that just by learning along with a child that I'm reading to constantly. I'm fortunate enough [my daughter] just devours books. That's her favorite thing in the world, and reading to her is a huge part of my day. It's been a re-education in picture books. A writer of novels or anything will tell you, 'You need to read everything.' It's the same with picture books. I've become more picture book literate, and I think that's a result of having a child."

Despite being a full-time writer, Eaton said he really can't remember the books he read as a kid.

"I don't remember who I responded to or anything," he said. "Maybe I wasn't much of a reader. My daughter, she just blows me away. I didn't truly love books until after college when it stopped being an assignment for me."

Children's books sometimes tackle more sensitive topics that don't have happy endings and need to be explained to kids in a tactful manner. Shel Silverstein's "The Giving Tree," for example, addresses ideas of unconditional love and selfishness. Dr. Seuss's "The Lorax" deals with issues of environmentalism and pollution.

Eaton tries to educate young readers through his "The Truth About" series. The newest book on dolphins is preceded by one on bears and another on hippos.

"I try to wrap up each book not by painting a rosy picture of the plight of bears or hippos right now but being realistic and say, 'There are issues with their survival rate, and here's what you can do to continue to help them.' You have to start someplace. You can't overwhelm a 4-year-old with what has to be done politically right now, but starting to think about those things when you're young is important."

Originally from Cornwall, Vermont, Eaton now lives in the town of Wilmington, which he views as his ideal space for writing.

"I can see how some folks respond to the energy of a city," Eaton said. "I don't. I like the quiet. I like space, and the Adirondacks are perfect for that. It's tough to say I'm inspired to write a book about hippos by being in the Adirondacks, but somehow that does add up."

Before he started writing "The Truth About Hippos," Eaton said he didn't know a lot about the animals, and that the book is just as much a learning experience for him as it is for his readers.

"That's been the really cool thing about this series," he said. "The constant research, and wading into these animals that you think you know everything about and really figuring out the truth, especially with the dolphins. You think of the Sea World dolphin, which is the common bottled-nose dolphin, but there are so many different types than just the one you see in every picture book. It's a little corny, but a love of animals has really made this series click with me."

In the early drafts for "The Truth About Bears," Eaton didn't have a section addressing the factors that harm animals and destroy their habitats. After a few read-overs, he felt the book needed that section.

"It felt like an injustice to any child or young reader that thought, 'Oh great. I love bears. Bears are all set. No worries in the world.' It was just such a huge part of their current existence, so in the last page or two, what I do is simply mention here are the threats. They're laid it out not in a scary way or frightening way, but just these are these are their current struggles usually human, almost exclusively human, caused.

"I say the best thing you can do when you go forward at six years old or at any age really is just continue to learn more about these animals. The more you learn about them, the more you'll see what can be done."

 
 

 

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