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Author Excites Third Graders With Tales of Derring Do

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By Ray Huard ….Imagine you can fly on the back of an eagle, soaring high above the clouds then zooming back to the ground to rescue a bear cub that’s fallen into a churning river, Joe Brown said to a room full of third graders. Even better, imagine that roomful of third graders sitting quietly for more than an hour.


Author Joe Brown

That’s what happened recently at Monte Vista Elementary School when Brown came to read from the first of seven children’s books he’s written in “The Flights of Marceau” series and encourage the students to tap into their own imagination. Imagination is everything, Brown said, as he shared his own experiences in going from being a high-powered Chicago lawyer for 50 years to becoming a book author in his later life.

“Everybody wants to be an author,” Brown told the students. For him, he said it started with stories he made up and told his three children when they were small.

To keep from forgetting the tales he told, Brown said he wrote them down, and, when his children grew older, he put the written tales in a box and stashed them in the attic. Then, when he turned 70, one of his daughters — cosmetics entrepreneur Bobbi Brown — lured him into a bookstore. There, on the shelves, in book form, were the stories he told his children so many years before.

Bobbi Brown had rescued them from the attic and published them herself as a surprise for her father. “I freaked out,” Joe Brown told the third graders. “That day, I stopped being a lawyer.”

Now 79, Brown said “I’m going to write one more book every year for the rest of my life.” Brown told the third graders that they, too, should put their imaginations to work and start writing. Some said they already had when Brown asked if they’d ever written a story.

One said she wrote a story for her dad about wishing on a star.  “I’m going to show you how you can be an author,” Brown told the students. “All you need is a thought.”

With that, Brown told the class to use their imagination to make up their own story, calling on students who raised their hands to contribute. “Three girls are walking to school,” he said. “A dragon comes and scoops up a girl,” said one girl. Shouting with excitement, another girl continued the story. “The dragon takes the girl to the dragon’s cave,” she said.

“Then the dragon gets ready to have her for dinner,” added another girl.  “Then somebody comes in and rescues her,” said a boy in the class. The hero is named James, he said.

“James comes in and shoots fireballs at the dragon,” he said. And there you have it, said, Brown, a story in the making.


Brown reading to class

The story Brown read the third graders was his very first book, “Race To The Rescue,” illustrated by Stephen Marchesi.

“I don’t do any pictures,” Brown explained to the class. “I’m not a good artist. I’m a good writer.”

“Race to the Rescue” has cabdriver Marceau imagining himself riding atop a series of cheetahs across the country to come to the rescue of zoo animals left to fend for themselves in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The book starts off with Marceau speaking to a child riding in the back of the cab.

“Marceau is my name and I’m driving a cab. And my imagination helps me to escape from the drab,” Marceau tells the child.

As he read aloud, the students and their teachers followed along on copies of the book Brown gave to all of them to keep. He does that at every school he visits.

“There are kids out there who have never owned their own book,” Brown said. “That’s why we do this.”

On every page of his books, Brown highlights a word or two in boldface and gives its definition at the bottom of the page.

“Vocabulary is such a good thing,” Brown told the students as the teachers nodded in agreement.

The teachers were just as enthralled as their students when Brown read from his book and gave them a sneak preview at a new book he has in the works featuring an eagle named Majesty.

Teacher Diane Smith said hearing Brown read from his book and talk about writing might just inspire some of them to become writers.

“They never get a chance to meet a real author,” Smith said. “It helps bring a book alive for them.”


Author Brown talking to class

Annjanette Ziegler said she was delighted when Brown told the students to close their eyes, use their imagination and visualize Majesty flying high.

“It was exactly what I wanted to hear,” Ziegler said. She said children learn best when they picture things in their minds.

Earlier this school year, Brown read to students at Maryland Elementary School and Grapevine Elementary School in the Vista Unified School District. Brown, who lives in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood and travels around the world to read to students from his books, said he’ll gladly return to read at other Vista Unified schools the next time he comes to San Diego County to visit relatives.

“It’s fun,” Brown said. “I can’t wait to get here.”


Photos by Ray Huard

















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  • Published: 10 years ago on December 15, 2014
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  • Last Modified: December 16, 2014 @ 11:57 am
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