Archived Story

Children’s author Aaron Zenz visits Franklin youngsters

Published 10:27am Friday, March 28, 2014

FRANKLIN—Sometimes when Aaron Zenz hiccups, children laugh.

Aaron Zenz signs his name to a drawing he created during a presentation at S.P. Morton Elementary School. Zenz, who writes and illustrates children’s books, also visited J.P. King Jr. Middle School and the Franklin Library, which invited him to read some of his stories. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS
Aaron Zenz signs his name to a drawing he created during a presentation at S.P. Morton Elementary School. Zenz, who writes and illustrates children’s books, also visited J.P. King Jr. Middle School and the Franklin Library, which invited him to read some of his stories. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Such was the case when he was reading from his 2005 book, “The Hiccupotamus” to students at S.P. Morton Elementary School this past Monday.

Zenz would loudly punctuate his recital with hiccups suitable for a hippopotamus. The youngsters gasped and giggled each and every time.

“My imagination went crazy,” he said later about the story’s origin. “I wondered what would happen if a hippo had hiccups.”

The readings were part of his visit to Franklin, which also included J.P. King Jr. Middle School and the Ruth Camp Campbell Memorial Library.

Bonnie Roblin, library manager, said the Camp Foundation was especially helpful in covering the program.

“The library invited me,” said Zenz. “I do up to 10 to 15 school visits a year, but usually in Michigan. This is my first visit to Virginia.”

He lives in the western part of Michigan with his wife and their six children, all of whom are fans. Four of their six children even have their own blog, www.bookiewoogie.blogspot.com.

Between reading sessions on Monday, Zenz talked about his career as a writer and illustrator of children’s books.

Although he’s only been doing this for about nine years, Zenz has had an interest in drawing and writing since he was a child. Even through high school, he would write little books of stories, complete with pictures. At least three are available for reading at his website, www.aaronzenz.com.

Aaron Zenz talks with S.P. Morton students. Front row, Olivia Dibella, left, Malik Wheeler, Keyonna Britt, Deauvyon Robertson, Zakhari Bynum and Elijah Bryant. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS
Aaron Zenz talks with S.P. Morton students. Front row, Olivia Dibella, left, Malik Wheeler, Keyonna Britt, Deauvyon Robertson, Zakhari Bynum and Elijah Bryant. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Doing this gave him pleasure.

“I never thought of it as an occupation,” he said, but added, “I always thought I’d be in the art field of some kind.”

When Zenz saw the cover of “The Cinder-Eyed Cats” by fellow children’s author Eric Rohmann, he was inspired.

“That’s what I want to do,” said Zenz. “To have the power of touching someone’s heart.”

When it came time to find work, a newly formed publishing house asked him to come aboard as its first employee, where he stayed for three years until it folded.

By then Zenz had built up a portfolio of his best work. Afterward, he found an art representative and went freelance.

“Chimpansneeze,” and “Chuckling Ducklings” are two other books that Zenz has written and illustrated. He’s also illustrated other writer’s books, such as Steve Metzer’s “Skeleton Meets The Mummy” and Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen’s “Orangutangled.”

In his opinion, the world of children’s books is “a big lovefest. Everyone is rooting for everyone else. It’s a very caring and close-knit community.”

For example, when his wife developed health issues, complete strangers would offer financial assistance for bills.

“It’s a wonderful community and we champion each others’ books,” Zenz said, adding in contrast that the publishing world, “always changing.”

Although he enjoys graphic novels, and has a story idea for one, Zenz has not yet ventured into that area because of the “ton of work” involved. So while he’s hesitant now, he’s also open to the possibility of one day writing or drawing such a book.

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