The birth of a book series
Local illustrator and author shares the story of Bob the Hodag with students, staff
By Eileen Persike
A kindergarten student bounced up to Thomas Barnett in the library at Northwoods Community Elementary School (NCES) and with a huge grin showed Barnett the book he had just checked out. Not surprisingly, it was “I Brought a Hodag to School.” A professional illustrator and cartoonist who lives in Rhinelander, this, his first book as an author, was created after he painted a Hodag mural on a wall at the school. A student named the Hodag ‘Bob,’ and Barnett’s creativity took over from there.
“I don’t think anyone realizes how much this school influenced the writing of this book,” he laughed. “I started writing it in my car while I waited in the parking lot to pick up my kids!”
Barnett included characters in the book that strongly resemble some of the staff, including Principal Losch and school secretary Mrs. Ketter; Barnett’s son Tony is featured.
“I went into it thinking this would be a breeze, and nooooo,” he said. It’s not. “I’ve illustrated so many children’s books I figured, how hard can it be? It’s just a bunch of rhyming words. I went through four edits before I got to this point. It’s not easy but I had so much fun doing it.”
The book release was celebrated at NCES last week with a reading by the author, and a book signing. Students, with money-filled envelopes in hand waited patiently in line to purchase their books.
“The reception I got from this book has been amazing– I was really just testing the waters,” Barnett said. “I have a bunch of ideas rolling around in my head and book two is already being written. I may make it a series.”
In the meantime, the illustrator/author spent the week teaching students how to draw Bob the Hodag, and with the upper grades even got into intellectual property discussions. Thomas Barnett is also teaching a Rhinelander Community Education course in November, an introduction to character design.
For more information on Bob the Hodag and the book, go to his facebook page, BobtheHodag.