Abigail Amarino didn’t have to say a word for the crowd at Kingswood Elementary to know what was on her mind.
It was obvious to the 50 students in the school’s gym that Abigail had an idea, as evidenced by the light bulb sketch that renowned cartoonist and children’s author Lincoln Peirce held above her head.
“She has a question!” Abigail’s peers blurted out when Peirce replaced the light bulb sketch with one showing the letter “Q.”
“She’s angry!” they yelled when Peirce held a sketch with a mishmash of keyboard symbols and exclamation points above the fourth-grader.
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Cartoons are fun to read for all ages, Peirce told the crowd. Artists tend to illustrate the real world in simple and funny ways, said Peirce, the 51-year-old author of the best-selling “Big Nate” children’s books.
In that vein, Peirce used humor to deliver a simple message to Kingswood students during his March 16 appearance at the school: If you work hard enough, you, too, can accomplish your dreams.
“I would like young people to know that practicing and improving isn’t something that just happens,” he said as his book covers appeared on a projection screen behind him.
Peirce – pronounced “Purse” – said he first aspired to be a cartoonist while in the third grade. He debuted the “Big Nate” newspaper comic strip in 1991, and his children’s books have made the New York Times’ best-seller list.
Peirce, a Maine resident and New Hampshire native, visited Kingswood and Northwoods elementary schools as well as the Cary Barnes & Noble Booksellers. He came to the area for Read Across America, a National Education Association literacy movement, and to promote his latest book, “Big Nate Lives It Up!”
The gigs also give Peirce a chance to receive feedback from kids, which he said he highly values. Big Nate is a kid, and Peirce wants the character to be relatable to kids.
“I do think kids can sniff out something that’s phony,” he said.
Peirce showed slides of his work, doodled on a projector, and handed out T-shirts as part of his presentation. He showed a picture of the first cartoon character he drew while in elementary school, “Super Jimmy,” to demonstrate how he improved as an artist over the years.
As a kid, Peirce learned how to draw multi-dimensional characters by replicating old “Wanted” criminal posters.
“If you want to do something well over and over again, it helps to have a routine,” he explained.
Some students, such as fifth-grader Kylie Hart, appreciated Peirce’s lively after-school event.
“I liked it when he put (the symbols) on the board,” she said.
Others students, including fifth-grader Amelia Etheridge, said they were encouraged by Peirce’s remarks.
“If you don’t draw very good, keep trying because you aren’t gonna get it at the beginning,” she said.