Arthur the ardvark is still in school, but the book series he stars in, Arthur, is approaching its 35th birthday. To celebrate that, author Marc Brown will embark on a nationwide journey visiting schools and libraries"one for each year"to share the story of Arthur with the children and parents who have loved him through the decades. Lake Avenue Elementary School in Saratoga Springs is one of this stops on Wednesday, Oct. 20.
"I made a pledge I would go back to where it all started, with the kids, because I think of them as my boss," said Brown.
"Arthur" was an accident. Brown had just lost his job teaching at a small college in Boston that closed. One night, his son asked him for a bedtime story about a weird animal. Brown chose an ardvark named Arthur and the story explored the unusual animal's curiously long nose.
On a whim, he showed it to an editor and after six months of hard work learning how picture books are balanced between words and pictures, it was published in 1976. Brown said it was exciting but he never thought there would be another. Little did he know that "Arthur" would turn into a 100-plus book saga and become an Emmy award-winning PBS television series.
"I kind of put it away and hoped to build a career as an illustrator because that's what I think of myself as," said Brown.
Brown said the first book, "Arthur's Nose," started connecting with teachers and students, so he began visiting classrooms to talk about the book and illustrating. Just like the first book was born out of a story for his son, his next books emerged from students he encountered in his travels.
"One day I was visiting a school and there was a little boy who wouldn't wear his glasses. A month later I was at another school and a little girl was wearing giant pink plastic frames with no lenses. She said 'these are my movie star glasses. I wear them to help me concentrate and look beautiful,' and I thought, I've got a story here. That's where 'Arthur's Eyes' was born," said Brown.