Little inspirations, big ideas

A fourth-grade bully named Amy who terrorized the kids on the school playground changed Steven Layne’s life.

In first grade, his teacher assigned a writing project in which the kids had to wish for something to happen and then write about it. In his story,"The Thing That Ate Amy,” a purple creature from space ate Amy while she screamed for help. His teacher’s response:"… She said‘you’re an author.’ It was incredible for me,” Layne says.

Though it took time, he eventually became an author, with the first of his 15 books published in 1998 (see all the books at The 43-year-old St. Charles dad of four and college professor has gone on to sell more than 230,000 books through Pelican Publishing, many of them award-winning picture books.

His own children, ages 3, 5, 6 and 8, help inspire his stories, he says.

How so?: He describes Love the Baby as"one of the best things I’ve ever written.” It came about when his daughter, unhappy about a new baby, turned the baby upside down. He wrote the book immediately after making sure the baby was OK. Another, Over Land and Sea: A Story of International Adoption, came about after an unsuccessful search for a book that represented his children, all of whom were adopted from overseas orphanages."I thought there needs to be a story that can be read to little kids, the story would read as if it were every family’s story. I set out to do that.”

Is being a parent what you imagined?"Oh, I think not at all. The things you imagine are tucking your kids into bed, fun Saturday morning breakfast around the table. You imagine going to Disney World and the zoo. … When you think about being a parent, you don’t think about the real things about being a parent. There are all those joyous wondrous moments but there’s also the other side of it and this is work. Early mornings and late nights. It’s a blessing, I wouldn’t change it, I wouldn’t trade it. I would definitely have to say I didn’t totally understand.”

Advice to other parents:"I think that the sharing of story, and this is the professor of reading talking, is a very, very intimate thing. A bond begins to grow when a good story is read well. It’s just something that can’t be replaced,” he says."… Don’t stop reading to your kids when they hit third or fourth grade.”

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