By Lisa Scottoline
Do you know who Dillon Helbig is?
Well, I’ll tell you.
Because I’m betting that one day his will be a household name.
Dillon is a second-grader in Idaho who loves to make up stories. One day he wrote one down and titled it The Adventures of Dylan Helbig’s Crismis. It was eighty-one pages, and he made a cover and illustrated it himself. Underneath the title he wrote, By Dillon His Self.
I love this kid.
But it gets better.
So then, on his next trip to the library with his grandmother, unbeknownst to anyone, Dillon slipped his book onto the shelf in the children’s section. What happened next is that the librarians discovered the book, read it, decided it meets their selection criteria, and added it to the library’s collection. Everybody who reads it loves it, and now there’s a long wait list to check it out. Not only that, the library awarded Dillon its first-ever Whoodini Award for Best Young Novelist.
I love everything about this story. I love that Dillon loves books, loves the library, and doesn’t always follow the rules. I love librarians for myriad reasons, and this story illustrates all of them, but mainly because they love books, love the library, and don’t always follow the rules.
Dylan is reportedly working on a sequel to his book, which will involve his dog Rusty.
This kid is a genius.
His marketing instincts are unerring.
Dogs always work in books.
If I didn’t have a dog named Rusty, I would say I did.
Dillon’s next book idea is reportedly about a closet that eats clothes.
Honestly, that’s the best book idea ever.
This kid is the master.
I mean, he wrote a book and put it on the library shelf.
He wanted his book in the library.
I lived in the library when I was younger, and I used to dream of having my books in the library.
I should add that this story about Dillon appeared in The Washington Post, to which I digitally subscribe, and the piece was written by Kellie B. Gormly. If you want to know more details, you should read it there because it will make you feel really good.
The story is all the more remarkable when you realize it happened in the same week that books are being taken off library shelves.
Because you may have read that a school district in Tennessee banned the graphic novel Maus, effectively taking it off its school library shelves, even though the book won a Pulitzer. Maus is about the Holocaust and is written by Art Spiegelman, the son of a Holocaust survivor, and is based on his father’s stories. In the novel, the victims are mice and the Nazis are cats.
The Tennessee school board gave some reason for banning the book, but I’m not going to repeat them because there’s no good reason to take Maus off the shelf in any library.
Especially at a time when people are waving Nazi flags from overpasses in Orlando.
The United States Holocaust Museum said that Maus played “a vital role” in Holocaust education. And by the way, the Tennessee school district took this action the same week as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
I’m guessing they forgot.
It’s ironic that a child’s instinct is to put a book on the shelf, but at the same time adults who lack his wisdom take books off.
It hit home for me because my novel Eternal comes out in paperback this week, and it’s about many things, among them the Holocaust in Italy. I wrote the book for many reasons, among them that I want people to know what happened during Fascism and Nazism, in the very heart of Rome. I’m proud I wrote the book, proud it’s been so well-received, and proud it’s on a library shelf, where it belongs.
And it better stay there, or I’m going to get very South Philly on somebody’s tushie.
What we need in this country is more books, not fewer.
What we need in this country is more education, not less.
What we need in this country is great big thinkers like a little kid.
Copyright Lisa Scottoline 2022