Local sixth-grader illustrates new children’s bookWritten by Kevin Moore | | firstname.lastname@example.org
“I’ve been drawing since I was a little kid in Kindergarten,” said Megan Jurek, a sixth-grader at Regina Coeli School in Toledo.
The local 11-year-old is the illustrator a new children’s book titled “Gilbert the Grasshopper,” written by Toledo native Nick Rokicki and Joseph Kelley of Detroit. The authors and Megan recently signed copies of the book at a release party in Toledo.
Megan’s parents, Mike and Michele, identified their daughter’s interest in art at an early age and encouraged her to pursue her talents.
“We saw she wasn’t your average kid who likes to doodle every once in a while,” said Michele.
Megan has aspirations of being a professional cartoonist one day.
“I read the comic page every day and study the drawings. Jim Davis, who does the Garfield comic strips, is my idol, and my favorite illustrated children’s book is ‘Charlotte’s Web,’” she said.
With the full support of her parents, Megan is one of only 20 students accepted into Regina Coeli’s afterschool Art Club.
When Rokicki and Kelley visited Regina Coeli School last fall, one of Megan’s teachers suggested she meet them and show some of her work.
“I went down to meet the authors and I told them about my Facebook page, ‘Megan the Cartoonist,’” Megan said. “They looked it up their phones and said my cartoons were very good.”
Earlier this year, Rockicki approached Michele about having Megan illustrate “Gilbert the Grasshopper” and, after having her do a couple of trial drawings, asked her to illustrate the entire book.
“They sent me a copy of the story in early February, and I did a chapter at a time in a Shel Silverstein kind of style,” Megan said.
“Gilbert the Grasshopper“ features 92 of Megan’s black-and-white illustrations, as well as the cover, which is in color.
Rokicki and Kelley said they enjoyed working on the project with Megan.
“It was pretty cool. When we met Megan and her mom, she had just been featured on a Me-TV show, and she was a little shy and humble about the attention she had been getting from it. She seemed like she’d be a great kid to work with,” Rokicki said. “With an illustrator, we always retain the option to make some changes if need be, but out of the 100 drawings she did I think we only needed to change one thing.”
“Gilbert the Grasshopper,” which was published through Amazon on March 2, is about a grasshopper who finds his way onto an airplane after following his insatiable curiosity. The story teaches children it’s OK to learn something new and share it with others and encourages them to develop passion for exploration and travel.
The 90-plus-page, black-and-white format of the book is something new for Rokicki and Kelley.
“This is our seventh book, but our first crossover,” Rokicki said. “Our past books have been full color, fully illustrated. ‘Gilbert the Grasshopper’ has more text and black and white illustrations. It’s an intermediary between storybooks and full chapter books.”
Rokicki, who works at Jeep, is co-author of the nationally recognized “Pete the Popcorn.”
“Writing children’s books is what I’m passionate about, and it’s important to get kids reading. I strongly believe we all have talents, and it’s important we use them,” he said. “One child influencing another child is the most powerful form of encouragement. Megan has a direct opportunity to inspire other children. Here she is a a sixth-grader who has illustrated a book, and that will only ignite other children to pursue whatever their passion is.”
“Gilbert the Grasshopper” has made Megan a bit of a celebrity in her school, with younger students who have purchased the book stopping her in the hall to ask if she would autograph their copies.
With one book already in her bibliography and more than 1,000 followers on her Facebook page, Megan is hopeful this is only the beginning of her career as an artist.
“This was a lot of fun, and I’d like to do another book in the future,” she said.