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by Jessica Brophy
If you could build a house with all sorts of magical and amazing parts, what would you build?
This is the premise of Chris Van Dusen’s new book, If I Built a House. Last month, Van Dusen visited Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School and the Reach Performing Arts Center.
In Van Dusen’s book, the main character, Jack, re-imagines his own home into a wonderland which includes a living room with trampolines and a ball pit, a sky-high bedroom with panoramic views, a race car room and an anti-gravity “flying room.”
“This book is about using your imagination and letting your dreams run wild,” said Van Dusen.
After reading from the book and talking a bit about the writing process, Van Dusen took questions from the audience. One child asked how long it took to write a book. Van Dusen said his first children’s book—because he didn’t know the format yet—took nine years. Most of his books take about nine months now, he said. And the majority of that time is spent on the illustrations.
Another student asked Van Dusen how it feels to write books. “It feels really good,” said Van Dusen. “It feels good to see them in a library, but especially when someone tells me that they like a book.”
Van Dusen is a children’s author and illustrator best known for his book The Circus Ship, loosely based on a real-life shipwreck of a ship carrying circus animals off the Maine Coast in 1826. Van Dusen has written and illustrated several children’s books, designed the new Maine lobster license plate and created art for ad campaigns for clean beaches.
Van Dusen’s visit was sponsored by the Island Readers and Writers’ “Island Book and Author Program,” which brings Maine children’s book authors and illustrators to island schools for readings, activities and presentations, according to the IRW website. Additional support was given by the Island Education Foundation.