About 125 elementary students recently got a big treat thanks to one family’s generosity.
Fifth grader Sef Zeleznik of Haisley Elementary and his brother, Tate Zeleznik, a fourth grader at Ann Arbor Open, are fans of author Kevin Sylvester, a Toronto-based writer, cartoonist and broadcaster most famous for his “Neil Flambe” series.
One evening, their parents, Scott and Nancy, checked out Sylvester’s website and learned that for $300, the author will come and talk to a class.
So the Zelezniks wrote to the Toronto-based illustrator, writer and broadcaster, and asked if he could come speak to their schools. For $600, it seemed like a pretty good deal, said Scott Zeleznik, the boys’ dad.
“It’s a once in a very long while opportunity,” he said.
Sylvester soon replied that he’d be happy to come to Ann Arbor for the day. (The day got even better when Zeleznik gave him a gift certificate to Zingerman’s.)
Sylvester is a former sports broadcaster who has met a lot of famous athletes, some of whom have made fools of themselves in other areas of life.
During his 90-minute talks, he gave examples of that foolishness, including the Red Sox player who had third-degree burns on his chest from ironing his shirt that morning, Zeleznik said.
“He had two take-aways for the kids,” said Zeleznik. “One was to be humble. The other is to pay attention to everyday life.”
Sylvester gave tips on how to draw cartoons and signed autographs, as well.
“It was a win-win for everybody,” Zeleznik said. “The kids laughed and enjoyed it, and the teachers said how much fun it is.”
Sef’s opinion of the day?
Nine-year-old Tate thinks his parents’ recent splurge to bring his and his brother’s favorite author to talk to their classes “a very wise choice of what they should spend their money on.”
“I was amazed,” he said. “It’s not very often you get to see one of your favorite authors. I liked how he develops the characters and fun personalities, and how he explains the stories. I thought he was just going to give a five-minute cartooning class, but he made it go on for a long time, which I liked.”
He said his classmates were just as enthusiastic, especially Yoko, who said, “Thanks a lot a lot a lot a lot a lot!”
Angela Johnson, a special education aide at Haisley, called the talk “pretty awesome.”
“I think it’s fantastic for our students to have outside professionals share with them their experiences and encourage them to live out their passions whatever that may be,” she said.
Contacted via email, Sylvester said he loves to do school visits, and enjoyed his brief stay in Ann Arbor.
“I had an amazing time!” he wrote. “I want kids to laugh, basically, but also to see that there are lots of different ways to tell stories. Everyone has a story to tell, but each person needs to find their own way to do that. Writing and drawing are fun, but you need to match the hard work to the fun to really do a good job.”
“And, of course, I want them all to buy my books… I only get a $1 for each sale after all!”
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