First-grader Autumn Knox’s face lit up when she walked into the Downes Elementary School library Monday and saw author Bethany Barton there to greet her.
Meeting one of her favorite authors was a dream come true, the bubbly 7-year-old said.
“It’s really, really great,” Autumn said. “It’s the best feeling in the world – like you just got a new puppy.”
She excitedly told Barton about stories she has written, explaining that when she grows up she wants to be “an author, illustrator and YouTuber.”
Barton’s trip to Downes had been in the works for several months, all prompted by letters that Autumn’s kindergarten class wrote to her last school year.
Teacher Alaine Grunow said the class read Barton’s book “This Monster Needs a Haircut,” and the students’ assignment was to write persuasive letters to Stewart the monster about why he should cut his hair. Autumn suggested they send the letters to Barton.
To the students’ delight, Barton responded to each of the letters and as they kept in touch, she agreed to stop in Newark during a tour promoting her newest book.
Barton, who lives in Los Angeles and works as assistant prop manager on the ABC television show “Blackish,” came to Downes at no charge and spent most of the day with the students, holding a book signing, conducting a school-wide assembly and eating lunch with a group of students.
She said the reaction from Autumn and the other students was surreal.
“You make the books and hope kids read them, but being an author can be kind of lonely because you don’t know who’s reading them,” Barton said, explaining that’s why she enjoys visiting schools.
The daughter of a journalist and an educator, she got her start in publishing when she was posting her artwork on a blog, and an agent contacted her and suggested she consider penning children’s books.
She’s now written and illustrated five books. All focus on facing one’s fears, and most involve science and math topics. Her latest, “I’m Trying to Love Math,” was published in July.
The monster book was her first, and she said she’s glad kids are still enjoying it.
“Kids are still connecting with it and learning from it,” she said. “It’s basically a dream come true.”