Best-selling author/illustrator visits Cooperstown

Mar. 9—Cooperstown Elementary School students learned Thursday it takes a lot of practice to be a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator.

"I take my sketchbook everywhere I go," Mike Lowery said during a March 9 visit to the school, and then showed pictures of him drawing in his sketchbook in a canoe on the Amazon River, on a swing, in a Japanese restaurant, in a helicopter and while getting his hair cut.

He said keeping a sketch book is important for his creative process. "I draw, doodle, make notes about weird things," he said. "Dolly Parton sent me a letter and I wanted to capture the feeling, so I drew this picture," he said while showing the sketch. "It helps me keep track of things happening in my life," he said.

At the end of his presentation, he was asked by a student if he had his sketchbook with him. He pulled it out of his backpack and showed them the drawing he did of a room at the Otesaga Hotel where he's staying.

"I drew this because it looks spooky like it could be haunted," he said.

Lowery has written and illustrated several children's books and graphic novels, including "Everything Awesome About Dinosaurs," the "Bug Scouts" and "Doodle Adventures" series and "Kids Awesome Activity Book," a media release said. He has also illustrated books for several other authors.

He said Thursday, in the past 18 years he has illustrated 87 books, calendars with lots of stickers, and a food truck.

Lowery asked students what they liked to draw. Students answered things in space, unicorns, horses and dragons.

Lowery asked students if they ever have problems coming up with things to draw. He said one day he couldn't figure out what to draw, until he heard about a chicken nugget selling for $8,000 on eBay. He asked students and teachers why it sold for so much money. After a few answers, he revealed it was because the nugget looked like George Washington, and he showed the illustration he made of George Washington looking at a chicken nugget.

During his talk, he showed several slides of his work, read the first chapter of his latest "Bug Scouts" book and gave students some homework. He suggested students should create greeting cards for "weird" holidays, such as National Meatball Day.

Lowery was asked by a student who inspired him to be an author. "I liked to read a lot at your age," he said. "'Matilda' by Roald Dahl was one of my favorite books and the illustrations were great."

Art Teacher Alyssa Ketcham asked if he was pressured to illustrate a book like another illustrator. Lowery said early on in his career he was asked to illustrate in a "cartoony" way. "If it had to look a certain way, it wasn't good for me," he said.

Ketcham said she asked that question because she wanted students to learn that "art doesn't have to look a specific way."

Lowery, who lives in Atlanta, said he likes to visit schools because he likes to interact with students, and said it is important to share his experience with students.

Emily Gibson, library media specialist at Cooperstown Elementary School, said she emailed Lowery to see if he would come to the school to talk to students. She said after they figured out a good time for his visit she reached out to the local BOCES to see if other schools would like a visit from Lowery. He visited Morris Central School and Greater Plains Elementary School in Oneonta on Wednesday. He also visited two schools near Saratoga, he said.

Thursday was also Dress to Impress day during Pick a Reading Partner week, which the district holds annually to promote reading, Gibson said.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at or 607-441-7221.