"America's Riddle King" & Children's book author Mike Thaler visits Redoubt

Mike Thaler, world famous children’s book author visited Redoubt Elementary School last week where to the delight of the students he did two assemblies and then met with a few of the kids in the library where in minutes he drew and autographed a “Follow Your Dreams” poster. Thaler has been writing children’s stories since for over 50 years, his first published book being “The Magic Boy” in 1961 has been followed by over 200 books including “The Black Lagoon Series” and world popular stories such as “King Kong’s Underwear,” that has earned him the title of “America’s Riddle King” and “The Court Jester of Children’s Literature.” Thaler says he started as a cartoonist in New York when a famous editor Ursula Nordstrom called him, “She had seen a cartoon that I had done and she asked me if I would like to write a book, I said I would and she asked when I’d like to come in and I said tomorrow, because the rent was due on Friday. So I went in the next day and sold my first book ‘Magic Boy’ which I had written the night before and I’ve been writing ever since,” he told the Dispatch in an interview.

Thaler says the ideas for his books come from his imagination, “Imaginations are the most powerful nations in the world and all the kids here at Redoubt have imaginations that are as good as mine and they just have to use them.” Thaler added that he doesn’t have to think like a child, “I am a child, and I think everyone has a bit of a child in them, you don’t change that much, you may get a little smarter, but not that much,” he said. After completing the poster in the library, Mike was introduced to carpet artist Tim Marsh who had etched/swept one of Thaler’s illustrated characters onto the library carpet in honor of his visit and get kids interested in reading his books, “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this,” commented Thaler, “You could make a business doing this.” Marsh, a custodian at the school told Thaler that he first noticed that when he vacuumed the carpet one way or another way that it would appear to change colors, “So originally I started making checkerboards and triangles and then one day for the kids sake I thought I try drawing some pictures on it and I started drawing pictures from the books that the librarians were reading to the kids with the idea being that when the kids came and sat on the carpet Redoubts Magic Carpet would bring them into the story and stimulate their imaginations and it just started from there,” Tim told the author.

After using the vacuum to lift the carpet Marsh says he uses a wood dole to make the lines for the drawing, “I’ve been drawing since Jr. High School and through High School I just like to draw and do a different one everyday, the kids walk over the carpet and its kind of like having a new canvas to draw on everyday, they may be here today and gone tomorrow like a sand castle or ice carving, but I take a picture of everyone that I do and just download them on my laptop so I remember all the pictures I’ve drawn,” he said. Mike Thaler shook Tim’s hand and said, “Having kids laugh, seeing things you’ve created and knowing that you’ve contributed something to the world that is about as good as life gets.” Where does the world traveling author and Riddle King go from here? “To dinner!” he said. And to the person who has always wanted to write a children’s story Thaler advised, “Write It!”