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Fox River Grove author

Published: Sunday, April 21, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Aaron Reynolds' world is a world where carrots come alive, chickens eat chips and salsa and cowboys fight pirates.

He might be sipping coffee at a Starbucks, sitting in a library or working in his home office in Fox River Grove, but he's elsewhere in his mind.

Take a look at the children's books he's written, including the New York Times best-selling "Creepy Carrots!" and you'll see where he's been.

"Part of it is I am highly immature myself, so that helps," he said of his writing success. "I do a lot of kids' stuff. I play video games. I watch kids' movies. I watch a lot of kids' TV. I kind of just live in that world because I enjoy it."

Often giving hands-on presentations at schools, libraries and writers' conferences, Reynolds will present his book, "Creepy Carrots!" at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Algonquin Area Public Library.

The book tells of Jasper Rabbit and his encounter with the carrots that follow him home from Crackenhopper Field. It recently was awarded the Caldecott Honor for its illustrations by Peter Brown. The award is described by Reynolds as "like the Oscar for children's books." 

"I never in a million years imagined one of my books would have a silver medal on it," he said.

Reynolds didn't start writing until about 10 years ago after pursing a career in theater, appearing in productions in Chicago. Acting led to writing theater, which led to teaching children theater, which lead to writing creatively for children, which lead to his books.

"I found I liked writing for kids a lot more than I liked writing for adults," said the father of two. "I kind of fell into it along the way."

Before that, as he writes, he held numerous jobs aside from acting, including being a waiter, a dancer, a carpenter, a businessman and a chef.

"He's never been a carrot, a rooster, or a superhero, but he's thinking of trying one of those next," according to his bio at www.aaron-reynolds.com.

It took at least five years of serious writing for Reynolds to receive his first acceptance letter from a publisher.

Until then, it was rejection letter after rejection letter, he said. Once the first book sold, more sold, he said. Along with "Creepy Carrots!" he's written "Chicks and Salsa," "Back of the Bus," and the "Joey Fly, Private Eye" graphic novel series. His next book, "Carnivores," comes out in September.

"In the past few years, it's kind of started to take off," he said.

Along with writing, he enjoys visiting schools and other places to encourage children to read. Through his presentations, he said, he likes to include the children, such as encouraging them to make salsa or solve a mystery with him. 

"We talk about how things in real life inspire authors to write the stories they write," he said. "Sometimes when we read books, they inspires us to do things we've never done before."

What inspires Reynolds is basically everything. 

"I think ideas are everywhere," he said. "The ideas aren't the hard part. The hard part is taking a good idea and turning it into a book."

That takes creating a good beginning, middle and end "just like teachers tell you," he'll tell the children he speaks to.

He didn't actually even like books until fifth grade, when a teacher read out loud to his class and opened his eyes to where books could take him.

"I fell in love with books after that," he said.

Although he never even dreamed he could one day become an author, he enjoys instilling that dream in children.

And, he said, he doesn't miss acting.

"I feel like I won the lottery," he said. "I get to use all the creativity I had then, but I have all the control over it. I feel like this is the best of all things. I get to create, use all my creativity, still be in front of people and in front of kids.

"They're the best audience of all." 

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