Author seeks to inspire students during ‘I Love to Read’ month

Children’s book author and illustrator Mike Wohnoutka discusses his drawing technique alongside his drawing of a dragon at a Milaca Elementary School presentation held in conjunction with the school’s reading month. Photo by Jeff Hage, Union-Times
Children’s book author and illustrator Mike Wohnoutka discusses his drawing technique alongside his drawing of a dragon at a Milaca Elementary School presentation held in conjunction with the school’s reading month. Photo by Jeff Hage, Union-Times

Milaca – Milaca Elementary School students have professed their love of reading.
So students were in good company Friday, Feb. 3 when author and illustrator Mike Wohnoutka visited the school in a series of presentations to students in each individual grade level.
Wohnoutka wasn’t much older than some of the elementary school students when he realized his love of drawing.
“I always loved to draw,” Wohnoutka said.
He then told the students, “They say a picture tells a thousand words. In my case, a picture tells the whole story.”
He was reminded of this recently when his mother gave him a box containing artifacts from his days attending instruction through his school’s Head Start program.
In the box was a note from a teacher who referred to the 4-year-old Wohnoutka as an artist.
“I wonder what the impact of that was? Did it play a role in me wanting to be an artist?” Wohnoutka asked.
Wohnoutka grew up in Spicer, and like what he assumes of Milaca children, he never stopped to think about where books came from.
“I thought books magically appeared,” he said.
It wasn’t until after he graduated from high school and attended college at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Savannah, Georgia, that he began to think deeply about the origin of books.
It was in college that Wohnoutka say a presentation by children’s author David Shannon, who wrote and illustrated the Caldecott Medal winner “No David!”
“He’s the reason I became an illustrator of children’s books,” Wohnoutka said.
Wohnoutka graduated from college and returned to Minnesota to start his career. To date, he has illustrated 20 books written by other authors and has authored two books of his own.
The first book Wohnoutka illustrated was a book called “Counting Sheep,” written by Julie Glass in 2000. He explained to the students how, when working with authors, he gets nothing more than a transcript and has to come up with his own vision of how the book’s illustrations should be.
The first book Wohnoutka wrote and illustrated was “Little Puppy and the Big Green Monster”, which came out September 2014.His second book, “Dad’s First Day”, was Wohnoutka second book as illustrator AND and was published in the Fall of 2015.
Wohnoutka went through all the steps of writing his book “Dad’s First Day,” including determining what the story should be about and what problems the characters in the book encounter.
He explained writing the book, sending it to his publisher, and getting requests from the publisher to change a number of aspects about the book. When “Dad’s First Day” was finished, he had a story about Oliver and his dad who played together all summer long.
“They laughed together, sang together, and read together,” Wohnoutka said.
But when it came time for Oliver to start school, Oliver’s dad wasn’t ready for the experience. It started off a chain reaction of events. Suddenly the dad feels nervous. His tummy hurts, and he would rather stay home.
Wohnoutka reminded the Milaca Elementary students that there are real people behind books, like himself.
“Maybe I will inspire you to be an artist, like David Shannon inspired me,” he said.