MANCHESTER – Author Dan Gutman may not be running for president but if he were in the running, he’d certainly get the support of the students, staff and parents of the Manchester Elementary School.
Gutman visited several classrooms, made presentations, enjoyed a luncheon with students and capped off his time at the school with a special evening reception held in the gymnasium.
“It really was a special night thanks to the staff, families, students, the PTA, Manchester Township Education Association, PRIDE committee for their support, and of course Dan Gutman,” Manchester Township Elementary School Media Specialist Laura Henry said.
His appearance was part of its one book challenge where families were provided a free copy of Gutman’s book, “The Kid Who Ran for President.”
The event took place days before President’s Day involved students in kindergarten thru 5th grade. “The kids really like him,” Henry said.
The school’s principal, Linda Waldron echoed that remark as she looked out to the crowded auditorium watching as parents and students lined up to speak to the author and have their book signed. Others played games at the table manned by staff of the Manchester branch of the Ocean County Library. Their game included a spinning wheel that featured Gutman’s face pinned to the wheel where you could win a prize.
“There was some amazing team work that put this all together. Our media specialist got our author,” Waldron said.
Gutman was born in New York City, and soon moved to Newark. He graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in psychology in 1977 and started graduate school in that field until moving to New York City in 1980 to start a writing career.
The author was a magazine editor and columnist. While editor-in-chief of Stag, he became a fan of video games and launched a video-game magazine. “I started a magazine about video games and suddenly I was an expert in video games. I started writing about them and computers. All for grownups. It took me a long time to realize that writing for grownups was not my thing and that what I was good at was writing for kids,” Gutman said.
Two of his books are about Judson Moon, who became President of the United States at the age of 12. His 1996 novel “The Kid Who Ran for President” was compared to Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign by comedian John Oliver during an August 2016 segment of the show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. As a result, the book jumped in sales.
Waldron said that “We picked a good book for the one book challenge. Copies of the book were given out to 550 families all of whom read together over the last month in preparation for this event. We buy the book as a gift in January which is a good month because it is the winter and it’s a good time for students to read. We promoted it around the school and on the morning announcement and broadcast news in the classroom.”
“Dan read a chapter of a book that will be released next week,” Waldron said during the event. “He did several assemblies and talked about the writing process and the kids were great. They asked a lot of good questions,” Waldron said.
Gutman agreed. “They asked some really interesting questions. This was a lot of fun. It was nice to sit around a table and have some individual conversations with the students.”
Students talked with him about their favorite book and characters. “They also asked me where I got my ideas from,” Gutman added.
Among the students who took part in that luncheon were 3rd graders Lauren Gilbert, 9, and Madison Peck, 9.
“I like that his books are funny,” Lauren said. She brought along her copy of “Mrs. Coohaly Is Loony!” for Gutman to autograph.
“Miss Daisy is Crazy,” is my favorite book, Madison said. Her favorite character is “AJ.”
Melissa Didia, the president of the school’s PTA said she was happy to see the large turnout for the event and that it represented a wonderful community collaboration as well as nice family event.
A sequel to “The Kid Who Ran for President,” “The Kid Who Became President” was published on June 1, 2012. The author has 150 books published in multiple languages around the world.