BY KATHY CHANG
EDISON — As author/illustrator Marc Brown, known for the “Arthur” books and television series, welcomed the arrival of students at Martin Luther King Elementary School into the gymnasium, he was peppered with questions from the kindergartners who were the first to arrive.
“Why is Arthur always in a yellow sweater?”, “What is Arthur’s favorite color?” were some of the questions that were asked.
The quirky aardvark still resonates with children today despite the fact that his first novel “Arthur’s Nose” was published in 1976 and the “Arthur” television series, which began in 1994, has been the longest running animated show airing on PBS.
To answer the kindergartner’s questions, Brown said in the television series they currently are trying to change up Arthur’s wardrobe and Arthur’s favorite color is green, which was revealed in the book “Arthur Turns Green”, a story in which Arthur works on listing all the ways to save energy at home and to go green.
Principal Diane Wilton said she starts out the school year introducing the students to “Arthur’s Nose,” which is a story of friendship and kindness.
Also Wilton said she was excited to welcome Brown for the first time to Martin Luther King Elementary School, a kindergarten to fifth-grade school, on March 8 since she has a lot of “Arthurs” in her life.
“I tend to gravitate toward them,” she said.
Brown said the things that happen in his Arthur books have happened through moments in his life whether it happens at a school visit or with his family.
“They stick in my head and I want to write about it,” he said. “The characters in my book are based on people I know.”
The Arthur character came to him 40 some years ago when his son, Tolan, who is now an adult, was a young boy.
“I had just lost my teaching job and I was sad and depressed,” he recalled.
Brown said his son insisted for him to tell him a bed time story with a weird animal.
“[Tolan] told me “Maybe it would make you feel better” and you know what, it did,” he told the students. “Once upon a time, an aardvark named Arthur [was born].”
Brown told the students that the illustration of the aardvark has transformed from the character having a long nose to over time a different shorter nose and another difference is the character wears glasses.
The Arthur novels have sold more than 65 million books in the United States, touching on issues that are important to children.
Brown showed a clip from the television series during his visit, which portrayed the difficulty of understanding Alzheimer’s disease.
Brown’s books, apps, e-Books and television shows are enjoyed by children in more than 80 countries around the world.
The books and television series have won numerous awards including the New York Times Bestseller list, several Emmy Awards and the George Foster Peabody Award for Excellence in Broadcasting.
Brown said his book “Arthur Meets the President” has brought him to work with former First Ladies Barbara Bush and Laura Bush as well as a ride on Air Force One.
The author/illustrator said he receives 100,000 letters from all over the world at his studio, which is at his home that dates to 1735 on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.
During his visit, he surprised the students with a reading of his friend, author R.L. Stine’s new book “Mary McScary” that is expected to be released this fall. Brown said he did the illustration for the book.
For more information visit marcbrownstudios.com.