MAGNETAWAN – The first time young fans met Tusker, he was saving the day. Now, he’s saving Christmas.
George Brooks of Magnetawan is back with another story and colouring book featuring his friend Tusker.
Tusker is a stuffed elephant who travels with author George Brooks to book signings, including an upcoming signing on Saturday, Oct. 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Summers Attic in Magnetawan.
Brooks will be signing alongside another local author Kirk Duguid, who is promoting his new police-inspired novel The First Drug Squad.
Brooks, a retired elementary school principal and grandfather, brought his story-telling character Tusker, an elephant that is unlike other elephants, to life with Tusker Saves the Day and now he’s back in Tusker's First Christmas.
Thanks to the success of the first book, Tusker is back.
“It’s not a best seller but we’re happy with it,” said Brooks, adding that children’s books such as the Tusker stories generally don’t become big sellers unless a publisher such as Scholastic picks it up, which they haven’t. Yet.
“Where I’ve been doing well is at the book signings at places like Chapters and Coles,” he said. “They do you a nice setup and you feel very important.”
As well as in Magnetawan, Brooks has two upcoming signings in Coles in Welland and at Chapters in St. Catherines.
He says two years ago he was approached to do a book signing at Chapters and felt very special.
“They have a children’s book section the size of my house,” he said. “Those have gone well. I love getting people talking while I’m doing the signing.”
He says the book did well enough that his illustrator, who happens to be his daughter Kim, agreed to a second book.
“If we cover our costs that would be lovely,” he smiled.
The plush Tusker puppet has met many young people over the years and was a gift from one of his students, one of many gifts of elephants over the years.
“There must be 80 or 100 elephant-shaped articles made out of everything from wood to metal to fabric,” he said.
However, it is the plush puppet that makes the journey with Brooks when he sets out to see the children.
“When I go to a school or to do a reading, Tusker always comes,” he said.
The children are always thrilled to see Tusker and Brooks, who has a comforting grandfatherly smile and the story-telling style of a master as the children listen attentively.
“They always have some questions and respond to questions in a way I know that they have been listening,” said the author, who admits that he tends to be very animated during his presentations. “It becomes very interactive. It’s not just someone telling a story.”
Common questions include: Are there more stories to come? How old is Tusker? Does he have friends? How does Brooks come up with writing a story?
And there is no way Tusker is going to pass up a chance for a cuddle.
“If a child says ‘May I hold him?’ Absolutely! How could I say no?” said Brooks.
Like Brook’s last tale, there is a message that comes along with Tusker's First Christmas, which teachers can pick up on if they want, but Brooks says he does not come off as preachy.
“The message in this story is that there are needy and to share creates a good feeling,” he said.
Brooks says he has so many Tusker stories that have messages stored away, tales not yet put onto paper, about being afraid of water, Easter, fishing (including the joys of, rules and etiquette) and the first story ever told, how Tusker got his name.
“For some reason we didn’t do that one first,” he said.
But it was Tusker Saves Day that stemmed from a love of story telling for his grandchildren that prompted it to be penned first. Perhaps, if we’re lucky, we’ll find out how Tusker got his name another day.