JOHN CARSWELL - For the Daily Union
SHELBYVILLE, IL. —
When Shelbyville teacher Tom Rood retired in 2007 he already had plans to keep himself busy. One of those plans was to write some books for his four grandchildren. But what started as a single book turned into 13.
Rood explained, “The first book is very simple like a kindergarten reading book, with rhyming sentences and repetition. It was designed to just to get them into reading and it just took off from there.”
What makes Rood’s books unique is that there is no photocopying of any of the color pencil artwork. It is all original and done by hand. He estimates the number of original drawings to be “in the several hundreds.”
Rood has Corner Copy make additional copies for others, but five original books go to each grandchild and his wife Jane. He then has them professionally bound in Urbana. Rood estimates he spent eight months on each book which draw on his years of teaching experiencing the trials and tribulations of most school kids.
Apparently you can’t be an elementary teacher for 33 years and not still like to color. Rood printed the outline of each caricature and filled each in with colored pencil.
On “Beast in my Backpack”, he switched to acrylic paint, “Just to try something different.” The paint was much harder to perfectly reproduce numerous times, so on those he used photocopying .
His grandchildren are Kate Goodman, 9; Tyson Rood, 9; Holly Rood, 4; and Kylie Rood, 2. Each child is “hidden” somewhere in each book in the form of an animal that represents each one. He has a duck named Roby (Holly), a bird named Nokey (Kylie); Willie the duck (Tyson) and a pixyish chick called The Coop (Kate). He says the nicknames are another story in itself.
The names of the books are “Rhyme Time with Willie and The Coop”; “Cuthbert Goes to School”; “The Christmas Kitten”; “Princesses Don’t Drive Tractors”; “City Dog, Country Dog”; “The Boy Who Got a Zero”; “If Pirates Went to School”; “Roby’s Animal Rhymes”; “Pobody’s Nerfect”; “Don’t Wake up the Cat”; “Nokey’s World”; “The Phineas Finch Mysteries” and “There’s a Beast in my Backpack”.
“There’s a Beast in my Backpack” explains who is really to blame for broken pencils, wrong math answers and half-eaten sandwiches — a lime green, seven-haired, one-toothed imp.
His favorite book is, “If Pirates Went to School.” Rood explained. “Pirates represent everything you don’t do at school, and get into trouble all the time. They are the opposite of what you should do at school.”
Sorry, the books aren’t for sale. They are a testament of his love for his grandchildren and reading. He never wants it to become a commercial enterprise.
“I have no desire to do that,” he said flatly. “I don’t want to get into that selling business. This is just something for my grandchildren to have. Also, this way I can do whatever I want without an editor trying to tell me to change this word or that. A couple of people wanted the Beast so I just made an extra copy for them.”
Although you can’t buy them you can hear him read a couple this Sunday, Nov. 3, at Flourishes Gallery and Studios for First Sunday Sing. Flourishes is located at 140 ½ E. Main in downtown Shelbyville. Rood will read, “There’s a Beast in my Backpack,” and a poetry book, “Don’t Wake up the Cat.”
Rood will share the stage with Jan Phillips of Taylorville. Phillips is an accomplished singer and instrumentalist in guitar, banjo and mandolin.