Students attending the Literacy Blast summer program at Whitemarsh Elementary School had the chance to become illustrators for the day during a visit from illustrator/author Mike Ciccotello.

Mr. Mike read his book “Beach Toys vs. School Supplies," a story about beach toys who decide to compete against school supplies in a sandcastle-building contest. When the tide threatens to destroy the school supplies’ winning castle, the beach toys team up with the school supplies to build a trench to keep the waves away. The toys wind up realizing that they are better when they work together.

Along with the message of partnership, Mr. Mike shared some secrets with the students on how to draw two of the characters in his book - Beach Ball and Glue. First, he showed the children that each character is made from a set of different shapes, such as lines, arcs, circles, ovals, and zigzags. Using those shapes, he took the children step by step through the creation of each character. Students followed along using their own sketch pads, and were excited to show off their drawings.

Mr. Mike also gave students a peek into his sketchbook. He carries one with him all the time and has done so since he was a young child. The sketchbook is a place where he jots down ideas and works on drawings for his next projects.

Students had the opportunity to ask Mr. Mike questions, and one student asked why he draws faces on all his characters. Mr. Mike noted that he has always liked to imagine that inanimate objects could have thoughts, feelings, and move around. The idea for the beach toys in his book came after he noticed that one of his son’s beach shovels had eyes, since it was made to look like a crab. 

In addition to writing and illustrating “Beach Toys,” he has also published a book called “Twins.” He serves as an illustrator for other children’s authors as well. He is also the host of “Draw with Mr. Mike,” a drawing show for children on YouTube. 

Each child participating in Literacy Blast will get a signed copy of Mr. Mike’s book. Colonial’s Summer Literacy Blast gives elementary children who were recommended for the program a chance to get extra practice and instruction in reading and writing.