ELYRIA — Anyone with children likely knows the best-selling, award-winning story of “The Day the Crayons Quit.”
Now, author Drew Daywalt has a new book coming out, illustrated by Elyria artist David Spencer.
The book, which will be released by Penguin Books on Oct. 23, is titled “The Epic Adventures of Huggie and Stick” and stars a grouchy stuffed bunny and a happy-go-lucky stick who travel the world after being thrown from a backpack.
“Together this odd couple survives encounters with sea-faring pirates, raging rhinos in Africa, sword-wielding royalty in Europe, stick-eating panda bears in Asia, sharks in Australia, hungry penguins in Antarctica, and piranhas in South America — all before finally making it home to North America,” reads the description from the publisher.
Spencer is on his own adventure, having doodled and drawn his entire life to finding a career in product design and then home design to having his illustrations published in a children’s book set for widespread release.
Spencer grew up in Vermilion, graduating from Vermilion High School in 1999. The 37-year-old attributes his skill to being forced to go to karate tournaments as a child.
“My mom used to drag us to these karate tournaments all over the place,” Spencer recalled. “I hated it. I used to draw in the back of the car on all of those long trips.”
Spencer graduated from the Columbus College of Art and Design and made licensed products sold to major retailers, such as Spencer’s in Midway Mall. Currently, he creates embellishments for home decor at K&K Interior in Sandusky.
“I’ve always been an illustrator, but I never took it to this level,” he said.
When Spencer’s son was born seven years ago, he wrote and illustrated a children’s book, “Charlie Goes to Bed,” about a little boy who wants to do everything but go to bed, like ride a dinosaur and be a pirate. But in the end, he gets so tired, he goes to bed anyway.
Spencer tried shopping the book around, but didn’t get any bites until an agent contacted him about possibly being an illustrator for other author’s books.
It took about a year, but Spencer created 100 illustrations for that purpose.
Then, two and a half years ago, he got a call from his agent saying, “I have kind of a big deal for you.”
“I told my wife, Pattie, and we were like, ‘Oh my God, this is cool,’ and ‘OK, let’s get shoes on and lunches packed, because we have kids and jobs and have to get back to it,’” he said.
But working on the book has been an exciting experience.
“(Daywalt) didn’t have any hand in how I did anything,” Spencer said. “We would spitball back and forth, but he let me do what I wanted and, for a first-time illustrator, that was pretty cool.”
Spencer will make the rounds for the book, popping up at book fairs and libraries, and possibly signing copies at bookstores.
“It’s my book, right,” he joked.
He also is up to visiting local schools for book readings.
“I love presenting to kids because they have the same energy level as me,” he said.
And he has an important message for kids as well — don’t give up.
“As someone who has fell into it and out of it his whole life, you don’t have to be paid for it to love it,” he said. “So many people out there don’t follow through with this particular passion. If you want to do it, pursue it. Always keep in mind, there is a giant world of creativity out there, and sure 1,000 people may have drawn Spider-Man, but no one has seen your Spider-Man.”
Spencer is working on a horror/sci-fi comic with friends for Dark Creations magazine. He’s also working on a “weird Halloween story,” that’s going rather slowly. And once a month, he travels to art shows and festivals to put his art out there in the world.
He’s also writing a book for his 3-year-old daughter, Cora. He had been waiting until she was old enough to determine her personality, silly and godzilla-like, so she would have a book like her brother does.
Cora’s book is about a girl with a wand, who goes around changing boring things into fun things, and in the end, all she really wants is hugs from mom and dad … on top of a dinosaur.
The story is written, now Spencer is working on the illustrations.
“I used to draw comics all of the time as a kid,” he said. “Now, I draw a variety, but I’m always drawing something, even if I’m just doodling weird monsters or animals. I can’t even watch movies without doing a second thing. I create something all of the time or build something. I don’t just waste time sitting there watching ‘Breaking Bad.’”
Even if he’s not the best, Spencer said he is a hard worker.
“I always have something on the back burner,” he said. “I have a to-do list a mile long. I’m always learning new things when it comes to illustration, so if you like drawing trucks, keep drawing trucks. Draw trucks and get really good at it. If it sells, great. But do it for yourself because you never know what is actually going to sell.”
The 40-page hardcover book “The Epic Adventures of Huggie and Stick” costs $17.99 and will be available online and anywhere books are sold beginning Oct. 23.