Popular childrens author, dubbed as the new Dr. Seuss, visits Gresham schools

A tall man with long blond surfer hair bounces around an auditorium filled with 560 North Gresham Elementary School students, reading from his latest book, “An Awesome Book of Love!”

All eyes are fixated on the Los Angeles-based children’s author and illustrator wearing a rainbow-colored sweater and painted tennis shoes. Screams and cheers reverberate through the school during the 30-minute assembly Wednesday, Feb. 6 — one of the most high-spirited school events children can remember.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Popular children's author Dallas Clayton passes out two-sided posters to students at North Gresham Elementary School for his latest book, 'An Awesome Book of Love!' Students gathered around Clayton at the end of the assembly for a group photo.

“If I were a dinosaur and you were a jet, there’s a chance, a good chance, that we would have never met,” Dallas Clayton says. “If I were a river and you were the sky; if I was down low and you were up high; If I were an apple and you were a sundae; if I were a Wednesday and you were a Monday; if I were spring season, and you were the fall, we might have never gotten together at all.

“But we are all of those things. You’re you, and I’m me. And we’re as together as together can be.”

Clayton’s third book in the Awesome Book! Series deals with the idea of love, being loved and “sharing his love of all the wonderful things that inspire him every day” — a fitting theme the week before Valentine’s Day.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Clayton holds a captive audience of 560 students and 50 teachers, staff and parents during his book talk Wednesday, Feb. 6. After the assembly, he painted a school mural with a handful of art students.

“What do you love?” Clayton asks students after his reading.

“My mom!” one girl says.

“Drawing!” a boy says.

“You!” a boy says.

“Me! Ah, man. I love you, too!” Clayton says.

With the student responses, Clayton and a guitarist weave a song together. Students clap and cheer more with each verse. “Love is awesome, love is really fun. Love is wonderful, and I love everyone!” they sing.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - It was a good thing North Gresham Elementary students had recess immediately after their time with Clayton, because the assembly was one of the most high-energy school events they could remember.

After the song, Clayton races down the aisle of the auditorium with a student, losing the race as he wipes out onto the floor and declares how fast the student ran.

“It was a lot louder than most assemblies,” Ethan Field, 8, a second-grader, says with a smile. “It was cool!”

His classmate, Ekekela Napoleon, 7, agrees.

“I liked that he made up the song, told us to stand up and had us sing with him. I learned that love is awesome.”

To conclude the assembly, Clayton passes out two-sided book posters and asks students to take a group photo with him. Principal Tom Klansnic jokes that he’s glad it’s recess time next with all the energy built up during the past 30 minutes.

“My favorite part was getting the posters,” Gabriela Ventura, 8, says of Clayton’s message of love. “I learned that it doesn’t matter if you’re fat or skinny, we’re all equal.”

Clayton was invited to Hall Elementary and North Gresham Elementary schools by fan Annalee Nock, a Hall Elementary student and the daughter of teacher Laurie Nock. Along with the school assemblies, Clayton painted school murals with six lucky student artists from third, fourth and fifth grades.

by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - In 2009, Clayton, dubbed the new Dr. Seuss, founded the Awesome World Foundation as a way to travel the world promoting childrens literacy.

Making his foray into children’s literature with a book he wrote for his son, Clayton says the experience changed his life. Now he “spends his days writing stories, drawing pictures, having big ideas and traveling the world sharing them with people of all ages.”

Clayton has been called “the new Dr. Seuss” and is on a Northwest tour promoting “The Awesome Book of Love!” that came out in December 2012.

Harper Collins also re-released his first book, “An Awesome Book!” in December.

In 2009, Clayton founded the Awesome World Foundation as a way to travel the world promoting children’s literacy.

For more information about Clayton’s work, visit

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