Anita Amdahl Elco, author of “Who’s In That Shell?,” poses with Mabel librarian Donna Johnson, at right, and board member Betty Holty, left. Elco will hold a workshop and be available for book signing at the library on Thursday, July 24, at 10 a.m. DAVID STOEGER/NEWS-RECORD
Anita Amdahl Elco, author of “Who’s In That Shell?,” poses with Mabel librarian Donna Johnson, at right, and board member Betty Holty, left. Elco will hold a workshop and be available for book signing at the library on Thursday, July 24, at 10 a.m. DAVID STOEGER/NEWS-RECORD
A children’s author with local ties will be holding a workshop and book-signing event at the Mabel Public Library on Thursday, July 24, starting at 10 a.m. The topic of the book and workshop is small creatures that live in small shells known as hermit crabs.
Anita Amdahl Elco, co-author of “Who’s In That Shell?” spent part of her childhood in Mabel but was mostly raised in Fountain Hills, Ariz. However, she comes back periodically during the summer to stay with her grandparents, Curt and Sylvia Wennis, who live in Hesper.
She now lives primarily in Scottsdale, Ariz., with her husband and three children.
“I was always kind of able to keep my roots here (in Mabel) even though I had grown up for the most part in Fountain Hills,” she said.
Elco has been a high school English teacher in Arizona for the past 11 years in addition to doing some teaching at an area community college. “There is a lot of reading in my background, a lot of writing and a love for reading.”
Elco also explained how she loves to choose books that she knows her students would read from cover to cover.
“I would really seek out those reluctant readers — the ones who maybe ‘faked’ their way through their book reports through their middle school years and early high school years and really tried to find a book that they would be interested in,” she added. “With that in mind, that is how my co-author and I approached this book — to find something that was going to engage our readers….”
The book was written with fellow English teacher Katherine Stelmach who introduced her to hermit crabs as pets — which later became the inspiration for the book.
“They are super easy pets…so we (Elco’s family) got some and started watching them. As Katherine and I would watch our kids play and talk about the daily activities (of the crabs) — this concept of writing a book came about,” Elco said. “A lot of the antics that happen in the book are things that we have seen happen in the tank.”
Elco went on to explain the book is interactive and exciting for readers at the early elementary level.
“We kind of combined it all. We have the illustrations, we have the chapters and we also have those interactive questions that begin in chapter four that allow readers to make choices of who they want to meet, and the behavior and choices they want their characters to have,” she said. “So, you don’t read the book cover to cover. It looks like a big book for young readers but the fact is that you can read that book four different times and you will make different choices and learn the characters reaction to choices.”
The book has also come in use in science classrooms. “It really supports the discussion of habitats, and how you can keep an animal safe, healthy and happy.”
The book has already won several awards since it was released in 2012, including the Pannicle Book Achievement Award, The Purple Dragon Fly Award for children’s literature, a bronze award and a five star rating in the Readers Favorite Awards along with the Arizona Authors Association Award.
“We have a local (Arizona) publisher so we’ve been doing a lot of local sales and trying to branch out as much as we can outside of the state and doing workshops,” Elco said.
The workshop coming to the Mabel Public Library on July 24 will include an introduction to the book and it’s format. She will also have a 13-gallon tank on hand where the children will have the opportunity to build a “crab habitat” and interact with the hermit crabs.
“We talk about what the hermit crabs need in the book to be safe, healthy and happy,” she said. “We start with the sand and we build our way up and the kids come up and they help and they put things in — and they design the tank. It ends up looking a lot like the travel tank that I have.”
Attendees at the workshop will have the opportunity to purchase the book for $13.50.
“I am looking forward to it,” said librarian Donna Johnson. “And I am not an animal person and this really looks creepy-crawly. It sounds very interesting and I know that kids will just love it.”
Elco’s visit will serve as a kick off to the library’s summer reading program. Board member Betty Holty said the program will include a different feature each week. The programs include a session about service dogs, a session where area 4-H students will bring in their animals and a presentation by the Minnesota Historical Society about a noted Minnesota author, Maude Hart Lovelace.
“Who’s In That Shell” will not be the last book of its kind. Elco said she and her co-author are working on the second book in the series and they have the outlines done for five additional books. The second book is expected to be released next spring.