Local author wrote, illustrated Later, Gator!

Graphic courtesy of Erik Brooks Later, Gator is Erik Brooks’ fifth children’s book.

Graphic courtesy of Erik Brooks
Later, Gator is Erik Brooks’ fifth children’s book.

By Ann McCreary

Local illustrator, author and Methow Valley News cartoonist Erik Brooks recently published his fifth children’s book that he both wrote and illustrated.

As an illustrator, Brooks has worked on a total of 24 books, but writing and illustrating his own stories is especially rewarding, he said.

“I get other stories to illustrate and when I have time, I get to craft my own. It’s still exciting when you have a new one of your own,” said Brooks.

His newest book is called Later, Gator! and looks at a childhood experience that can be difficult for many kids — moving to a new home.

The main character, Gator, must say goodbye to his friends and move with his parents to a place that is very different.

The picture book is geared to children between 3 and 8 years old, and engages them with rhymes and word plays.

Brooks said the idea for the story came from word games he and another father played with their children when they picked them up from preschool, inventing rhyming phrases for saying goodbye — things like “gotta scoot, malamute.”

“I wondered, ‘How can I fit the goodbyes into a story?’” Brooks said. He found a theme based on his own experiences as a child.

“I moved probably five times during school years,” said Brooks. His family lived in Alaska, Colorado and Texas, and he remembered how difficult it could be to start over and make new friends.

The book begins with Gator bidding sad goodbyes to his friends — “Hang loose, Mongoose,” and “See you soon, Baboon.”

In his new home far away, Gator misses his old friends, but they write him letters that encourage him to say hello to new friends. The story ends with Gator gathering courage to approach new friends with greetings like “Hey there, Panda Bear” and “Howdy do, Kangaroo.”

Brooks kicked off release of his new book with a signing at Trail’s End Bookstore last month, and did signings at a recent conference on children’s books in Los Angeles.

Brooks, who lives in Winthrop with his wife, Sarah, and daughter Keeley, has won awards for past books, including a Washington State Book Award for his picture book, Polar Opposites.