‘Weird Al’ reads his new book to kids at Brookdale School
By Kathy Millen firstname.lastname@example.org February 19, 2011 5:10PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Despite his stage name, “Weird Al” Yankovic doesn’t seem all that strange.
In fact, he was ever so accommodating as he posed for pictures and signed dozens of copies of his first children’s book Friday afternoon during a visit to Brookdale Elementary School.
He was there to read his story, “When I Grow Up,” which debuted at No. 4 on The New York Times best-seller list. Later that night he gave a talk and signed more books at North Central College.
Both appearances were made possible by Anderson’s Bookshop, which has a partnership with Indian Prairie School District 204.
For more than three decades, Yankovic has entertained adults and children alike as a comedian, singer, songwriter, music producer, actor, director and now, children’s book writer. Best known for satirizing popular music and culture, he has won three Grammy Awards and sold more comedy recordings than anyone else in the history of the business.
Brookdale was his third school stop during a book tour, which is taking him next to Australia.
The entire student body, staff and dozens of parents gathered to greet Yankovic, who sprinted to the front of the room, his trademark long, curly tresses flowing.
“Today we will be reading a book by my favorite author — me,” he said.
“When I Grow Up,” which is illustrated by Wes Hargis, is a story about 8-year-old Billy who, for show-and-tell, recites a list of career possibilities that includes gorilla masseuse, rodeo clown and professional pickle inspector. The purpose of the book is to encourage kids to do what they love, said Yankovic, who has a degree in architecture.
After reading the story, Yankovic fielded questions from students.
He revealed he’s an admirer of Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein, astronaut Neil Armstrong, band leader Spike Jones, satirist Allan Sherman and “the first person to drink milk.” He talked about his early job as an accordion repo-man.
“What that means is that if the kids taking accordion lessons ever stopped taking lessons and if they didn’t return their accordions, I had to go to their house and say ‘give me back that accordion,’” he said.
He kept the kids smiling and they returned the favor when 10 Brookdale fifth-graders performed a dance to his anthem for picky eaters, “Eat It,” a take-off on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Yankovic began recording the dance number on his cell phone to send his wife and 8-year-old daughter.
His appearance at Brookdale earned him several new fans, especially among those performing the dance number. Arielle Coleman, 11, learned who Weird Al was only a few days earlier.
“I actually like his songs,” she said. “They are very energetic.”Sienna Luttrell, 11, said Yankovic’s visit was exciting.
“I had never heard of him before but now I am (a fan),” she said.
Ed Nicodemus, 10, said he has been a fan since last year and Elie Curtis, 10, said she was excited to perform for somebody famous.
Yankovic said he enjoyed his visit to Brookdale.
“I’ve always reached kids in my own way,” said Yankovic after the children headed back to their classrooms.
“My humor, I think, appeals to kids even though it’s not specifically geared toward them. ... Whatever I do, I do have kids in mind. My albums aren’t children’s records, but I know I have a large number of young followers and I try to keep my material somewhat family friendly.”
He said “When I Grow Up” has gotten good reviews. A second book is in the works and he said he hopes to write several more.
“I don’t know if you’d consider this a celebrity book, I don’t know if I qualify,” he said. “But I think most people expect celebrity picture books to be sort of vanity projects and they don’t expect too much from them. So the fact that it’s apparently actually decent is somewhat of a surprise to me.”