Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Education

May 8, 2008

Dyslexia and the children's book: Henry Winkler's hero finds unique solutions to school problems

(Continued)

Hilarity ensues as Hank's model of Niagara Falls floods the classroom.

"The emotion, the frustration, the trying to figure out how to solve the problem is very real. We have all lived it. But the humor is exaggerated," Winkler said of the book series.

SIDEBAR

The Townsman talked with Winkler last week over the phone from his Los Angeles home, for a Q&A about Hank Zipzer, coming to Andover and living with dyslexia.

What's new and different about Hank in "The Life of Me," your 14th book?

It's longer, double-sized and it's yellow and black — we've never used yellow and black before (laughs).

Hank has his first crush. (Writing about that) is different because you don't want it to be mushy, but you want it to be realistic. She is such a cool girl and her name is Zoe, my daughter's name. Zoe is 27 and a preschool teacher.

What of your own personality do you see in Hank?

Hank is based on me, on my inability to learn, my difficulty. The pressure that I felt, wanting so badly to do well, and not understanding why my brain wasn't working like everyone else's. That reality connects with over 2 million readers, from moms, teachers, librarians to kids that know someone with that challenge (of a learning disability).

My imagination has personality, and my brain is a little reluctant.

It's amazing to me — the letters we get, and people write, "I didn't find one chapter, one paragraph boring," or, "I laughed so hard that my funny bone fell out of my body."

If Lin (Oliver, his co-author) and I don't laugh (when we're writing together), it doesn't go in the book. Hank doesn't say, "Woe is me, I've got a challenge." It's, "Hey, what do I do know?"

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