By Sue Botos
Everyone knows children love to push adults’ buttons. But according to author, illustrator and musician Bill Cotter, that’s just fine.
In fact, Cotter told his young audience, Feb.20 at the Rocky River Public Library, he dedicated his first book, “Don’t Push the Button!” to his mom and dad. “(They) always encouraged me even when I was pushing their buttons,” he said, also thanking them for sending him to art school.
The laid-back Rocky River native, a graduate of St. Christopher School and St. Ignatius High School (class of 2004) invited the kids, parents and grandparents to join him in favorite tunes such as the ABC song and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” as he accompanied with his acoustic guitar.
“Here’s a song I used to sing when I was a music teacher,” said Cotter, launching into “News of the Day.” After graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2008, he moved to New York City, where he spent several years teaching preschool art and music. It was this experience and real-life interactions with his students that provided the inspiration for his books.
A bit of this popped up during “News of the Day.” “Who has some news, to share?” he asked the audience, getting the expected answers such as birthdays. “Green Day!” offered one young fan, much to the amusement of the adults.
Cotter also got some help from a small illustrator who could barely reach the bottom of the white board, as Cotter demonstrated how to draw Larry, a friendly monster who stars in “Don’t Push the Button!” and its sequel, “Don’t Touch this Book!”
Sharing two of his books with the audience, Cotter revealed Larry has only one rule: no one can press the buttons throughout the book. Eventually Larry’s curiosity gets the best of him and he urges readers to press the buttons with some surprising results.
“This is my library. I grew up here reading picture and children’s books,” said Cotter. He admitted, though, to being a bit of a reluctant reader and credited the Rocky River children’s librarians for nurturing his love of books.
As he revealed on his Facebook post recalling his visit, “Admittedly, when I was a kid, I spent at least 90 percent of my time at the library playing Oregon Trail on a giant clunky beige computer. I was mostly concerned which method was best for getting my imaginary frontier family across a digital river.”
But, he added, the other 10 percent started him on his career path. “I’ll forever be grateful to the librarians at RRPL for teaching a very reluctant reader that books could be fun.”
Also the author of “Beard in a Box” and “Hello Airplane,” Cotter, who is again living and working in Cleveland, hopes to broaden his artistic endeavors to include animation.