The latest of the collection, “The True Story of Zippy Chippy: The Little Horse That Couldn't,” was released just a few days prior on February 25, and Bennett was eager to share it with parents and toddlers.
Bennett’s first foray into prose, the book tells the tale of a real race horse named Zippy Chippy, who became a folk hero in the process of losing every one of the 100 events he competed in.
Zippy, who now resides on a farm for retired horses, descends from a line of racing champions. Even though he wasn’t very good, racing is in Zippy’s blood and the horse never once lost his enthusiasm on the track.
“His story is inspirational,” says Bennett, “and it tells us the important thing is just to try your heart out.”
A veteran of the publishing industry, Bennett has been an executive copy editor at Random House Children’s Books for nearly 30 years. A Brooklyn native, his resume begins at the University of Georgia, where he earned a journalism degree and wrote for the student paper, The Red & Black.
Upon graduating, Bennett stayed in the south and worked for The Athens Banner-Herald for several years before moving on to toil as a gardener’s apprentice on a kibbutz in the Galilee region of Israel.
Almost a year later, he returned to the states and found his way back to the world of words.
It was a little more than a decade ago when Bennett first decided to try his hand at writing his own book. In January of 2010, his first work was published. “The Butt Book” was a whimsical homage to Dr. Seuss’s classics, which gives credit to the little respected body part.
Bennett’s catalog of picture books cover a variety of quirky subject matter that is certain to engage kids, including meltdowns, feet, gas and poop. He also has two joke books, one about dinosaurs and the other revolving around school.
“I pick topics that I thought would be interesting for me to explore, and I felt that I could do something a little different with,” he says. “I started out maybe something of an overgrown kid myself, and these subjects fascinated me my entire life.”
Through each of his works, Bennett entertains with humor and masterful wordplay, while at the same time enhancing the material with scientific background and fun facts.
Despite a typical audience of ages two to 10, Bennett makes a point to incorporate rich vocabulary in his work unexpected for a children’s book, but that kids can pick up using contextual clues.
For example, the pages of “The True Story of Zippy Chippy” feature words like “hapless,” “rambunctious,’ “waft,” “shenanigans” and “ballyhoo” that are intended to enrich a child’s vocabulary.
Perhaps the most important goal Bennett sets for storytime events and school and museum visits is to inspire a love of reading in a generation of youngsters that is often glued to electronic devices.
“If kids develop the habit of reading at an early age,” says Bennett, “it will really stay with them their entire lives and make them more well-rounded human beings, who are better equipped to deal with the challenges of life as they get older.”
Over the years, Bennett says the process of conceiving his stories and sharing them with the world has been a joyful and gratifying experience.
Most of all, the positive feedback and excitement for his work received by students, teachers, librarians and other readers makes the challenging venture of publishing and promoting a book worth it.
Just recently, the author received an email out of the blue from someone who picked up a copy of “The Butt Book” for a friend undergoing chemotherapy.
The gentlemen explained to Bennett that he thought the jovial nature of the picture book would offset some of the suffering his friend is enduring.
“When you hear something like that it really makes it all worthwhile,” Bennett says
Thursday’s crowd at Astoria Bookshop enjoyed the tender images and touching story of Zippy Chippy, as well as tBennett’s “Peter Panda Melts Down!” and the hilarious verses (and subliminal behinds) of “The Butt Book.”
Bennett is currently working up ideas for both verse and prose. More information about the seasoned author, as well as resources to get in touch with him for school visits, is available at artiebennett.com.