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I am a huge fan of the National Center for Children's Illustrated Literature (NCCIL) here in Abilene. As I was growing up I learned very quickly that if I was going to do good in school I had to learn how to be a better reader. My second-grade teacher was instrumental in helping me find the kinds of books that kept my interest and improved my reading skills.

That said, the NCCIL is an incredible addition to our community in Abilene and the Big Country. As children and Students of the Big Country are read storybooks by grown-ups of our community, and yes at one point even our Mayor of Abilene Dr. Gary McCaleb in December 1993. Dr. McCaleb entered one of our elementary schools to read to the schoolchildren and that's when it all began.

As Dr. McCaleb entered the school, one of the educators handed him a book that he was to read to the kids that day. Mayor McCaleb had never seen or heard of this book or the author before and as he began reading he was amazed that the lead character in the book said he was from Abilene Texas. The Mayor quickly then questioned the validity of this story and the book.

Being from Abilene, as the story tells, perhaps Art’s predilection stemmed from eating confections from Candies by Vletas. The book doesn’t mention this real-life candy store, now across North First Street from the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, but the shop has been serving up handmade candies in Abilene for more than 100 years.  Source: NCCL History Youtube Video

Upon discovering that this was a new book by an honest-to-goodness children's author, Mayor McCaleb had to meet him. As you'll hear Mayor McCaleb talk about how he invited the author William Joyce to come to Abilene where William would find out later that he was being honored for his incredible children's storybook with some spot-on artwork.

What's really mind-boggling is that the main character in the storybook Art Atchison Aimesworth had sweet tooth for candy of any sort. So when author William Joyce wrote the book he had no idea that the lead character would inspire a children's art literacy center in downtown Abilene and that it would be located directly across the street from one of Texas's oldest handmade candy stores called Candies by Vletas.

The rest is on the video and in the history books now.

Photo by: Facebook / NCCIL
Photo by: Facebook / NCCIL

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