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James Patterson's newest children's book proves dreams are no laughing matter


August 23, 2017

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In "Laugh Out Loud" (JIMMY Patterson, $13.99, 304 pages, ages 8-11), Jimmy has a dream to start his own book company — for kids, run by kids. When he tells adults about his dream, they laugh at him, telling him it is impossible.

This is something the author, James Patterson, luckily didn't have to face too much in his own childhood, especially from his family.

"My mother was a school teacher and indulged my interest in stories," Patterson said, "but it was my grandparents, especially my grandmother, who encouraged me the most."

This encouragement led to multiple New York Times best-sellers and, as of January 2016, more than 350 million books sold worldwide, according to Patterson's website. In fact, "Laugh Out Loud" is published by JIMMY Patterson, Patterson's children's book imprint with Little, Brown and Company.

While Jimmy from "Laugh Out Loud" started writing stories at a young age, and developed the idea to start his own publishing company, for Patterson, the desire to write a book came in his late teens.

"After I graduated from high school, I got a job working as an aide at a psychiatric hospital and started reading everything I could," Patterson said.

While working at the hospital, Patterson was influenced by a famous American writer and poet.

"Robert Lowell was a patient at the hospital, and he used to hold poetry readings in his room for the three psychiatric aides, including myself, who hoped to be writers someday. He inspired me," Patterson said.

Little, Brown published his first book, "The Thomas Berryman Number" more than a decade later. This was when he realized his dream was coming true.

"I was still in my 20s when it came out and I felt so lucky and proud to have a book with my name on it," Patterson said.

That book went on to win an Edgar Award for best first novel, and Patterson hasn't stopped churning out the stories since.

In "Laugh Out Loud," Jimmy is inspired by events around him and writes stories to make people laugh and use their imagination. When he can't figure out how to get his book published, he publishes it himself.

Patterson is an advocate of kids reading and writing. His foundation, ReadKiddoRead helps inspire a new generation of kids to be excited about reading and has resources for parents, teachers and librarians to assist kids in their love of literature.

Part of this foundation includes lists and review of books for all ages of readers. "Laugh Out Loud" plays a part in encouraging kids to read by name-dropping children's books, both classic and modern, with a sentence or two about why Jimmy thinks kids should read them.

Patterson said reading is the key for children who want to be writers like him someday.

"My best advice is to read everything you can," he said. "Read, read, read. Find your own voice, but never stop reading."

The moral of "Laugh Out Loud" isn't for every kid who reads it to go out and start their own publishing company. Patterson said every dream of every kid is important, no matter what that dream may be.

"I think writing and publishing are interesting, and I hope kids enjoy those aspects of the book," Patterson said. "But I don’t mind if they don’t remember the specifics, or finish the story and think, 'I don’t know if I want to start my own publishing company.' I want kids to walk away inspired to pursue their own dream, whatever that might be."

Patterson's dreams of being a writer, publisher, philanthropist, husband and father all come back to the same thing.

"Don’t shy away from big ideas, but don’t expect to succeed without a lot of work," he said. "The bad news is, sometimes that’s hard — but the good news is that dedicating your time to something you love makes work seem a lot more like play."

For Jimmy in "Laugh Out Loud," that means free pizza and a ferris wheel instead of an elevator at his job. For Patterson, it's more than that.

"I like to be very involved, especially with the kids’ books," he said. "When you get to see your work make a difference in a kid’s life, it’s even better than free pizza."

"Laugh Out Loud" isn't just for kids. Patterson wants to inspire people of all ages to remember those dreams they may have rolled or tucked away and go after them.

"Sometimes parents forget what being a kid is like," he said. "Kids can inspire adults just as much as parents inspire kids — even more, I would say. I hope everyone who reads this book feels inspired by Jimmy’s story."

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