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BOISE — The Ada Community Library Lake Hazel Branch has more than 40,000 books lining its shelves and just as many author profiles in its database.
But the library may have just created its youngest author profile on record in December with 8-year-old Dillon Helbig.
"There's a great likelihood that that's true," library branch manager Alex Hartman said with a laugh.
It all started when Dillon, a second grader from Boise, visited the library with his grandma and clutched an 81-page book in his hands.
The book, bound in a red leather cover, was something of Dillon's own creation.
Labeled across the front cover in large letters was the book title: "The Adventures of Dillon Helbig's Crismis" by "Dillon His Self." Down the spine of the book, Dillon created his own publishing company with an accompanying logo.
Dillon had written the book just before Christmas and told his parents, Susan and Alex Helbig, that he was going to leave it on a library shelf for other kids to read. The pair didn't believe him, thinking it was just the fun dream of a second-grader, but that's exactly what he did.
Without anyone noticing, Dillon slipped the book on a library shelf and walked out the door with 81 pages less than he walked in with. It wasn't until later in the day that he told his mother what he'd done and was worried that the library might throw it away.
In fact, the library had quite a different plan.
"Once we got our hands on the book, we took a look at it, and quickly determined that it was a good book," Hartman told the Idaho Statesman. "A high-quality book that was very relevant to our community, it fit all of our collection development criteria."
The book was soon catalogued, given a bar code, and filed in the "graphic novel for kids" section.
Flip inside and you'll find page after page of Dillon's drawings and a story detailing the 8-year-old being taken to the North Pole by Santa before falling through a portal and landing at the first Thanksgiving in 1621.
We won't give too much away.
As of Friday, there was a waiting list of 120 people wanting to check out Dillon's book from the library. If all 120 people kept the book for the full four weeks permitted, the current wait stands at about nine years. And the waiting list is only growing — on Monday that number stood at 55 people.
Because the book is one-of-a-kind, the library is unable to order additional books to help alleviate the long waiting list. It has reached the point where Hartman is discussing with Dillon's parents the potential for an e-book.
Dillon's book recently attracted the attention of The Washington Post and The New York Times — shining a spotlight on him.
"(Dillon) didn't know that he was going to become famous from it. That was never his intent," Alex Helbig said. "I think his intent was just to get his book on a shelf where people could read it."
A budding author
Dillon had been telling his parents ever since he was 5 years old that he wanted to have a book on the shelves of a library one day.
Susan Helbig was a stay-at-home mother when Dillon was born in Burbank, California. Susan is a big reader herself and would often take Dillon to the local library and search for group storytime sessions or find books to read to her son.
Susan also created a little "book nook" in Dillon's room for the youngster to continue falling in love with books at home.
"He's always had books around him," Susan said. "I've asked him what he loves about books the most and he, of course, loves the pictures and loves the story. Which I think is pretty cool that he actually pays attention to the story part of it."
But it's not just Dillon's story that captures the eye. It's the detailed pictures on every page. One page shows Dillon falling into the stomach of a giant turkey. Another page shows Dillon coming out of the portal and landing in 1621.
Dillon was steadfast on landing at the first Thanksgiving when his character came out of the portal. He was so certain about it that he asked Susan one evening when she was making dinner what year the first Thanksgiving took place.
"He was writing his book and just drawing and doodling like he always does," Susan said. "And he asked me when the very first Thanksgiving was. And I thought, 'I don't know. Let me ask Google.' So I googled it and out came the year 1621. So I thought that was pretty neat."
Although he had a heavy reading influence in his early years, his artistic talent is completely natural, Susan said.
"I, as a mom, will brag that it's just his natural talent," Susan said. "He loves to draw, he has been drawing or doodling or just creating some sort of art or creativity since the moment he could hold a pen or a pencil."
Dillon was awarded by the Ada Community Library the first Whodini Award for Young Writers, named after the library's owl mascot.
"I felt proud that my staff felt empowered enough to create this award on their own," Hartman said. "I think that we will definitely consider future submissions for subsequent awards."
Inspiring other young authors
The story of Dillon's rise to a nationally known 8-year-old author doesn't stop here. His creativity and determination have already inspired other young children around Boise to follow his lead.
Hartman's 6-year-old son, Cruzen, was one of the first children to get their hands on Dillon's book. Hartman said his son thought it was one of the funniest books he's ever read and has been writing his own stories with his parents' help since.
The daughter of another library staffer has written her own book and submitted it to the Ada Community Library for consideration to be added to their collection. Some of Dylan's classmates have also been writing their own books and hope to submit them to the library.
Local children's book writer Cristianne Lane also left Dillon a gift of two books and art supplies to use for subsequent books. Lane said that she would be willing to hold workshops for child writers at the library, Hartman said.
"One of the things that was a hope for the library staff in putting Dillon's book on the shelf," Hartman said, "was that other kids would see this and learn from Dillon's story that there are people in the community who are interested in their creative endeavors and seeing and hearing their stories."
Dillon's career as an author certainly doesn't stop here, either.
"I want to be a writer and then be a game maker," Dillon told the Statesman.
He's already planning his second book, which will be called "The Jacket-Eating Closet." And if we know anything from Dillon's first book, it'll certainly involve plenty of twists and turns.
"We just want to do the best job we can as parents to raise a good kid," Susan said. "And the fact that he's inspiring other kids and, to be honest, other adults — and he's only 8 years old — it's incredibly humbling and just, my heart is so full. We're very, very, very proud of him."