Dillon Helbig, a second-grader who lives in Idaho, wrote about a Christmas adventure on the pages of a red-cover notebook and illustrated it with colored pencils.
When he finished it in mid-December, he decided he wanted to share it with other people. So much, in fact, that he hatched a plan and waited for just the right moment to pull it off.
Days later, during a visit to the Ada Community Library’s Lake Hazel Branch in Boise with his grandmother, he held the 81-page book to his chest and passed by the librarians. Then, unbeknown to his grandmother, Dillon slipped the book onto a children’s picture-book shelf. Nobody saw him do it.
“It was naughty-ish,” Dillon, 8, said of covertly depositing the book without permission. But the result, he added, is “pretty cool.”
The book, titled “The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis,” is signed “by Dillon His Self.”
He later confessed to his mother, Susan Helbig, that he slid his book into the stacks and left it there, undetected. But when they returned about two days later, to the spot where he left the notebook, it was missing. Helbig called the library to ask whether anyone had found Dillon’s notebook and to request that they please not throw it away.
Branch manager Alex Hartman said he was surprised at Dillon’s bold move.
“It was a sneaky act,” said Hartman, laughing. But Dillon’s book “was far too obviously special an item for us to consider getting rid of it.”
Hartman and a few co-workers had discovered and read Dillon’s book – which describes his adventures putting an exploding star on his Christmas tree and being catapulted back to the first Thanksgiving and the North Pole. They found it very entertaining.
Hartman read the book to his 6-year-old son, Cruzen, who giggled and said it was one of the funniest books he’d ever known.
“Dillon is a confident guy and a generous guy. He wanted to share the story,” Hartman said. “I don’t think it’s a self-promotion thing. He just genuinely wanted other people to be able to enjoy his story. … He’s been a lifelong library user, so he knows how books are shared.”
The staff librarians who read Dillon’s book agreed that as informal and unconventional as it was, the book met the selection criteria for the collection in that it was a high-quality story that was fun to read. So, Hartman asked Helbig for permission to tack a bar code onto the book and formally add it to the library’s collection.
Dillon’s parents enthusiastically said “yes,” and the book is now part of the graphic-novels section for kids, teens and adults. The library even gave Dillon its first Whoodini Award for Best Young Novelist, a category the library created for him, named after the library’s owl mascot.
Susan Helbig said she was tickled at the librarians’ willingness to encourage her son and happy for Dillon that he actually got his book officially into the library for people to read.
“His imagination is just constantly going, and he is a very creative little boy,” said Helbig, 41, adding that he regularly entertains her and her husband, Alex Helbig. “He just comes up with these amazing stories and adventures, and we just kind of follow along.”
As luck would have it, the lone copy of “The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis” has become a book in demand.
KTVB, a news station in Boise, reported on Dillon’s book caper earlier this month, and since then, area residents have begun adding themselves to a waiting list to check it out. As of Saturday, there was a 55-person waitlist.
And though it doesn’t take long to read the book, library patrons are allowed to hold onto books for up to four weeks. With a waitlist that long, the library does not allow renewals.
“We hope that our borrowers keep in mind other people who would like to get their hands on the book,” said Hartman, who said he heard from someone in Texas who hoped to get Dillon’s book through an interlibrary loan. The answer was no.
Usually, if a book has a long waiting list, the library will purchase additional copies, but that is not possible with this one-of-a-kind item. Hartman is talking with Dillon’s mom about possibly creating an e-book version of “The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis” to share.
With all the attention, a local children’s writer, Cristianne Lane, has offered to lead a writing workshop with Dillon at the library, Hartman said.
“We’re just hoping that … children find inspiration to write their own stories and share those with other people,” Hartman said. “I just think it’s a good demonstration to share with other kids.”
Dillon’s mom said he might be a writer.
“I also kind of think that he might become a librarian,” Hartman added. “We in libraries love stories and love to share them.”
Dillon shared some breaking news for his readers: He is working on a sequel to the “Crismis” book, which ends with a home visit from the Grinch and, eventually, revenge on the Christmas killjoy. In it, Dillon’s dog, Rusty, will join the story.
Dillon is also writing a different book about a closet that eats up jackets.
As word spread around Dillon’s school, a cafeteria worker told him she can’t wait to see his book. Some kids in his class have said that they, too, want to write stories.
“It’s pretty neat to see how he’s inspiring little minds,” Susan Helbig said.