'He just genuinely wanted other people to be able to enjoy his story,' the librarian said of the young author's sneaky plan.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 1, 2022
Dillon Helbig, a second grader who lives in Idaho, has always had big aspirations. "I've been wanting to put a book in the library since I was 5," the 8-year-old told local news station KTVB. After toying with the idea for three years, Dillon decided to go through with his plan last month after his grandmother gave him an empty journal. Two or three days of writing and drawing later, the amateur author waited for the right moment to slip his creation onto a library shelf. The opportunity presented itself just days later during a visit to the Ada Community Library's Lake Hazel Branch in Boise with his grandmother.
Unbeknown to his grandmother and the librarians, Dillon slipped the 81-page book onto a children’s picture-book shelf. "It was naughty-ish," the youngster told The Washington Post. However, the end result of his covert operation, he added, is "pretty cool." Having successfully executed the plan, Dillon later told his family that he had written a book and it could be checked out at the library. But when the boy and his mother, Susan Helbig, returned to the library about two days later and checked the spot where he left the notebook, it was missing.
Helbig called the library to ask whether anyone had found her son's book, titled "The Adventures of Dillon Helbig's Crismis," and signed "by Dillon His Self." "His parents were worried we would find his book and we would get rid of it," Lake Hazel Library branch manager Alex Hartman said. "Which was an unfounded fear because if there's ever a place a book would be safe, it would be here." He admitted that he was surprised at Dillon's bold move. "It was a sneaky act," Hartman said, laughing. But Dillon's book “was far too obviously special an item for us to consider getting rid of it," he added.
Hartman and a few co-workers had discovered and read Dillon's book which describes his adventures of decorating a tree when the star on top explodes. "I think someone overnight put a bomb in there and it just exploded," Dillon said. The explosion sucks the boy into a portal and catapults him back to the first Thanksgiving and the North Pole. "Everything about it was a bit crazy," the young writer shared. The staff librarians found "The Adventures of Dillon Helbig's Crismis" very entertaining and when Hartman read the book to his 6-year-old son, Cruzen, the boy 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 agreed that as informal and unconventional as it was, Dillon's book met the selection criteria for the collection as it was a high-quality story that was fun to read. When 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.
"The Adventures of Dillon Helbig's Crismis" is now part of the graphic-novels section for kids, teens and adults and has even earned its author the Whoodini Award for Best Young Novelist, a category—named after the library's owl mascot—created for Dillon. "His imagination is just constantly going, and he is a very creative little boy," the boy's proud mom revealed, adding that he often entertains her and her husband, Alex Helbig. "He just comes up with these amazing stories and adventures, and we just kind of follow along."
Since being officially added to the library, "The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis" has become a hot-ticket item with area residents adding themselves to a waiting list to check it out. As of Saturday, there was a 55-person waitlist. While it doesn't take long to read the book, library patrons are allowed to hold onto books for up to four weeks and considering the long waitlist, 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.
While Dillon's mom thinks her son might grow up to be a writer, Hartman believes the youngster might also become a librarian. "We in libraries love stories and love to share them," he said. Meanwhile, Dillon recently shared some exciting 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. His dog, Rusty, will also be featured in the story. Dillon is also writing a different book about a closet that eats up jackets.