February 10, 2022

8-year-old author who smuggled his handwritten book into his local library becomes a literary sensation


The next, hottest, must-read author is from Idaho. Dillon Helbig has been on television talking about his Christmas themed, time-travel inspired graphic novel, and his rise to success has been written about by The New York Times, the BBC, and the Guardian. He has publishers clambering over his self-published masterpiece and has creative writing workshops in the pipeline. And oh yeah, Dillon is 8 years old.

Dillon started writing The Adventures of Dillon Helbig’s Crismis in mid-December last year, taking four days to complete his 81 page story (he has apparently been writing comic-style books since he was 5, so it was no biggie). The story recounts his adventures travelling back in time to 1621, the year of the first ever Thanksgiving, after the star on top of the Christmas tree he is decorating explodes.

Wanting his book to be read, Dillon hid it on a shelf at the Lake Hazel branch of the Ada Community Library in Boise when he visited with his grandmother. He told local television station KTVB:

“I’ve been wanting to put a book in the library since I was five…

“I always be sneaky, like how I get chocolate…

“There was a lot of librarians that I had to sneak past so do you know what I did? I covered up this part and covered the back with my body and just snuck it in and then started to walk, and then I came in this aisle – no, wait, this aisle – and then I put my book right here. Wait, right here… And the next time I came back it was gone.”

That night Dillon came clean to his parents about his clandestine operation. His mother, Susan Helbig, called the library to explain what he’d done, but it turns about the book had been found by librarians who had other plans for it. The library branch manager, Alex Hartman, loved it and even read it to his six year old. He said, as reported by The New York Times:

“It deserves a spot on our library shelves … It’s a good story.

“Dillon’s book definitely fit all the criteria that we would look for to include a book in our collection.”

So the book was catalogued as a graphic novel due to Dillon’s extensive, hand-drawn illustrations, and listed for library-goers to check out, the online entry reading: “Eight-year-old Dylan’s self-produced book recounts his adventures at the North Pole and Winter Camp, as well as what happens when he is swallowed by a turkey.”

To date, the book is so in demand there is a 55-people-long waiting list for it. And to commend the budding writer, the library even created an award especially for him, presenting him with the “Whoodini Award for best young novelist,” Whoodini being the owl mascot of the library. Hartman told The Washington Post:

“We’re just hoping that … children find inspiration to write their own stories and share those with other people … I just think it’s a good demonstration to share with other kids.”

And it seems just that has happened: after interest from children, Cristianne Lane, a local author, has offered to work with Dillon to create a children’s writing workshop at the library.

So what lies ahead for this daring young writer? As well as looking into possibly digitizing the book and making further copies for the library, Hartman said publishers have contacted the library about officially publishing the book. And like all inspired writers, Dillon has big plans and is in fact planning his next book already “The Jacket-Eating Closet” … based on “actual events.”

This kid has a bright future ahead of him.

Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.