Eric Litwin takes white shoes to Richmond

Eric Litwin is staging a trio of performances at the Richmond Cultural Centre Monday as part of the Children’s Arts Festival. -
Eric Litwin is staging a trio of performances at the Richmond Cultural Centre Monday as part of the Children’s Arts Festival.
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He’s a cool blue cat with a positive attitude, the subject of four books and adored by countless children.

Pete the Cat has ballooned in popularity since appearing in the children’s book, Pete the Cat, I Love My White Shoes—a New York Times bestseller. The man behind the pages is author, storyteller and musician Eric Litwin, who is staging a trio of performances at the Richmond Cultural Centre Monday as part of the Children’s Arts Festival.

What began as a self-published work is now a book that’s been translated in six languages and has sold over one million copies.

“It’s reach has been phenomenal,” said Litwin in a telephone interview from his home of Atlanta, Georgia.

The former schoolteacher and multi-instrumentalist has won five national awards for his music and storytelling CDs and reads and sings his way through a full calendar of interactive shows each year. In Richmond, Litwin will be sharing White Shoes, one of four Pete the Cat volumes he’s authored.

It’s a familiar story to many kids. Pete is sporting brand new white shoes but accidentally steps in strawberries, blueberries and mud. Despite his misfortune of watching his sneakers change colour, Pete stays positive and continues movin’ and a groovin’ down the street.

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, released last year, has a similar message. The iconic cat stays positive, even when his buttons fall off.

Illustrator James Dean conceived Pete the Cat—a creature based on a shelter kitty that used to watch Dean draw landscapes. Litwin already had a popular story about a girl and her white shoes, so he presented Dean with an idea to combine their two creations.

Litwin intentionally writes with repetition, giving children an easier chance to memorize his stories and feel empowered by reading them—before they can actually interpret words on a page. Pete’s popularity also lies in his positive  frame-of-mind, while digital media such as his YouTube videos has also helped create fans.

But Litwin said digital devices, despite their growing popularity, “aren’t the be-all-end-all.”

“There’s nothing like a book. I love digital media, but eventually the infatuation will end, and they will be what they’re going to be. A physical book has so many advantages,” he said. “The end-all-be-all is the joy you see in your three-year-old when that light bulb is going off and they remember that story, and it’s about the story and it’s about the art. That’s the key.”

Digital devices are interactive, but Litwin aims to build such qualities in his books—with music and call-and-response. And while exposing children to digital screens is fine for a limited time, Litwin said no limits are needed for books.

“You can put your child in a playroom surrounded by books and you can go for hours and hours and hours, and there’s no harm of (overstimulation) or anything like that. It’s organic and it’s beautiful.”

Eric Litwin

•Performs at Children’s Arts Festival Monday, Feb. 11 at 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.

•Tickets are $10 (children’s tickets include Imagination Station wristband for other activities); buy at richmond.ca/register or call 604-276-4300 (weekdays). Or call the Richmond Arts Centre at 604-247-8300

•Litwin will be available to sign books or plush toys

Children’s Arts Festival

•The fifth annual Children’s Arts Festival offers a variety of interactive art activities led by professionals at Richmond Cultural Centre Feb. 11—B.C.’s first Family Day holiday.

•A highlight this year includes a presentation and book signing by bestselling author of Pete the Cat by Eric Litwin, who will read from his book Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, along with other musical stories. Tickets are $10.

•A variety of 90-minute Creativity Classes will be offered in dance, circus, musical theatre, cartooning, animation, clay, painting and puppet-making. Admission is $10 per class (excludes animation, which is $30).

•For those wishing to enjoy the Children’s Arts Festival without registering for a Creativity Class, a $5 wristband will provide drop-in access to all of the performances and Imagination Stations including balloon twisting, face painting, origami and more. The wristband also includes admission to Minoru Aquatic Centre and Minoru Arenas on Feb. 11.

•Food vendors will be at the cultural centre’s plaza for the event.

•More information and registration details at childrensartsfestival.ca. To register for Creativity Classes or to purchase tickets to see Eric Litwin visit richmond.ca/register or call 604-276-4300.

•Families are also encouraged to bring non-perishable food items to fill the Arts Truck parked in the plaza, with proceeds to the Richmond Food Bank.

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