It’s late, I’ve been in the library studying for hours. I need to take a break. What do I do? I sneak away to the third floor and go to the Peter and Mary Muth Library of Children’s Literature, in the Edgar and Libby Pankey Library of Education. I find a children’s book that I haven’t read yet and sit back down where I have been slaving away with homework. Reading random children’s books when I’m stressed helps me calm down and reminds me that we’re all still children, or at least I am. It is a nice reset from stressful college life. I do not know if anyone else does that but if I am the only one, I strongly recommend it.
Tucked away in the Peter and Mary Muth Library of Children’s Literature are three books written by Chapman University President Emeritus James Doti: A Christmas Adventure in Little Italy, Jimmy Finds His Voice, and I Love You This Much, Nonna. These children’s books are anecdotes of Dr. Doti’s childhood. A Christmas Adventure in Little Italy was his first children’s publication. The book follows Jimmy and his best friend – his dog, Blackie – as they visit his Nonna, Jimmy’s grandmother, in Little Italy. Jimmy, Nonna, and Blackie set out to bring Nonna’s freshly baked biscotti to St. Michael the Archangel Church. As they leave, a bus startles Blackie and he runs off. Jimmy and Nonna search everywhere but the quickly falling snow makes it nearly impossible to trace Blackie’s paw prints.
Jimmy Finds his Voice is Dr. Doti’s second children’s book and depicts young Jimmy in first grade. Along with being scared of the large school, Jimmy is also terrified of speaking in class. When Jimmy speaks, the other kids in the class laugh and make fun of him because sometimes when he talks, the words come out wrong. This year, Jimmy’s class will be performing a play called “The Elves and the Shoemaker.” For the performance, the teacher casts Jimmy as one of the elves which means Jimmy will have to speak in front of an audience. Jimmy Finds his Voice is an uplifting story about a young boy building enough courage to overcome his fears.
Jimmy Finds his Voice is a story that I extremely related to, not just because my name is also Jimmy, but because when I was younger, I too had a speech impediment. I went to voice therapy lessons from second grade until eighth grade to pronounce my ‘sh’, ‘ch’, and ‘j’s correct. I had the same fear that Jimmy had speaking in front of the class and pronouncing something wrong. When I read Jimmy Finds his Voice, I immediately connected with the story and I loved that the performance was a way for Jimmy to overcome his fear because when I was little, theatre helped me overcome my fears.
Dr. Doti’s third book, I Love You This Much, Nonna, is about Jimmy confronting the loss of a loved one and how he ultimately learns to accept this loss and grow emotionally from the experience. The book delves into Jimmy’s discovery that death isn’t the final goodbye and the importance of memories and how they help keep someone alive.
Jim Doti was appointed president of Chapman University in 1991 and served as president for 25 years. In 2016, he rejoined the Chapman faculty and holds the Donald Bren Distinguished Chair in Business and Economics. He joined the Chapman faculty in 1974 and in 1978, he founded the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research to provide data, facilities, and support to encourage faculty and students to engage in high-quality research. While Dr. Doti is deeply rooted in the business and economics department, he has a passion for children’s literature.
In an article in Ability Magazine, the author, Lia Martirosyan, interviewed Dr. Doti and asked him what inspired him to write children’s books. Jim told her that his favorite part of the day was when he reads to his children and grandchildren. Additionally, he enjoys writing. Combining the two loves, Jim set out to write a children’s book. He believes it’s important for children to develop a love of reading and wants to help them discover it through his books.
Displayed on the third floor are illustrations from Doti’s books. As I’m writing this, the display is being revamped to include illustrations from his third book, which are done by the incredible Bagram Ibatoulline. The beautiful illustrations hang proudly on the wall, just a few shelves down from where his books are tucked away. Seeing the paintings the size that they were when they were drawn is mesmerizing. There is so much artistry that goes into children’s books and this display is a prime example of that.
The Monday after Thanksgiving is the unveiling of the modified display. The display will open in conjunction with a book signing by Dr. Doti on Monday, December 2nd immediately after Winterfest in the Malloy Performance Portico on the 3rd floor of the Leatherby Libraries.