On Monday, December 2nd, students and community members alike crowded into Attallah Piazza for this year’s Winterfest, celebrating the start of the winter holiday season. As the program finished, many left, headed home to study for finals or get cozy with hot cocoa, but members of Chapman University’s Town & Gown came into the Leatherby Libraries for an event celebrating President Emeritus James Doti and his children’s books.

President Doti spoke about his latest children’s book, I Love You This Much, Nonna, in particular about the process of collaborating with illustrator Bagram Ibatoulline. Although President Doti and Ibatoulline never worked together face-to-face, their extensive communication with each other allowed Ibatoulline to bring Doti’s childhood memories to life. Doti would send Ibatoulline rough sketches to go along with his text, indicating where the Jimmy character should be, any animals, or other important details, and Ibatoulline would turn those sketches into rich, detailed illustrations that captured the emotion of Doti’s book.

A projector screen showing two side-by-side illustrations of a family decorating a Christmas tree

President Doti displayed a number of Ibatoulline’s illustrations, including these two of Jimmy and his parents decorating the Christmas tree.

President Doti also read from the book, and the book’s message of family, love, and togetherness moved the entire audience.

The evening had two more wonderful surprises. Each of President Doti’s children’s books features a recipe, and I Love You This Much, Nonna includes a recipe for his Nonna’s biscotti. Town & Gown member Marcia Cooley used the recipe, and added to our table of hot cocoa and cookies with some of that wonderful biscotti!

President Doti looks on while Marcia Cooley talks about making the biscotti

President Doti looks on while Marcia Cooley talks about making the biscotti

And, as the evening came to a close, Dean Charlene Baldwin invited President Doti over to a the wall that leads into the Edgar and Libby Pankey Library of Education, which includes the Peter and Mary Muth Library of Children’s Literature. Dean Baldwin, Sandee Collier, and President Doti got to pull off the red curtains, revealing the newly dedicated Children’s Books by James L. Doti  wall.

President Doti stands in front of the new Children's Books By James L. Doti wall

President Doti stands in front of the new Children’s Books By James L. Doti wall

As President Doti stood in front of the new wall, Dean Baldwin led all who were there in a version of the game Jimmy plays with his Nonna. “Do we love you this much?” asked with hands six inches apart. “No!” “Do we love you this much?” with hands a foot apart. “No!” “Do we love you this much?” with hands two feet apart. “NO!” “How much do we love you? We love you this much!” shouted with arms wide open.

A group of people standing to the left of the frame looking at a wall with framed pictures, holding their arms wide open

Town & Gown and other audience members showing President Doti just how much they love him