AMES–Children’s author Ben Mikaelsen has a passion for helping young people break free of labels and discover their own special genius. He brought  his message to Ames Middle School students, Monday, April 11.

Born in La Paz, Bolivia, South America, Mikaelsen is one of six children born to strict fundamental missionaries he says always had time for their religious meetings, devotions, services and work, but seldom spent time with their children. He began writing as a way to escape the not-so-good things happening in his life—like reverse racism and revolutions in Bolivia  and bullying when he moved with his family to Minnesota.

Sixth grade students said Mikaelsen gave voice to issues that are on their minds.

“I learned that by being different shouldn’t stop anyone from doing what they love to do,” Ben McHenry said.

Anatasia Olson said she appreciated Mikaelson’s encouragement to “fight against bullying.”

“People don’t realize it’s still a school problem,”  she said.

Mikaelsen says his goal is to help students discover their own potential. Samantha Chriswisser said the author inspired her confidence in her own potential.

“I thought if I worked hard I could achieve my dreams,” she said. “I learned from Ben that I also need to believe in myself.”

Jason Vernon said, “He taught me dreams aren’t just fantasy.”

“Students can discover the same lessons that I learned,” Mikaelsen says on his website. “They are authors also, not just of words on some written page, but of reality. We are all the authors of our lives.”

Mikaelsen

Literacy teacher Drew DeJong said the goal for the author visit was simple.

“Get students engaged and in love with reading again,” he said. “Once the students heard the author of our book was coming, they couldn’t finish it fast enough.”

DeJong recited the question that guides his teaching.

“What do I want my students to remember about my classroom 10 years from now? I hope this experience was one of those things!”

If Kaylie Davis’s response to Mikaelsen’s presentation is any indication, DeJong’s goal was met. Kylie said she was most impressed with the storytelling that inspires Mikaelsen’s novels. “He talked about when he came to America, children would tease him because he didn’t know American football was different from football in his country. He asked the Americans “What do you do? Eat spaghetti with your ears?”

Mikaelsen’s novels have won many state Reader’s Choice awards, have been carried by Scholastic and Troll book fairs, and are recorded as unabridged audio books. His novels include “Rescue Josh McGuire”, “Sparrow Hawk Red”, “Stranded”, “Countdown”, “Petey”, “Touching Spirit Bear”, “Red Midnight”, “Tree Girl” and “Ghost of Spirit Bear”.

Mikaelson’s visit was sponsored by the Ames Education Foundation.