Boardman senior steps back to kindergarten with book he illustrated

Correspondent photo / Russell Brickey Boardman High School senior Landon Stokes reads the children’s book he illustrated, “We Are Producers,” to Krista Schmied’s kindergarten class Wednesday at West Boulevard Elementary.

BOARDMAN — Landon Stokes, a senior at Boardman High School, returned to kindergarten at West Boulevard Elementary to show students the children’s book he illustrated and helped publish.

Students gathered on the carpet at the front of the colorfully decorated room, and Stokes sat in the story chair, his long legs crimped by the low seat and the students gazing up at him.

“Can you say ‘Hi’ to Landon?” the teacher, Krista Schmied, prompted the students.

“Hi Landon,” the class of 18 preschoolers shouted.

Later, Stokes admitted he was nervous Wednesday as he showed students the characters he had drawn with the aid of a computer. “We Are Producers,” the book Stokes illustrated, was written by Linette Stratford, a Youngstown attorney, and her husband Homer Warren, a Youngstown State University marketing professor.

Stratford works with Stokes’ mother and has known him since he was a child.

Stratford and Warren wrote the dialogue and approached Stokes about illustrating the book in 2022. It took Stokes almost a year to complete his contribution to the project.

His illustrations are mostly cartoon-like characters involved in conversation with other characters. The characters talk to each other and encourage self-discovery and personal evolution.

Stokes said he chose his color schemes based on his own associations and inspirations. Pink, for instance, represented royalty in “We Are Producers.” Indigo represented sports.

“The book is about how kids can be more than one thing,” Stokes said.

Each character in the book is a child, and each has a different shaped head, Stokes said, which represents cultural limitations.

One character’s head is shaped like a football, for instance, which represents the belief that he could only be an athlete, Stokes said.

“Throughout the story, (the characters) learn that they can be more than what society pushes on them,” he said.

In addition to imaginary characters, Stokes drew himself as a character and included his real life friends, Zoe, and her cousin, Lilly, “because I love them so much,” Stokes said.

The event was a return of sorts for both teacher and high school senior as Schmied was Stokes’s kindergarten teacher.

“I had Landon when he was in kindergarten many years ago and now he’s a graduating senior at B.H.S,” Schmied said.

Landon was a distinctive student, she recalled.

“I remember him being a very quiet, hard-working young child and I love working with him,” she said. “I saw the creativity in him even at 5 and now that he is an illustrator of a book doesn’t surprise me at all. It even makes me more proud of him.”

Shana Craig-Yardas, Stokes’ high school counselor, said, “He’s getting his foot into the door before he even starts, and I have to say that my favorite thing about Landon is that, not only is he talented, but he is one of the kindest kids you’ll ever meet. He’s humble. He’s the best.”

Stokes hopes “We Are Producers” will translate into the beginning of a professional career.

“It’s actually really incredible (to have a book out) because I wasn’t expecting much of this to happen when I was 18,” Stokes said, “because I was, like, a normal kid, but this kind of makes me not normal, in a way.”

Stokes will graduate high school June 2 and attend Kent State University to study graphic design. He hopes to work professionally in graphic design and continue his art on the side. Already, he is planning for at least two sequels to his first book.

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