When five friends uncover a treasure map that once belonged to ruthless New Orleans pirate Jean Lafitte, their discovery takes them from one treasure-hunting escapade to the next as they try to outwit and outthink a one-legged junkyard man, an overbearing town bully and the creepy old guy living at the top of the hill.
Sound like an adventure?
That’s what author Eric DelaBarre is counting on.
The award-winning writer and filmmaker comes to Sequim to talk up his latest work entitled, “Saltwater Taffy,” a novel targeted toward the middle-school-aged youth crowd but, according to a number of leading teachers across the country, also a book for all ages.
DelaBarre visits Olympic Theatre Arts on Feb. 18 (see box).
DelaBarre began his career with Universal Studios on NBC’s mega-hit drama, “Law & Order.” His work has been sold around the world and showcased on HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, Starz/Encore, USA Networks and NBC.
He is the author of “Why Not: Start Living Your Life Today” and past president of the Boys & Girls Club Council of Santa Monica, Calif.
DelaBarre shifted his focus to youth-oriented books and films after seeing the Hollywood media machine up close.
“I had been working in Hollywood for so many years (and) I don’t think we’re doing justice for our children anymore,” DelaBarre said. “Instead of complaining about it, I wanted to do something about it.”
Though DelaBarre lives and works in Santa Monica with his wife, Julie, he has ties to the Olympic Peninsula: his extended family lives in Sequim and Port Angeles.
“I consider the peninsula a second home,” he says.
DelaBarre set events in “Saltwater Taffy” in the seaside town of Port Townsend.
“I thought, ‘How am I going to tell a story in small-town America where I think family values are still important?’” he said. “I love that Port Townsend’s got that main street, Water Street.”
A filmmaker to boot, DelaBarre already is planning to make “Saltwater Taffy” into a feature-length film and he envisions setting much of it right there on Water Street.“We will use a lot of kids from the peninsula (in making the film),” he said.
The author told www.wired.com that there are two more books (sequels) planned and that in the summer of 2012 that he’ll be making the first film in the series.
“Saltwater Taffy,” a book that’s been described as “race-to-the-finish adventure that grabs the reader and never lets go,” has received endorsements from top educators including Tamara Steen, 2005 Washington State Teacher of the Year.
R.C. Nason, a professional artist for more than 20 years and recipient of the Hans Christian Anderson Award for a previous work (“Thumbelina”) illustrates “Saltwater Taffy.”
DelaBarre says he feels he can write youth novels from a young perspective because he still has a youthful outlook.
“I know what it’s like to be a kid … let us not forget I used to be one for many years,” he notes on his website.
“I guess the easy answer is I never agreed with the concept of ‘getting older.’ Being a kid is a lot more fun.
I spent seven years on ‘Law & Order’ and … I wasn’t very good at it. I wasn’t very good at it because murder and mayhem was out of sync with who I am. It is no surprise that when I came across the idea for ‘Salt-water Taffy’ I knew I was onto something.”
After book-signing events and talks in Bremerton and Port Orchard on Feb. 16-17, DelaBarre returns to Sequim to meet with youths and other readers of all ages at the theater.
“Barnes & Noble in Silverdale has set up a big signing and various school visits, but I love the Blue Hole of Sequim,” DelaBarre says.
The free presentation at Olympic Theatre Arts coincides with the theater’s spring writing contest.
DelaBarre said he keeps his young audiences energized.
“I’ve watched authors read their work and it’s like, snorefest. I really get into it. I think the kids appreciate that. I want to make sure that I’m entertaining the kids (and) talking to them what life is really about.”
The author/filmmaker says he really wants youths to get away from their computer screens, open their imaginations through reading and then put what they’ve learned into action.
“I want to get them excited about reading again,” DelaBarre says. “I think we’ve moved away from the simple pleasure of sitting down (with) a book. We’re living in Cliff’s Notes society.
“Our kids are just not reading like they should. We need kids standing on the edge, asking, ‘What am I supposed to be? What’s my special gift to this planet?’ Hopefully, we touch a child’s life.”
Read more about DelaBarre at www.whatagreatbook.com and www.thewriterdirector.com.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.