Aidan Meath’s friends have a nickname for him: Dr. Seuss.
It’s a pretty good nickname, , considering that, like Theodor Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss’s real name), Aidan has written a book that carries an important message for kids.
Of course, Geisel was in his 30s when he published his first children’s book. Aidan is 10.
The book is “The Pepperoni Palm Tree,” and its author is an outgoing fourth-grader at the Mater Dei School in Bethesda who likes playing lacrosse and the piano.
So how does a 10-year-old decide to write a book? Well, Aidan was actually 7 when he got the idea.
“My dad had written a book and so I wanted to write a book too,” he says. “I asked him if I could write a book and he said ‘Get to work.’ ”
He started with the title: “I came up with ‘The Pepperoni Palm Tree’ because I like pizza and the beach.”
Aidan worked with his dad, Jason Meath, to come up with ideas for the book and its characters. (The book is beautifully illustrated by Kirk Parrish.)
The story takes place on an island which has a pretty unusual palm tree — one that grows pepperoni instead of coconuts. But the other plants and animals on the island — including banana trees and papaya plants and shrieking monkeys — make fun of the pepperoni palm tree because he’s different.
But he does have one friend: a boy named Frederick who promises to find out where there are more pepperoni palm trees.
Aidan, who says his best subjects in school are history and spelling, thinks the message of his book is an important one for kids today.
“The message is to treat everyone with respect. The other trees made fun of the pepperoni palm tree, but in the end who came out on top?” Aidan asks. “I know bullying is a really big problem for kids.”
Aidan says he and his dad worked on the book together on weekends. His dad helped put his ideas into writing but the message, all of the characters and the geography of the island came from Aidan’s imagination.
“The Nettleberry Trail was Aidan’s idea and very important to the story,” Jason Meath says.
Having a book published is pretty exciting for a 10-year-old. Aidan has had book readings and signings at several places in Virginia. At the Christmas Attic in Alexandria, he said some kids had copies of the books “and they read it and were like ‘Wow. I really like this book,’ ” Aidan recalls with pride.
Ledo Pizza hosted a pizza party for Aidan’s classmates last month and is featuring “The Pepperoni Palm Tree” on placemats for kids at its restaurants as part of its program to encourage kids to read more.
So does he have plans for another book? (After all, Dr. Seuss wrote 46!)
“I have two ideas,” Aidan says in a rush of enthusiasm. “One is ‘The Pepperoni Palm Tree Two,’ which goes to other parts of the island, and the other is about an ugly pumpkin and his friend, Larry the rat.”
So what advice does Aidan have for other kids who might be inspired to write their own book?
“Get to work and write about things that you like. If you like cars, write about cars. If you like football, write about football. Write about stuff you like.”