Author gives Onekama class valuable lessons about life

ONEKAMA — When it comes to naming artistic, creative people graphic artist/author Richard Schlatter could probably be found at the top of the list.

Author Richard Schlatter visited Ben Mauntler's second grade class to speak with them about writing a children's book. Schatter also presented all the students with an autographed copy of his book "The Old Man and the Tree."

Author Richard Schlatter visited Ben Mauntler’s second grade class to speak with them about writing a children’s book. Schatter also presented all the students with an autographed copy of his book “The Old Man and the Tree.”

Schlatter is the author of several children’s books including the popular “The Old Man and TheTree.” However, that creativity carries over in the world of art where he gained distinction of being the 2017 ArtPrize winner in the annual contest held in Grand Rapids every fall.

Area residents both young and old were given the opportunity to learn about Schlatter’s artistic side on Thursday. In the morning he visited with Ben Mauntler’s second grade class at Onekama Consolidated Schools to talk about his writing skills and then in the afternoon talked about what went into his ArtPrize winning entry with the Portage Lake Association’s Near and Farr Friends.

Mauntler said Schlatter’s visit was a real highlight for his students, as they gained an understanding from a published author on what goes into creating a book.

“He started his presentation by giving the class a really vivid and useful story behind the story to give the students some background knowledge about ‘The Old Man and the Tree,'” said Mauntler. “His book is based on a true life story about himself and he read it to the class.”

Schlatter’s book carries many important lessons for the students on how they should live their lives.

“Think things through and most importantly think before you speak,” Schlatter told the students. “Friendship is important, so value your friends and treat them with respect.”

Schlatter also pointed out to the students that trees play a big role in the world.

“Trees are important to our environement,” he said. “It’s important to plant another tree if one gets cut down. Trees are one of God’s gifts to us.”

After reading the book to the students, Schlatter gave them a view of what goes into creating one.

“He showed the class the rough drafts and explained the writing process as he experienced it,” said Mauntler. “It was nice for the kids to see that as they are authors as well, going through the same process.”

Mauntler said the visit by the author had a big impact on the students. However, what really brought it all home for them was the gift he gave them after the presentation.

“As a teacher it was so nice to have Mr. Schlatter reinforce what we have been learning about in the classroom,” said Mauntler. “He also graciously and generously gave each student a signed copy of his book.”

Student Oliver Hansen grasped the message between the trees and friends.

“He taught us to don’t cut down your friend,” said Hansen. “His oath is ‘I promise not to cut down my friends.'”

Fellow student Kailee Somsel said an important message came from the presentation.

“The lessons I learned is that I should not cut down a tree because it gives me shade and air,” said Somsel. “I also should not cut down my friends, so I need to think about the words before I say it.”

Student Liam Breitner also tied together the correlation between the cutting down tree and friends.

“I felt sad because he got sad after he cut down the tree,” said Breitner. “I promise not to cut down my friends.”

Students like Brendan Cameron and Calista Avalos agreed with the other students and promised to always treat their friends well.

When Schletter visited the Farr Center later in the day for the Portage Lake Association program he shared the thought process and what it took to create the 12-foot high Abraham Lincoln portrait he created for ArtPrize. The portrait was created with 24,000 pennies.


Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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