Photo by James A. McBride
In photo, The Phillie Phanatic pays a visit to students of Holy Name School, Camden, on Tuesday, June 8.
CAMDEN — The green, furry mascot from the Galapagos Islands, with the bulging belly and long snout, descended the stairs in the Holy Name elementary school cafeteria, and all chaos broke loose. Excited screams filled the air, almost pushing the roof off its moorings.
The 200 students gathered in the cafeteria on Tuesday, June 8, were not expecting him. They believed that they would see a presentation by Len Epstein, a local illustrator who has drawn eight books on the green subject.
But when the Phillie Phanatic entered, it became another day entirely.
Kissing and hugging the students, and dancing “The Cuban Shuffle” with them, the Phanatic, along with Epstein, was focused on getting them excited for summer reading. To that end, every student received a copy of Epstein and the Phanatic’s latest collaboration, “The Phillie Phanatic’s Galapagos Islands Adventure,” where the mascot makes a trip back to his hometown.
The visit is part of the Philadelphia Phillies “Be a Phanatic About Reading” initiative that travels to different schools.
“Reading is a big thrust” currently in Holy Name, mentioned principal Patricia Quinter, who noted that the school recently opened a reading room, with 1,500 donated books. “We’re trying to get children to read over the summer.”
Epstein, who has been illustrating Phanatic books for 30 years, gave art lessons to students, showing them how to draw the furry creature.
“We gotta get books in front of (children),” he said. “It’s the most important pathway to the world.”