Bel Air third-grader tries his wings at penning book

The Baltimore Sun

Last year, Erik Uebelacker was fascinated when his second-grade teacher taught a lesson on butterflies.

He was particularly intrigued by the fact that butterflies taste with their feet.

He pondered the fact all day long, and when his mother, Carla Mattioli, picked him up from school, he enthusiastically told her about the lesson.

"I thought if butterflies taste with their feet, then they better not wear shoes," said Uebelacker, 8, of Bel Air. "I thought it was so funny."

The culmination of their conversation was a 28-page book called Butterflies Shouldn't Wear Shoes, that was published in May. The book, which sells for $10, tells what would happen if butterflies wore shoes, he said.

"It only took me about... 10 minutes to write the book and ... about a month, to do the illustrations," said Erik, a third-grader at Harford Day School.

But writing the book wasn't enough for young Erik. He wanted to donate the proceeds of his book sales to a charity that helps animals. After extensive research, he and his mother selected the World Wildlife Fund. Recently he hand-delivered his first donation - a $2,000 check - to the Washington-based organization.

Although his gift may seem small, his gesture was applauded by the World Wildlife Fund staff.

"He took them a cardboard check that was real big," said Mattioli. "They cheered him and told him they had never received a big check before. They took it to meetings all day long."

During his visit, he was treated to lunch and given a tour and gifts, she said.

But a highlight for the youngster - whose favorite animal is a cheetah - was when he received a copy of a tiger researcher's field journal, Mattioli said. He took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about large cats by asking her questions.

He asked her if it was true that tigers only attack when people are not looking, and if people wear masks on the back of their heads so it looks like they are always looking at the tigers, she said.

"The tiger specialist confirmed that Erik was correct," Mattioli said. "He was able to carry on conversations with them."

In addition to the tour, he appeared on NBC, ABC, Fox News, and CNN, he said.

"CNN wasn't planned," he said. "That just happened. It was a big surprise."

As for his future, the book is only the beginning, he said.

"I'm looking for a publisher," he said. He wants to write another book about something an animal shouldn't do. "Then I want to write a longer fiction book," Erik said. "I like writing books and doing something that helps animals."


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