Astronaut Megan McArthur read a book by a Camden author Wednesday, Aug. 25, on the International Space Station as part of outreach NASA has been doing for kids headed back to school.

She read “If I Built a School” by well-known local children’s author Chris Van Dusen.

Van Dusen said the first he heard about it was when he received the email from VillageSoup and looked it up online. It came as a pleasant surprise to him, his family, his agent and publisher.

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“It was kind of surreal sitting on my back deck in Camden, Maine watching an astronaut read a book that I created in my house,” Van Dusen said Aug. 26.

“I had no idea at all,” he said of the surprise. “It was pretty wild.”

Asked if this might inspire a new book set on the space station, he said the title might be “If I built a space station.” He said that might be read in space as well.

McArthur started the broadcast by talking to children about how they will soon be getting back to school and how school may still not be what they are used to, referring to the ongoing pandemic. And she assured them teachers and parents are doing their best to keep students learning while keeping them safe.

Van Dusen is well-known in the region for his beautiful artwork and numerous published story books. He has participated in many local events, reading his books to school children. His first book, “Down to the Sea with Mr. Magee” came out in 2000.

In addition to writing and illustrating his own books, he provides illustrations for other authors, especially Kate DiCamillo with her “Mercy Watson” series.

Asked if he was interested in space growing up, he says he kind of was. In fact, it features in one of his books, “Randy Riley’s Really Big Hit,” in which a boy builds a giant robot to save his town from a fireball out of space. In the process, the young hero lives out his dream of hitting a home run.

Van Dusen lives in Camden with his wife, Lori. They have two grown children and a six-year-old yellow lab, Opal.

Visit the Facebook page for NASA’s Johnson Space Center to view the video.  https://fb.watch/7ComC_V4xB/

Chris Van Dusen