Local author Benjamin Giroux opens the first Adirondack Family Book Festival today at John Brown Farm in Lake Placid. | New

LAKE PLACID — Children’s book author Benjamin Giroux opens the first Adirondacks Family Book Festival today at 9:50 a.m. at John Brown Farm State Historic Site in Lake Placid.

“I Am Odd, I Am New,” his original poem about living with autism, is an award-winning picture book and critically acclaimed song and music video.


With his reassuring message that being different is a good thing, Ben has been the face of the National Autism Association’s anti-bullying campaign.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this festival, especially since it’s the first year,” Ben said in a press release.

“It’s really cool that I start the day talking about the importance of giving kids a voice, especially kids on the spectrum.”


Authors and artists will read and talk about their work and be available throughout the day to meet their readers and autograph books.

Authors include Ben, Tracey Baptiste, Jason Chin, Kyle Lukoff, Linda Sue Park, Amy Guglielmo, Kekla Magoon, Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Joseph Bruchac, Maxwell Eaton, III, Rajani LaRocca, Kate Messner and Laura Ruby.

Amy Guglielmo, Plattsburgh author/artist and Creative Director of Reading Rainbow Live, has planned crafts including flower and nature wreath making and bent creature puppets until 3 p.m.

There are three StoryWalks on the site and an opportunity for kids to plant sunflower seeds to take home.


Ben’s literary journey began in 5th grade at Cumberland Head Elementary School in Plattsburgh.

“We had a library class,” he said.

“So in April, poetry month, we were given the task of writing a poem. He was a model, I am. It was I am, I feel, and it goes down the list. Then there’s a blank after that, and I had to fill things in. So at school I filled out most of it. There were three or four lines left that I didn’t fill in and finished at home.

After completing the poem, Ben shared it with his parents, Sonny and Kathryn.

“And we read the poem and our first instinct was to realize how well written and structured it was,” Sonny said.

“The cadence of every line and rhyme and the imagery his words expressed, we were amazed that a 10-year-old had the insight to construct a poem like this. Then we read it again and that’s when we kind of realized what the message of the loneliness he felt was, and how he was an outcast, and how he didn’t fit in , and how he saw himself as different from other children.

Then 10 years old, Ben had been diagnosed with autism two years earlier.

“So he was dealing with that and coming to terms with what it means to be autistic and other kids aren’t,” Sonny said.

“He never spoke. He never told us how different he felt until this posting.

The next day, Ben had a panic attack considering reading his poem in front of his class because he was speaking honestly about the impact of teasing and bullying from his peers, and he feared it would escalate.


Sonny asked Ben if he could post the poem on the National Autism Association’s Facebook page to get outside opinions during not only Poetry Month in April 2016, but also National Autism Awareness Month.

Sonny’s inbox exploded overnight with media requests.

Ben’s poem has been shared on the charity’s main page over 50,000 times.

He has been featured on TV shows such as Good Morning America and Today Show.

His honors included City of Plattsburgh Poet Laureate and Beekmantown School District Poet Laureate.

Even the late author Anne Rice shared her poem on her Facebook page.

“At that point, I realized that Ben’s poem was seen by millions of people and we had to protect it somehow,” Sonny said.

“So I messaged Anne Rice, a knock in the dark. Can you give me any advice on how I should copyright or protect? Is it too late? Her assistant personal at the time, Beckett, was the one who responded immediately. With our agreement, he would put us in touch with his agent because he is also a writer. So Beckett sent Ben’s information to his agent, Naomi Davis, who in the 72 Hours signed him on as a client to get the book published.


Two years later, Ben had a book deal with Schiffer Publishing of Philadelphia.

Vancouver, BC illustrator Roz McLain created the images to accompany Ben’s words.

The first edition sold out before its November 2021 release.

“He got the Kirkus Review star,” Sonny said.

“Ben is one of the youngest authors to receive this honor. Only 10% of their books get star reviews and they publish about 10,000 books a year. Kirkus also named his book one of the best children’s books in 2021.”

At 17, Ben visits local schools and gives presentations to area students.

Currently, he is working on a series of books, the themes of which include body shame and acceptance.

“Love yourself for who you are and don’t compare yourself to others,” Ben said.

“My character going through body shame and wanting to be someone else is a snake.”

Lola R. McClure