Fifth grade students at Beechview Elementary School in Farmington Hills had the opportunity to co-author a book with children’s author Andy Gutman.

Fifth grade students at Beechview Elementary School in Farmington Hills had the opportunity to co-author a book with children’s author Andy Gutman.

Photo provided by Catalyst Media Factory

Elementary school students help co-author children’s book

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published July 8, 2023


FARMINGTON HILLS — They may be young, but a group of fifth grade students at Beechview Elementary School in Farmington Hills can already lay claim to being authors.

In all, 12 students from the school helped to take part in a book with children’s author and Novi resident Andy Gutman.

The book is titled “My First Day of Kindergarten” and can be found on and

The origin for the book came when Gutman was invited to Beechview to read one of his books to students, pre-COVID.

“As I went there, the staff says, ‘Oh, it would be great if one day we could do a book together,’” Gutman said. “Then COVID hit and we didn’t talk about it for a few years.”

The idea lay dormant until Gutman got a call from Rick Segal, a behavioral interventionist at Beechview.

“Rick re-introduced the idea to me,” Gutman said. “Rick and I used to be youth group advisors years ago together, and he said, ‘Would love to get together a group of fifth graders (and) do a book. Would you be interested in helping us figure out how to get it published?’ I thought it was a fantastic idea.”

Gutman said it’s “a lesson from 12 fifth graders of what they learned on their first day of school. … It’s their gift to incoming kindergartners to say, ‘Hey, you may be nervous on your first day. You may be worried. Everything’s going to work out well.’ … It’s really a nice note for the kids to be able to say, ‘We know everyone worries and is nervous and unsure, and everything’s going to be OK.’ I thought it was a beautiful sentiment.”

Gutman said the theme came from the school, and students were given the opportunity to apply to be part of it.

“Our students felt that creating a book that would help incoming kindergartners with apprehension or common fears would be something that they wanted to leave as a legacy — how to experience the joy of kindergarten and that it’s OK to be nervous,” Beechview principal Shawndra Hernton said.

All proceeds go to Beechview.

Gutman, who acknowledged that he went out-of-pocket to help put the book together, worked with a graphic designer and the kids to complete it.

He said that there was only a period of about three months to put the book together, which he described as a quick process.

Staff members from Beechview served as mentors for the students, with each fifth grader picking characters from previous books he had authored and developing a story.

“I worked with them on a few occasions at the school,” Gutman said. “I went back and read their stories with them, helped them edit during a session, then I took their stories, edited them a little further, checked for spelling, checked for grammar, etcetera, (and) then I worked with my graphic designer and helped take their verbal stories and create the scenes behind them — the graphics that support the story, and really help flesh that out. Each one of the students got two pages for their story, and so we had a total of 24 different graphics to create, plus a cover and a back cover to it. So my involvement was putting all that together, working with my designer to create the vision behind all of that, make sure that it met everybody’s expectations, continuous revisions and so on during this process.”

Gutman said that his co-authors did a “fantastic” job.

“I loved their storytelling,” he said. “When you embrace and embolden the imagination of children they really come up with some fantastic, fantastic stories, and more than that, they feel heard and seen. … I think too often these days we don’t focus our kids enough on reading and writing, really push their imagination to expand, because there’s so much stimulation in the world, whether it’s online or on your phone, where they can get lost in someone else’s world, as opposed to creating their own, or imagining, and bringing a book to life.”

Segal discussed the most pleasing aspect of the project for him.

“To see it through and have everybody receive it so well,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a lot (of) preschoolers entering kindergarten get some real benefit out of hearing from fifth graders about, they don’t have to be scared. It’s really a fun experience, they’re gonna enjoy it.”

Gutman graduated from Southfield-Lathrup High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Michigan State University.

His career is in commercial real estate, and his first book was published about eight years ago.

Gutman said he started writing books as a tribute to his daughter.

What he helped do for the students of Beechview could have a long-lasting impact.

“The greatest thing that came out of this is that you now have 12 published authors that were fifth graders when they got their first book published, which I think is really cool,” Gutman said. “I’m happy to be supportive of it and every year give another group of fifth graders or whatever a chance to see success … doing something like this for children where they suddenly realize, age 10, 11, whatever, they’re published authors and they can do anything they want in life.”