'Thunder's Herd' is the word at LaPrade book signing

Story by Mike Kilen
Photos by Elizabeth Tinajero

GCU News Bureau

It’s not every day you see a dean at a large university take such pleasure in reading a book to children.

Thunder high-fives fans at a book signing for "Thunder's Herd," the latest children's book by COE Dean Dr. Kimberly LaPrade.

Dr. Kimberly LaPrade, Dean of the College of Education at Grand Canyon University, wore a smile as big as the children who sat before her, as she says in her best teacher voice, “crisscross applesauce,” to listen to the reading of her new book, “Thunder’s Herd,” and receive a signed copy on Thursday in the Jerry Colangelo Museum.

The book resolves the cliffhanger in the life of Thunder, the GCU mascot, who in her first book, “Thunder’s Vision,” searched for just the right college to find his purpose.

Well, he found it.

In the new book, Thunder finds his community in the spirit of GCU among the Cheer, Dance, Thundering Heard Pep Band and Havocs, those enthusiastic students who cheer at sporting events.

At its heart, it’s really a guide to being a joyful part of a community.

The children of COE employees came to listen with painted faces and the kind of wide eyes reserved only for Thunder love.

LaPrade (pictured, center)  said she loves to write and received her bachelor's degree from GCU in writing before turning to teaching.

“I love to write,” LaPrade said before the reading. “I’m actually an alum of GCU, and my bachelor’s degree was in writing. Even though I’m a teacher and educator now, it’s my first love.”

She wrote the book because she said she wanted children to understand Thunder and his herd and to one day “follow in his footsteps” to see all the great things at GCU and feel connected to it.

The teacher in her also knows the value of reading and introducing children to books.

“Better readers make better writers,” she said. “And better writers make better thinkers, so that’s the No. 1 goal.”

Lindy Gaudiano, COE’s Director of Academic Programs, said her daughters, Elle, 6, and Gigi, 4, loved the story.

“I think it’s good because they see how Thunder is respectful and helpful and learns to become friends,” she said.

Gigi, all decked out in her GCU cheerleader outfit, had read the book of Thunder’s adventures.

Here’s her review: “Thunder is nice. He doesn’t hit people and fight.”

As LaPrade read the book to the children, she was flanked by members of the Dance, Cheer and Thundering Heard Pep Band, who acted out their scenes in the book, while the Havoc members led a lets-all-sway-together maneuver.

The children heard how Thunder found his purpose at GCU as the mascot, among the spirited cheerleaders who taught them the proper way to raise their hands and do the Lopes Up, among the Dance team that led them in a graceful pirouette, among the pep band that taught them the school song, and among the Havocs who, at GCU basketball games and other events, cheer as one and wear crazy outfits.

A boy at the reading is enraptured by the story of Thunder and how he finds his community.

GCU President Brian Mueller makes an appearance in the book, cheering as a super fan, illustrated colorfully and realistically by Jeremy Moore.

The children were delighted by the in-antelope appearance of Thunder, who handed out high-fives that were as prized as the pizza and snacks that came later.

“These are my peeps, my kiddos,” LaPrade said. “I wanted them to know the feeling and the pride of being part of this community.”

The book, designed for kids ages 3 to 12, will be available on campus, at future events in schools and before basketball games. But its message wasn’t lost on the older kids -- GCU's students.

One Thunder fan shares a few words about his favorite mascot for the video team.

It will give little readers the chance to see what the GCU experience is all about, said Havocs leader Josh Gillespie. “It lets them know they all can be part of the experience.”

Grace Haskins, also a Havocs leader, said she sees college students get in the spirit all the time, but it was neat to see children be part of it, too.

Thunder showed those children that he had made it. He found his purpose, got to the university and now found his herd.

So they gave him a high five and ate pizza. Doesn’t get any better than that if you’re a future Lope.

You can reach GCU senior writer Mike Kilen at [email protected].


Related content:

GCU Today: Children get the gift of reading "Thunder's Vision"

GCU Today: GCU Arena transforms into back-to-school paradise

GCU Today: Academic Excellence program embraces schools


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