'Spiderwick Chronicles' author Tony DiTerlizzi and Starlight Storytellers

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- The man behind the popular book "The Spiderwick Chronicles," award-winning author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, has a new book out, and he was in Phoenix Monday for a special book signing that is part of his new project with Starlight Children's Foundation.

DiTerlizzi is a passionate storyteller, so it's only natural that storytelling would be at the heart of his project -- Starlight Storytellers. The idea is to engage authors and storytellers to visit hospitals and hospice centers and read to the children. More than just reading, they'll work with the kids to create their own stories.

"For children that are suffering from illness, storytelling can offer an escape from their pain and fear, which in turn can help them to get better more quickly," DiTerlizzi said.

A Starlight Global Ambassador, DiTerlizzi first got involved with the organization in 2002 when he illustrated Starlight's book, "Once Upon a Fairy Tale."

Having spent time in the hospital with his young daughter after she started experiencing grand mal seizures, Starlight Children's Foundation is close to his heart.

"It was a terrifying time in my life for my wife and I," he said. "We spent some serious time in the hospital."

There's quite a bit of waiting time in a hospital, time for anxiety and fear to build. DiTerlizzi used books and stories to help alleviate that as much as possible for his little girl.

He thought if he could do it for his child, he could perhaps do it for other children, too. The idea is right in line with the mission of Starlight Children's Foundation.

"They're really all about pain distraction," he said.

"For nearly 30 years, Starlight Children's Foundation has been dedicated to improving the quality of life for children around the globe with chronic and life-threatening illnesses and life-altering injuries by providing entertainment, education and family activities that help them cope with the pain, fear and isolation of prolonged illness," reads the organization's website. "Our programs have been proven to distract children from their pain, help them better understand and manage their illnesses, and connect families with others facing similar challenges so that no one feels alone."

In addition to visiting Phoenix Children's Hospital, DiTerlizzi is hosting a signing for his new book, "A Hero for WondLa," at Changing Hands Bookstore in Temp at 7 p.m.

To learn more about Starlight Children's Foundation, visit Starlight.org or call 480-280-5289.