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Deseret News
Andrea Real takes a free copy of "Pingo" from a table during childhood literary summit.

For once, Brandon Mull is being recognized for something besides his popular series "Fablehaven."

The 35-year-old author was honored last week at the 2009 Utah Book Awards for his children's picture book "Pingo," a story that explores the meaning of friendship and imagination.

"I am especially excited. 'Pingo' is the least found of all my books," Mull said. "A lot of people are still discovering it."

The father of four kids under age 7 was at a speaking engagement in Rexburg, Idaho, the night of the awards ceremony and regretted not accepting the award in person, but takes satisfaction in "Pingo" finding an audience.

"It was a huge relief. It means the book is working," he said. "It's also nice for the award to draw some extra attention to it."

Mull has won multiple awards for the five-part series "Fablehaven " and "The Candy Shop Wars," including the Beehive Award and young readers choice awards, but an award for "Pingo" means the young readers are connecting with it.

"Pingo," illustrated by Brandon Dorman, is the story of a boy whose imaginary friend becomes his imaginary enemy when he tries to grow up. The message of the story is that it's OK to grow up and still have an imagination.

"Most of us think we are getting too old to play, then we realize we can still have fun with imagination. You are never too old for that," Mull said.

One of the coolest moments Mull had with "Pingo" is when he read the book to his daughter's first-grade class. The class was quite entertained.

"It got me some coolness points with the kids. They laughed at the right places, and it culminated as a cool moment for me as a writer. My daughter was proud of me. Her friends liked it," he said.

Mull's secret to writing children's book is appealing to two audiences.

"I write for my 10-year-old self to have fun with my imagination and my 35-year-old self for sanity. Keeping those two audiences in mind has served me well," Mull said. "It's nice to hear when families have read it and everyone liked it. The parents weren't bored.

Mull fans might be interested to know a prequel to "Pingo" is in the works, and when the illustrations are ready, the book will likely be released in 2011. For older kids, "Beyonders: A World Without Heroes" will be released in March 2011.