Children’s Lit, Done Local

SHELLY COVERIn the literary world, books for children are regarded as less than. They are often ignored rather than viewed as the foundation for education, introspection, self-awareness and general love of reading they so undeniably are. In fact, writing for children can be even more challenging than writing for adults.

There is no better barometer for excitement and adventure in a story than a bored child. If you strip away the pretense and figurative language from a book for “grown-ups” and simply tell the story, you’ll find that there is much more room for accessibility for the minds that need nurturing the most. This isn’t to say that children’s literature doesn’t discuss worthwhile issues. Quite the contrary. Books for children – the good ones at least – strengthen minds with their content. The delivery system for that content is simply less complex. Fortunately for the Louisville community, the next generation is in good hands thanks to some promising, local talent.

Templeton Moss, local author of “Shelley Hobbes: Master Detective” describes his work thusly: “Shelly Hobbes is an all-ages reworking of the classic Sherlock Holmes stories. They are narrated by Shelly’s best friend/sidekick Warren, who is basically her ‘Dr. Watson,’ and who describes all the kid-friendly mysteries they solve together.”

Erin James. Courtesy photo.

Erin James. Courtesy photo.

He goes on to say that he doesn’t necessarily cater to children with his writing. “Honestly, I don’t really think of myself as a children’s author,” he describes. “My intended audience is grown-ups who want to feel like kids again. Basically, I write the sort of things I like to read, which are usually light, silly and uplifting.”

Meanwhile, Erin James, local author of “The Wolf Mother” and mother of three, looks to appeal to and acknowledge the fledgling imaginations of young children in her writing. “‘The Wolf Mother’ is a story about how it is for a parent to convince a child who thinks they can escape bed time by changing into a variety of animals to get ready for bed. Instead of resisting the pretend world, the mother speaks into her child’s world and puts each animal to bed instead, coming to a realization about herself along the way.”

Thankfully, obtaining these sorts of local books for children is not as difficult as it was in years past. Local bookstores such as Carmichael’s, A Reader’s Corner and even the Louisville branches of Half Price Books make efforts to carry such titles. The publication process, however, is a murky one for the lucky few who land deals with the big-name companies and an absolute quagmire for the local, independent authors. Fortunately, though, this decade has been kind to those who wish to begin a grassroots effort.

Moss began with the Amazon Kindle store and calls it, “a good option for first-time writers who, at least, want to share their works with their friends and relations. It’s free and easy and open to anyone.” Moss eventually moved to Lulu.com, a service that publishes for free and creates printed books for resale by the author for reduced prices. Erin James and Derek Keijner, her illustrator on “The Wolf Mother,” had Digital Promotions print the pages and then hand-sewed copies of the book under the name Grass Anchor Books. When it comes to creating books for children in today’s world, where there’s a will, there’s certainly a way.

The future seems to have a lot in store for both Moss and James, with the latter working on another book, again with collaborator Derek Keijner, called “Without the Bees, You’re Basically Doomed.” However, both writers claim that they simply wish to write the stories they would want to read. And by planting the seed early in young readers, there is an unyielding hope – and even certainty – that today’s readers will become tomorrow’s writers, continuing a torch-passing cycle as enduring as the oldest known stories. Moss and James are only two stars in the constellation that is the Louisville writing scene. Thanks to them, and the other stars in the sky, our children will never be lost. VT

“Shelley Hobbes: Master Detective” can be purchased on Amazon and Lulu, as well as most other online book retailers. Signed copies are available for purchase at the Half Price Books on Westport Road. “The Wolf Mother” is available at A Reader’s Corner.