March 6, 2019

One day, about a year and a half ago, Levi and I went to the bookstore to pick out a book for him. He looked at so many of them, but couldn’t seem to find just what he was looking for.  I asked him what he wanted and he told me a book about a dinosaur.  We looked for that.  And they did have books on dinosaurs…but not a story about a dinosaur.  We finally found something else he was happy with, and left the store.

Once we got in the car, He thanked me for the book, and said, “But, I really wanted a dinosaur story.”

Tonja…What kind of story, Levi?

Levi…About a dinosaur who is mean.

Tonja…Oh, that doesn’t sound like a fun book.

Levi…No, he would get sweet.

Tonja…What would the dinosaur’s name be?

He thought about this for a while.

Levi…I think his name is Thor.

Tonja…That is a good name.  Where does he live?

Levi…In a cave.

Tonja…What makes him mean?

Levi…He doesn’t have any friends.

An idea began to form in my mind.

Tonja…Levi, if you can’t find a book that is what you want…then you can write one yourself.

Levi…I am not a grown up.  I don’t know how.

Tonja…Then I will help you.

When we got home, I quickly wrote down all that he had said so far.  And put it away.  The next day, I asked him to tell me more about Thor.  He did and I wrote as fast as I could.  After he told me the rest of the story.  I told him that we were going to write all this down and make our own book.

And, that is what we did.  We worked on it for several months.  The story had to be divided into sections for each page.  And, it had to be illustrated.  He was so excited and ready to make his book.  We worked for several months, a little at a time.

But, his interest began to wane…and other things became more important.  Starting school, and playing ball.  So I gathered up all our work and put it in a box and put it away.  There, in my studio closet, sat that sad little unfinished book for about 6 months.  Levi never spoke of it, and neither did I.

Then one day, he came to me and said, “Lulu, don’t you think we need to finish our Thor book?”  I replied, “I think that is a grand idea.  I know just where it is.”  I got it out and he was gung ho on working on this book.  He wanted to finish it.

Levi…Can this just be a pretend book, or can it be a real book?

Tonja…Well, it can be a real book, if we work hard on it.  We have to divide the story, draw the pictures, glue it all together, and then I can have it printed.  It will be a real book!

We worked diligently every chance we had.  We wrote and rewrote.  We changed some of the words when we used the same word too many times.  Usually, he would dictate to me…but at times, he would ‘hunt and peck’ it out on the computer himself.

We drew pictures and colored them and cut them out and glued them onto our mock up.  I made a title page.  Then he designed a cover.  His book did not end with Thor staying mean, but with the help of a friendly lion, learning that having friends is lots more fun.  All the other dinosaurs even came over for a slumber party.  The last page of the book, has the verse, “A friend loves at all times”.

About this time, he decided we needed to be a real company.  With a real name.  And a real president of the company.  This was all up to him.  He decided that our company would be called BOOKS FOR LIFE.  And, he would be the president and I would be the president’s helper (sort of like a vice-president)  Alas, no fancy title for me!

Finally, the book was finished.  I took it to the printers and we ordered 15 copies.  (We have since ordered 20 more!)  He had plans to sell them at Barnes and Nobel…but I persuaded him that, perhaps, we needed to just give them away.

We took  the mock up to his classroom and I wrapped the book up in a box.  The children all gathered around.  Wanting to know what was in the box.  I told them it was a gift…and Levi had made it. 

We opened the box and took out the book.  The children were surprised.  But when I showed them who the author was, they were astounded.  I read the book to them. 

 I told them that books were like a gift that opened up as you read it.  I read it to them.  They were amazed that Levi had done that.  “Can we write a book, too?” they asked.  Levi and I both told them that of course they could!   What a special time we had that day!  ( Levi gave a copy of the book to his teacher and it now has a permanent place in Mrs. McClurkin’s Library.)

Yesterday, we picked up the final printing of Levi’s first book.  It is printed just like any soft cover book you may buy anywhere.  Levi came to see the copies and I think this picture shows you just how excited he was!

He is already thinking of a sequel to his book about Thor.  I won’t spoil it…but Thor goes on a great adventure.

This has been a labor of love.  And, hopefully a lesson to Levi that you don’t have to settle for things as they are.  You can change them.  If you can not find what you want…design and build it yourself.  You may need help along the way, but that only shares the joy of creativity!

It is amazing, when you stop and think, how God gave us all different talents.  Some of us are intellectuals, some are seekers, some study nature, and some study the body.  Some build with wood, some speak with paint.  Some can weld, some know how electricity works.  Some know the inner workings of a vehicle, some put words together to make beautiful poetry.  Some have the gift of opening little minds through teaching, some know the workings of stocks and bonds and IRA’s and such.  Some excel at sports, some prefer to sit quietly and think.  Some are born to lead, some are born to follow.  The thing is…God in His almighty wisdom gave us the talents he knew would fit us the best.  None are greater than the other.  We need them all.

Through this project with Levi, I have attempted to show him that he can do hard thingsit is OK if you have to stop and rest awhile.  I wanted him to see that he could do something that he had never done beforealong with a little help.  I wanted him to see that we are to use our talents to glorify God.  That’s why the book ends with a Bible verse.  We can find a way to witness for Him in everything we do.  I wanted him to not be afraid to make mistakes...just throw it out and start it over.  Hopefully these are lessons he will remember through his life.  As a matter of fact…we would all do well to remember these lessons.

Way to go, Little man!  Way to go!