Wilton resident publishes fun, educational children's book

Seventy-year-old Wiltonian Kirk Eason’s If You Could Be The Critter You See has been deemed by Kirkus Reviews as “an accessible, smart book that finds an impressive balance between education and enjoyment.”

The educational, entertaining 72-page children’s book is Mr. Eason’s first published work, which teaches children about 10 animals or “critters,” ranging from the chameleon to the cheetah.

“About 10 years ago or so, I thought about how kids learn in different ways. Some of them learn by looking at pictures, some learn by reading, some learn by drawing,” said Mr. Eason.

“So, what I wanted to do was create a book that uses many different ways of learning.”

Mr. Eason decided to incorporate animals in his book because, he said, “I know kids love animals and critters, and I think it’s important that kids have a respect for them because they can learn different things from them.”

If You Could Be The Critter You See incorporates visual and linguistic learning through photos, poems, fun facts, and cartoons by illustrator Mike Motz.

“What the book does is it shows the critter in its natural state where it lives, and then every picture has a poem that goes with it,” explained Mr. Eason.

The first poem in the book, for example, is about the chameleon:

“When you want to hide in plain sight, be a chameleon, he does it right. He changes the colors all over his skin, to correctly match the colors he’s in.”

“The kids see the picture, read the poem and then turn the page, and they have fun facts about the chameleon,” said Mr. Eason.

The fun facts are designed to be simple and easy for children to read and remember, he said.

“After the kids read about the critter, the last page is the illustration, which shows kids doing what the chameleon does,” said Mr. Eason.

The illustrations, he said, are designed to help young readers relate to and better understand each critter.

“With the chameleon, kids can relate to what camouflage is,” said Mr. Eason, whose book also includes illustrations of children running at 70 mph like a cheetah and holding up a bunch of their friends, like an ant lifting more than 10 times its own weight.

If You Could Be The Critter You See also contains a quiz and coloring pages, which Mr. Eason said adds to the book’s “entertainment value.”

“The quiz asks simple questions, and kids have fun answering them. The amazing thing is that when the kids read this, they remember it and they take the critter quiz and get all high scores — 80s, 90s, 100s — it’s unbelievable,” said Mr. Eason.

The coloring section of the book is introduced with yet another poem that encourages children to “turn the page” and “grab your crayons.”

“There are all the pictures in the front of the book except they’re not colored in,” said Mr. Eason, “so the kids can color whichever ones they want.”

Feedback

Mr. Eason, a father of three, said If You Could Be The Critter You See is a good book for home education, for a child to read before going to bed and for teachers to have in their classrooms.

“My daughter teaches first grade, and one day she showed this book to her class. When she finished showing them everything, she told them to write the author,” said Mr. Eason.

“She told them to write what they think of the book. She said, ‘Be honest. If you didn’t like it, just tell him.’”

Each student drew a picture of an animal and wrote a review of Mr. Eason’s book, and his daughter compiled all the reviews into a book to give to him.

“They all gave me five stars,” said Mr. Eason. “It’s cute and nice to have the target audience discuss and review my book right after it came out.”

If You Could Be The Critter You See, which came out in late April and started selling on Amazon.com in May, not only received rave reviews from his daughter’s students, but from parents as well.

“My daughter, aged nine, loves nature. This book is both instructive, allows the reader to use their imagination in ways I never before thought existed, and most of all, is so much fun to read,” wrote one Amazon reviewer.

“What a treasure for your child’s library,” wrote another.

“It’s fun and engaging, colorful and inspires creativity!” read another.

In total, If You Could Be The Critter You See received 12 customer reviews on Amazon, all of which were five-star reviews.

Writing process

Mr. Eason said it took him a while to actually start writing the book after the concept was conceived.

“I got the idea 10 years ago and I tried a couple times to get fully pumped up to do it but never really got it going,” he said.

“I started it, put it aside, started again, put it aside. I thought my concept was good, but it was just hard to get going.”

With encouragement from his children and wife, Dagny, Mr. Eason said, he finally found the motivation to get to work.

“It’s right up his ally. He’s been doing poems like this with the kids since I met him,” said Ms. Eason.

“If it was somebody’s birthday, I’d say, ‘What do you want to write inside the card?’ and he’d go, ‘Roses are red, violets are blue...’ and these just amazing words would fall out. It’s just amazing.”

After retiring early due to Parkinson’s disease, Mr. Eason said, writing the book not only kept him busy, but also gave him something intellectual to do.

“Nowadays, you hear a lot about how important it is for people to stay active during retirement,” he added.

Once Mr. Eason started working on the book, he said, it only took him about six months to complete.

“What took me the most time was the rhyming — trying to make it so it was not just dumb poetry but fun poetry,” he said.

Mr. Eason said he may possibly write more books in the future.

“What’s interesting about this kind of book is that it can come out in series,” he said.

“This is If You Could Be The Critter You See, and it’s got a number of critters. You can have all kinds of critters in other books.”

Mr. Eason said he thinks If You Could Be The Critter You See in Your Backyard would make an interesting sequel.

Publishing

Mr. Eason self-published If You Could Be The Critter You See, through a company called CreateSpace.

“CreateSpace helps get you set up and it allowed me to call the shots,” he said.

“They’re not like a publisher, who would buy the book, give me an upfront and then I’d have to do what they say.”

Mr. Eason said his book is printed and sold through a process called “print-on-demand,” in which no inventory is involved.

“It’s unbelievable. When you go to Amazon and you buy one of these books, the book is printed either that day or the next day and then they send it out,” Mr. Eason explained.

Mr. and Ms. Eason said several hundred copies of his book have been sold so far.

If You Could Be The Critter You See can be purchased on Amazon.com. A link to the purchase page can also be found on Mr. Eason’s website, KirkEasonBooks.com.