Kookabuk Shares His Shovel is a sweet little children’s book from brother authors, Kevin Howard and Jesse Howard. Kookabuk the monkey helps teach children an important lesson in sharing, but there is so much more. The book teaches children and families about Asperger’s Syndrome. Kookabuk finds it hard to share. His mother models the behavior. While the book’s target audience is for children with Asperger’s, it is beneficial to all. There are helpful tips about Asperger’s Syndrome in the back of the book.
Select bloggers were provided a Q&A with Kevin and Jesse.
- When did you first begin writing?
I began scribbling words at age four. I wrote something of merit at 18 and began my formal writing career at 51. It was as a freshman in college that I was told I had a talent for creative writing. My English professor selected my piece to read aloud to the class… a practice she rarely did.
Personally, I have been writing (that I can remember) since 3rd grade when I had a wonderful teacher who made us write an entry into a journal every night. I pretty much fell in love with putting my thoughts down on paper and continued from there. My most influential teacher was Mr. Richard Leonard at Eastchester High School in N.Y. He was an amazing creative writing instructor who really sparked the idea in my mind that I could one day write something that could be published. I enjoy writing poetry but have yet to have the courage to share most of my work with anyone publicly. I hope I have made Mr. Leonard proud in publishing Kookabuk Shares His Shovel with my brother.
- What inspired you to write your book?
My inspiration for writing this book came from my oldest son and a childhood toy.
Just before my 8th birthday, I spent over a month in the hospital with a bone infection in my leg. One morning during that stay, a friend of my father’s woke me. Hanging on the curtain rod around my bed was a cute stuffed animal, a monkey named Kookabuk. My father’s friend went on to tell me a wonderful story about how Kookabuk was there to help me get better. During that time, I developed an incredible bond with my new friend. Kookabuk became a cherished source of friendship and strength. I improved and was discharged from the hospital not long after. Fast forwarding to adulthood, I always wanted to create children’s stories using Kookabuk as the main character, but could not come up with a storyline.
Many years later I married and started a family. My first born was diagnosed with Autism at two-years-old. As he grew he began displaying challenging behaviors. Struggling to figure out how we could understand what was going on with our son, we sought the assistance of many therapists and professionals. One of his therapists suggested using social stories. She explained that social stories are tools used to help children understand and prepare for new situations. Taking her advice, I began creating social stories for my son. The first one was about a child going to the doctor to have his blood drawn. We read it together several times before visiting the doctor’s office. It worked! My son had his blood drawn without incident. Other social stories followed. While writing one of them, I realized I finally had the storyline for Kookabuk!
My friend Kookabuk helped me through a very difficult time as a child, and now I am very happy he’s back (47 years later) to help others.
As Kevin described, the inspiration for the book series and the characters within are really from his personal experiences, as well as his relationship and journey with his son (my nephew). Kevin discussed the concept with me years ago and we had always planned on writing the series. Life as teachers and parents can be very busy, and we finally had some time to dedicate to Kookabuk over the last year or so. Personally, my greatest inspiration is to entertain as many children as possible while simultaneously putting forward the idea that friendships can develop between all different types of children.
- What is the easiest part about writing for you?
Finding inspiration has always been the easiest part of the writing process. Inspiration presents itself to me in many forms. It can come from a personal experience or from just gazing upon the most perfect tree. No matter the catalyst, once inspiration flares creativity ignites and my pen blazes like wildfire across the page.
I would hesitate to say that any part of the writing process is easy for me. The part that I enjoy the most is when I have what I think is a great idea and I just start writing whatever thoughts are popping up into my mind. It really is like getting into a “zone.” I can go days without writing anything of consequence, but when I do get one of these sparks I can write for hours without stopping, and usually am happy with what I have produced.
- What is your biggest challenge when it comes to writing?
In many ways, the challenges I faced in writing this book were similar to those I’ve experienced in the past. The usual excuses and customary distractions repeatedly presented themselves throughout this process. The biggest hurdle, as with any of my previous undertakings, was finishing. I have learned over the years that persistence, perseverance, and determination are not just words, but rather instructions to live by. I did not allow time, money, family, or work-life deter me from my goal. Anytime I felt overwhelmed and wanted to stop, I referred back to one of my favorite quotes: “The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.” Accepting some “roadside assistance” every now and then, I managed to stay on course. Now equal to my other accomplishments, the first installment of The Kooky Adventures of My Friend Kookabuk is finalized.
Personally, my biggest challenge is starting. I often have many ideas that I consider before I begin to write, and can become stuck in that brainstorming stage. I am definitely a harsh self-critic and many times will eliminate an idea before its even fully formed. This is something I constantly aim to improve upon. I need to just write, even if I am not fully sold on the idea.
About the Authors
Jesse Howard is a special education teacher in Westchester County, NY who received his Masters in Education (Childhood/Early Childhood/Students with Disabilities) from Manhattanville College. Raised in a family of special education teachers who embraced their passion to live a life devoted to the well being of all children, his career has focused mainly on early childhood and students with disabilities. He made learning creative and experiential for his students and developed a strong connection with parents. Realizing the importance of the role of the parent as “First Teacher,” Jesse encouraged parents that time spent reading with children was a critical as well as a rewarding experience. From these experiences, plus his love of writing, grew the foundation of his philosophy surrounding the Kookabuk series.
Kevin Howard graduated twice from the University of South Florida, receiving both a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and a Master’s Degree in Education. He spent the first 14 years of his early professional life in the private industry and is now approaching his 20th year as a public school teacher, trainer, and coach. While his resume is packed with a wealth of experience and education, Kevin confesses that his most rewarding experience has come from fatherhood and being the parent of a child with Autism. Kevin created and co-authored The Kooky Adventures of My Friend Kookabuk to share the knowledge he gained raising his son. The Kookabuk series is a collection of social stories that serve as a source of information, inspiration, and guidance for parents and children alike.
You buy a copy at Amazon or check out your local library.