Title: Uncle Rocky, Fireman: Fire! (Volume 1)
Genre: Children’s Books/Action and Adventure
Synopsis: New firefighter, Rocky Hill, arriving at his first fire is confronted by a frantic mother shouting, “Save my Baby, Save My Baby.” While his partners attack the fire Rocky, his heart pounding with the urgency of the situation, crawls through the upstairs searching for the baby trapped in her crib. — Uncle Rocky, Fireman, is a series of children’s picture books about the adventures of a firefighter and his two nephews. Apart or together they fight fires, rescue people, and help neighbors. The stories emphasize service to others and devotion to duty with each story ending with the trademark statement, “Glad to do it!
Title: Officer Jack, Underwater (Volume 2)
Synopsis: Shouts attract Officer Jack’s and Kate’s attention in time to see a car roll into the water and start to sink. While Jack tries the doors and the woman trapped inside pleads for help, the car sinks deeper into the water. Kate searches for a way to get the woman out, but can she discover it before the car completely sinks? The Officer Jack series of children’s illustrated story books describes the adventures of Officer Jack and Officer Kate as they patrol Hamilton Township. On foot or in Car 14, they are committed to preserving property, protecting people, and stopping crime. Called “Good Books for Young Boys and Girls” the Officer Jack and Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories make up the “Glad To Do It!” series of children’s picture books.
The stories are free of bad behavior and the characters are kind, friendly people who enjoy helping others.
CH: Today’s Guest Author is James Burd Brewster, a children’s author, who read these stories to his sons when they were younger. Thanks for joining us and Welcome to my blog, Jim.
CH: Can you sum up the Glad to Do It series in 20 words or less?
JBB: The series describes the adventures of Officer Jack, Uncle Rocky, and EMT Morales, as they stop crime, fight fires, and help their neighbors.
CH: How did you come up with the premise for the Glad to Do It series?
JBB: I wanted to teach my children, as Christians, that they have a responsibility to help people who are in need, if they can. As men, I want my two boys to know they have a responsibility to protect the weak from the strong. Firemen do that regularly as part of their profession. It made a fire fighter, the easy choice for the main character.
CH: What inspired you to write this charming children’s book series? How did you find an illustrator?
JBB: Ben and Luke loved the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories. I enjoyed telling them and I loved seeing how much fun they had acting out the sequences and then saying, “Glad To Do It!” at the end of each story. Katie and I have always thought the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories would make wonderful picture books and for twenty years have played with the idea of writing the stories and getting them illustrated, but never got far. The most I had done was 10 years ago, when I took a week off from work to write down as many titles and themes as I could remember. I even went so far as to write out 10 of the stories, which then languished in my computer. They languished because I didn’t know how to find an illustrator and I really wasn’t trying to find one.
In the fall of 2012, our youngest went to college and Katie and I celebrated our “empty nest” (Ha – the third child is back home and youngest child attended college from our house) by taking a creative writing course taught by Dr. Wayne Karlin at the College of Southern Maryland. This course revitalized our interest in the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories and resulted in our joining the Life Journeys Writer’s Club. At the February 2013 meeting, I met James Mascia, a local children’s writer, who told me I could find all the illustrators I wanted through freelance websites. He was correct. Within 24 hours I had found and hired Dayna Barley-Cohrs. Uncle Rocky, Fireman #1 Fire! began to take shape. By the end of June (4 months later), we had edited, illustrated, and published four Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories.
CH: Yes, James Mascia was featured on this blog in 2014. Can you tell my audience a little about reading your book to small children?
JBB: It is just plain fun to read to little children! It’s even more fun to read my books to children as the children get to act out several parts of the book and, I know from experience, that they love doing it.
I take a fire coat and helmet with me to each reading and let each child try it on. Then they sit in a half-circle in front of me as I read the story. At each interactive part, I show them how to act it out and then have them do it. The ending is the best, when the kids all mimic our hero and shout “Glad to do it!”
CH: Where do you get inspiration for your characters?
JBB: My boys already liked firefighters when I first started telling the stories, so it was a no-brainer to make up a firefighter character. His name, Rocky Hill, is just a strong masculine name inspired by Rocky Balboa of the Rocky movies. What made a firefighter really work as a character is that firefighters like to help people and I wanted my boys to learn to be aware of people’s need and help them if they could. What really capped the deal is that almost all firefighters are very humble when they are thanked for their service. They are usually just “Glad to do it!” resulting in the use of the phrase at the end of all of the stories. Kids love repeating the phrase.
CH: Who was your favorite character to write?
JBB: All my hopes for teaching children the value of being “Glad to do it!” rests on the personality of Uncle Rocky, which makes him my favorite character.
CH: Do you write books for different age levels of children?
JBB: The “Glad to do it!” series is geared for children ages 3 – 7, the same ages as Ben and Luke when I told them the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories. The stories show kind, nice, people, who like each other and like helping people in need. Young children really enjoy this type of story and I enjoy reading the stories to them, so I think I have found a home in the series.
That said, I am starting a series about US Coast Guard Heroes that requires a greater amount of explanation than the “Glad to do it!” series, so these are geared to third and fourth graders.
CH: Is it hard to write a story on a child’s level?
JBB: It is not hard to write a story for a child’s level, as all children understand thoughts and sentence structure well above their reading level. Also, the “Glad to do it!” series is designed to be read to children ages 3-7, and not read by children ages 3-7. Since the 3-7 age range can easily understand third grade language, which is the level most of us speak. So, I write in the same manner that I talk to kids. The only thing I have to remember is to break up complex sentences into smaller sentences. Fortunately, my wife, who is my primary editor, catches any other language issues I miss.
It would be much harder if I were attempting to write a first grade reader, where I would be constrained in my use of words to the first grade reader list.
CH: Where do you come up with ideas for children’s story?
JBB: At first, I just made up the stories based upon my stored knowledge of accidents and fires and how firemen operate. Now, when I am at a book show selling books, I’ll have firemen and policemen tell me about a fire or police response they performed that they are proud of and use that as my story idea. I always make sure the office or firefighter is credited with the story idea in the acknowledgements section of the book.
CH: What is your favorite children’s book? What is your favorite children’s book that you have written?
JBB: My favorite young children’s book is Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever. It says exactly how I feel about my children and my parents and how I want to remember to feel when I am bothered by them.
The most favorite story I have written is The Limerick, which describes a car trip with my parents when we created a Limerick on the spur of the moment that pleased us immensely. I hope to publish it someday.
CH: What was the book you loved as a child?
JBB: My mom read to us constantly, but I do not remember any particular title until she signed me up for a book club in middle school. I still enjoy anything by Sid Fleischman, but the first I read was Chancy and the Grand Rascal.
CH: How important are titles for children’s books?
JBB: Titles either create interest or set an expectation and as a result are very important. My titles set an expectation. They tell moms it an Uncle Rocky story (They can trust it to be a safe story) and give a straightforward look at the particular emergency in the story.
CH: What kind of feedback are you getting from your readers and parents for the Glad to do it! series?
JBB: The feedback is excellent. Kids really love to say, “Glad to do it!” at the end of each story. Parents come by at book shows and grab the new books published since the previous show. One parent told us that Uncle Rocky, Fireman is the only book on their son’s nightstand, while the rest of his books are on his book shelf. One mother could not get her 7-year-old son interested in books. She bought book #1 Fire! in the hope he might like it and get interested in reading. The next day, she returned to buy the entire set and told me, in tears, that her son asked her to read #1Fire! to him twice. The first time he had ever done that.
CH: I can imagine that was a wonderful feeling for you as a writer. What can we expect next in the series? Is there another book in the making?
JBB: We have two significant additions to the “Glad to do it!” series in production. This month at the Family Christian Store in Waldorf, MD, we are formally introducing the Officer Jack stories in the “Glad to do it!”series and in 2017, we intend to develop and publish the EMT Morales stories. The three series (Uncle Rocky, Fireman, Officer Jack, and EMT Morales) will ensure each major public safety profession is properly represented and thanked.
The Officer Jack stories will all be real police responses portrayed by our Officer Jack and Officer Kate characters. The titles are: Lost Lady, Underwater, Rapid Response, and Stolen Puppy.
CH: Can you give my audience your website address?
JBB: “The Glad To Do It” series has its own website at www.GladToDoIt.net
CH: Can you tell my audience where your book is sold?
JBB: Interested readers can purchase the Glad To DO IT! Series from these sources: Locally at Family Christian Store in Waldorf, MD and Marie’s Diner and Country Store in La PLata. MD. Online at www.gladtodoit.net, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. Amazon Link: http://amzn.to/2cv3zx9
CH: Any closing remarks?
JBB: No one gets where they are going totally on their own effort. Writing is no different. Lots of people have helped me get to this spot.
Your blog and your kindness in granting me an author interview is one such example; the Life Journey’s Writers Club is another example; my wife and kids are a third; and the list goes on. I encourage writers to join a club and get into a support network. It is so absolutely cool to be a published author with your viewpoints or story in print for others to read. Thanks, Cheryl
CH: Thank you so much, James Burd Brewster, for taking time out of your very busy writing schedule to join me and my blog followers. It has been a real pleasure discussing your book with my audience. And readers, if you’re like me and would enjoy these books for your children or grandkids, I suggest you pick up a copy at your earliest convenience.
Note: Photos are compliments of the Internet and James Burd Brewster.
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