Its a Short Story Collection.
Details On Our New Book!

14 short stories for kids, full of fun characters and imaginative creatures. Each one featuring a unique, original illustration that can be colored in--right in the book. A great collection for boys or girls, ideal for eager readers of ages 8-10, or even better for some enjoyable read-aloud time.

Skim through the story list below to see my inspirations behind each tale. And then, after you get the book and read each story, click on the "Art Ideas & Reader Artwork" links to see some cool suggestions from each tale that kids can draw, paint, or otherwise create. We want this book to come alive and to fill kids with imaginative energies after they hear or read each story.

Also--be sure to email or tweet photos of any story-related artwork to me and I'll post them here on the corresponding story pages!


Thank you so much for checking out our book!
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
My wife’s grandfather, we call him Bobbo, is the absolute best 90+ year old dude I know. His great-grandkids love him, his grandkids love him, we “grandkids-in-law” love him, everyone loves him. One day several years back when Bobbo was visiting us at our house, he commented on how funny our kids were becoming and how much they were talking.

“Pretty soon,” he said, “they will start saying the word ‘actually’ a lot. I remember when my other grandkids started saying ‘actually’. I think it’s great fun when they do that!”

And so, my story “Actually...” was born. It’s about a kid with a fabulously limitless imagination, who’s telling his grandpa about all the fun he’s been having. This one is for you, Bobbo!
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
Attack of The Wordster
A writer’s story, this one is. Whoa, I just went all Yoda there for no reason. Obviously "Attack of The Wordster” is about the fun of big, fabulous words and the exciting ways you can bring them together. It’s way over-written, with excessive descriptions, and too many adjectives--but that’s the point. I had a lot of fun writing this one because I didn’t have to pull back at all or try to not be too wordy. I wanted it to be stuffed to the gills with terrific terms and clever writing techniques so it would basically become an ode to words and to writing.

The whole point of the story is: when you can, use better, more adventurous, more highly imaginative words to say what you really want to say. Except, hang on, where did these stupendously large words come from? And how did we harness them for use in our speaking and writing?

The idea to use word puzzles came from Twitter where I’d seen this one writer tweet out fun anagrams every now and then. So I took out our Scrabble game and spelled out big adjectives with the letters. Then I rearranged those letter tiles to make The Wordster’s dangerous phrases. After that, while writing the story, I realized it would be fun for the character names to be riddles too.

If you have a Scrabble set, you should definitely try this with your own names or with other big adjectives. This activity is a blast and maybe you can even email me or tweet me some ideas for a sequel!
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
The Wonderbeard Pirates Sort out a Kerfuffle in Kerflunker
In the longer original version of this story, a mother who has a whole bunch of kids is wandering around her house, trying to find inspiration for a short story she needs to write. The story is for an upcoming writing contest which is taking place in the small town where they live. As she interacts with her kids (all of whom are of course making messes and merriment around the house) she finds plenty of ideas. From these moments, she pieces together the story of the Wonderbeard pirates. So it’s both the tale of her coming up with the story, and the actual Wonderbeards story itself.

The idea was to reveal how writing inspiration truly does come from absolutely everywhere, if you keep your eyes and ears open. Truth be told, almost all of the things the kids come up with are things that my daughter likes or that she imagined at one time or another. Including the nine finned unicorn shark!

My colleagues at knowonder suggested I pull out the Wonderbeards’ story parts and put those together to make it just about these nice pirates having a whimsical adventure. Perhaps you’d like to read both versions and decide for yourself - which is your favorite?

(Incidentally, this story includes the phrase “poop deck”, which may seem like it’s there just for a cheap laugh. Yes, to be perfectly honest, I used the phrase to get a little giggle. But I also used it because it makes sense to the story AND this is a real nautical term meaning: “the aftermost and highest deck of a ship, especially in a sailing ship where it typically forms the roof of a cabin in the stern.”)
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
The Thunder Wink masterpiece. My magnum opus. The inspiration for this story is extremely simple - I drove by a neighborhood lemonade stand one day and imagined what else the kids could be selling. Then I thought, well perhaps most people who stop to buy lemonade or Kool-Aid or whatever it is don’t really WANT the thing, it just makes them feel better to help out the kid. So what if that is the point - the kid is there just to make people feel better. And what if he’s doing it on purpose? What if he’s maybe, just maybe, magical?

From there, it was just a fun story to craft and I’ve always loved the narrative voice, which should be a slight southern drawl as you read it aloud. Also, creating D. Thomas Scowl, even though he’s a bad guy, was a lot of fun. If you like 80s movies, you can probably guess where I thought up his name. A couple of the other character names are “borrowed” too. Once upon a time I almost bought a heater/AC unit for a pop-up camper we used to own from a salesman whose REAL name was very similar to Billy Ray Jay Sam. I’m not kidding.

Sir Whitman Jones (the gas station owner) and Aidee Lee (the cat at the cafe) - those are the names of two cats owned by my good friends Chris and Aileen. Yes, the same Chris who has his name on the front of this book because he made all the sweet artwork.

Alas, I must admit, I’ve never met a Miss Prissy Lagoon. Just sounded like a cool name!
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
Grace and the Troublesome T-Shirt Critter
The mess-making creature in this story is based off a little monster shirt our son had when he was a toddler. He loved the shirt and we thought he looked so cute in it. Once upon a time, my always-active imagination wondered, what would happen if that critter somehow escaped and became real?

Also, I named the girl in the story after my niece Grace. So this one is for you all, the PA Doyle’s!
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
Waiting for Garzo
This one is meant to be an inspiration to my fellow writers out there. But it’s disguised as a clever little kid’s story that teaches you how to deal with waiting for something.

Waiting is a very common thing in the writing world. We wait for ideas, we wait on submissions, we wait on editors and we wait on long, excruciating publication processes. Then we start over and wait on it all again. People blog about waiting, complain about waiting and write books about waiting all the time. But it doesn’t change the fact that sometimes you simply have to wait. However, if you do the same important things that Collin does (BE PATIENT, PERSEVERE, and BELIEVE), you’ll be OK!

Incidentally, Collin is named after one of my favorite soccer players - Aurelien Collin. He used to play for my home town team Sporting Kansas City. But at time of publication, he plays for the New York Red Bulls. I don’t hold that against him. I could have changed the boy’s name to Benny, Roger or Dom, to keep him on Sporting KC, but I chose not to. Once a character has a name, I think he or she should stay that way.
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
The Clutterberg Circus
This one, again, involves our daughter. You’ll notice in these little write-ups that she’s inspired a lot of my early work. I suspect that’s true for most writers who have children. What can I say, kids are interesting and random - two things that really help churn up the ol’ idea making machine!

Several years ago, she came home from school or art camp or somewhere with an illustration showing something that could only be called a CatElephant. I don’t know why she drew it, the beast simply sprung from her imagination.

Immediately I does this beast behave? Where does it live? What does it do? I decided I must reveal these answers in a story.

Funny side note - I named the CatElephant “Ren” after “Ren McCormick” from one of my favorite movies, “Footloose”. Bet you would’ve never guessed that!
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
Following Mr. Bandoofernen
Well, this is an easy one. I remember being in a park with my kids and imagining a strange character leaping and flipping through the trees. Why’s he here? Oh right, to look after the park, of course. Well, he can’t take care of ALL the parks. I bet he needs help.

So all you youngsters out there, remember that Mr. Bandoofernen may be counting on YOU to look after the local parks you love to visit. Always be mindful because you never know when he or Mr. Crinkles might float down for a visit.
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
A Wish for the Wishing Star
No matter how hard I wish for it, I honestly cannot recall my inspiration for this tale. Sometimes something simply comes to your mind, for no reason at all, and since you’re a writer--you write. Good enough?

Two things I can say for sure are the Grandma and Papa in the story are based on my wife’s parents. Except she isn't called Grandma, she's called Meme. “Papa’s workshop” definitely exists too. And there’s plenty of piles of wood and other random things all around the real shop too, perfect for a little kid to rummage around in, looking for magic!
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
The Mysterious Mr. Oon
I love the little introductory paragraph to this story. I like when kids say funny things and phrase questions in interesting ways. This always makes me want to engage with them more and I dig seeing a bit of creativity and imagination behind an inquisitive little smile. So really, it’s that thought which led to the idea for a story based on an eloquently asked question. And then I probably glanced up and saw the moon, since I write late at night quite often. Put the two together and there’s the spark.

Incidentally, this perfectly illustrates the beauty of the 1500-2000 word short story. All it takes is one clever character or idea and zing--you’re at the keyboard racing along.

To go a little deeper into my process, I can tell you that “The Mysterious Mr. Oon” was revised more than any other tale in this collection. Writing is a lot about writing, but it’s mostly about revision. As I tinkered away, shaping and reshaping this one, I finally had the idea to make the Uncle be the same person as the boy in the story-within-the-story. Also, in early 2016, as I was making my last and final edits before publication, I had the inspiration to bring Moon down from the sky at the end. I think it works really well now as a sweet little bedtime story and I love the idea that these stories we write are alive, moving, changing, right up until the time they are printed and released to the world.
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
Teddy’s Too Tall Tower of Things
This was one of my earliest stories and it came straight out of my day-to-day life. For over nine years now, I’ve been a stay-home dad with our two magnificent kids. We’ve spent a tremendous amount of play time together building block towers, huge Lego structures, and other such things. When our youngest was around two years old, he was--of course--a perfect demolitions expert. So naturally, one day I wondered, if a toy tower was never knocked down, how high could it go?

You might have noticed when the dad came out of the house and saw Teddy’s extremely dangerous tower being built, he jumped right in to play along with no hesitation whatsoever. This is me...just a big old kid, always in the mix, having fun, and willing to hold the ladder all night long.
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
Salvador Salamander’s Sensational Sack of Super Socks
This was sssssuch a fun ssssstory to write. I went way over the top with all the extended ssssss’s but sssssso what, it was ssssimply a sssssplendid thing to ssssee. And fun to read aloud! Oh yeah, I’m sssssupposed to be revealing the inspiration.

I have this blue and brown pair of striped ssssssocks that aren’t THAT silly, I guess. However, I’ve always privately considered them to be my “Dr. Seuss Socks”. Meaning I only wear them when I expect unusual and exciting things to happen. I wanted to write a story about a guy wearing “Dr. Seuss Socks” and all these fantastical things happen to him. However, I wasn’t sure about the legality of using the good doctor’s name. So it became a tale about two boys, a salamander, a football, and one wild and crazy adventure.
Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
Flartus Flubberwonk’s Five Things
Oh this is my favorite story. Did I say that already? Maybe I have. But this one is really my favorite. Probably. This story was SO MUCH fun to write and it’s a blast to read aloud. It started just as this impossible list of things to do - no story at all, just a weird, circular to-do list. Then I realized it would work much better with a story framework around it. And since it’s meant to be enjoyed by kids, it ought to have a kid in it. Enter Molly Nolly!

She’s based on our daughter, by the way. And the Ohmslice (NO IDEA where/how I came up with that name) is, yet again, based on a piece of artwork created by our daughter. Everything else in the story is completely made up. Flartus Flubberwonk is definitely, absolutely NOT me. He might be me.

I hope you are enjoying all these little insights into my writer’s mind! I’m going to take a break and grab some ice cream. Wait, what's this trickery? The carton is nearly empty, except for some remnants in the corner.

Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >
To Paint Your Feelings
This one is about the importance of not overthinking things and of bringing a little funny silliness into your life from time to time. Also, make sure you always have enough color around to wash out the gray when it closes in too tightly.

Personal side note, I have always thought this story would make a fantastic picture book. The artwork and colors would be amazing as Les’s home changes from a dull gray to having fabulous paint splatters everywhere. So, if anyone wants to illustrate this one, let me know so I can cut the text down to picture book size and we can make it work!

Art Ideas & Reader Artwork >