By Jennifer Lasker, for The Children’s Book Review
Published: May 5, 2010
A boy? What am I going to do with a boy?
As an expectant mom, I received the news with trepidation. The child growing inside me was soon to emerge as a son. An enthusiast of baseball and hockey. A collector of fly wings and fart jokes. How could I imagine relating to such a being? Where would we connect?
Of course, as soon as Colin arrived into the world with his wide eyes and pointy head, I was captivated. Even as he was later followed by a daughter, I discovered what all parents know to be true, that each child is a unique and unexpected entity, a composite of their gender, their genetics and their environment. And in the case of Colin, I soon recognized there was another surprise as well. My son had a special gift for enchantment.
At the tender age of two, Colin started drawing faces. He saw them everywhere—in the patterns in the curtains, in the clouds and the leaves of trees. Once, when was three, he glanced down at his coat and exclaimed, “Look! All these people are buttons!” With amazement I realized that he recognized his buttons as people first, and only later recalled that they served a function. What a delightful world he lived in! Charmed, I fell into it this world, head over heels.
Around the time that Colin was ten years old, I noticed his illustrations had become more inventive and I puzzled over the stories his characters seemed to tell. One day, while looking at an illustration he’d done of a city bus, I found myself absorbed in the drawing. A few lines of verse popped into my head. It happened suddenly. My first poem was born.
I kept it a secret.
I had a glimmering thought that I could do a whole series of these stories, and maybe we could publish them as a book. I spent the next few weeks working on the sly with a collection of Colin’s drawings, hoping that something child-worthy might result. The verdict came when I presented the poems to Colin and his younger sister, Devon, and witnessed the excitement and laughter they created.
And so we decided to do it, to embark upon a quest to publish a children’s book together. As we created and edited and enhanced our stories, I realized that Colin and I shared a common perspective. A recurring theme emerged from both the drawings and the poems, that no matter how challenging or absurd one’s situation, the power of the human spirit can prevail. Colin’s unabashedly unconventional characters always found a way to triumph over their circumstances with humor and with grace.
The process of publishing was a story unto itself, but we prevailed, and Colin and I are now the author and illustrator of two poetry books for children, Coolhead Luke: and Other Stories, and On the Edge With Coolhead Luke. We’ve spent the last few years presenting our stories to groups of children at bookstores, schools and libraries. We’ve learned a lot, and we’ve had a lot of laughs. We’ve even shared the odd fart joke or two.
Motherhood leads us on unexpected paths. In my pursuit to celebrate Colin’s talent, I’ve become an author and public speaker, two roles I never expected to fill. Colin has provided me with so many surprising opportunities to build our relationship. At 15, he’s a great kid with a full life, lots of friends and a girlfriend, too. But, even now that he’s a teenager, I can say with satisfaction that he continues to be very close with his mother.
And so does his sister, by the way, who is turning into quite a talented singer. Maybe songwriting is in my future?
And on we go!
Jennifer Lasker White
The Coolhead Luke book series is available at www.amazon.com.