Publishing children’s book a family affair

Grandfather, granddaughter combine their skills

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Mariah Kliewer, left, and her grandfather, Paul Klassen with their collaborative effort, "Bubba's Bubble Bath."

Retired USMB pastor Paul Klassen and his granddaughter, Mariah Kliewer, have collaborated to publish a children’s book titled Bubba’s Bubble Bath, intended to help children think about being peacemakers.

Klassen wrote the story line and Kliewer created the illustrations.

“I tried to write the story with the idea that Bubba was a stubborn, self-willed bear,” says Klassen, who lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. “It created problems with his relationships with the other animals (in the forest).”

He says the animals have two options for dealing with the conflict, either go to war and fight or try a solution that involves some pain and discomfort but is meant to move Bubba to change.

“To me, it’s taking something in our theology that we have held about peacemaking and trying to illustrate it in a silly way, maybe something that children could understand and laugh about,” says Klassen.

The book includes a parents’ page that gives suggestions to help children better understand the lessons in the story.

Klassen says he’s always told stories, first to his three children and then to his 10 grandchildren. As a young child, Kliewer heard Bubba stories when visiting her grandparents in Edmond, where Klassen served in pastoral ministry for 29 years. He retired in 2012 and now serves as chaplain for a law enforcement agency in Oklahoma City.

“I remember Poppy telling stories (about Bubba), and I remember them mostly at bedtime,” says Kliewer, who graduated from Tabor College in May 2017 with a degree in graphic design.

The notion for this book began in one of Kliewer’s classes.

“We had gotten this assignment to illustrate a children’s book,” she says. “We had been bugging Poppy for a long time to start writing down Bubba stories. So I had this idea to have him write the book and then I’d illustrate it.”

Kliewer then called her grandfather to request a Bubba story.

“I’ve never written a story in my life,” Klassen says. “I had never really pre-planned any story I’ve told—I just winged them.” But he agreed to send her a story.

“I sat down and kind of scratched out a story and sent it to her,” Klassen says. “That’s the first time I’ve ever written something down.”

After Kliewer received the Word document of the story, she says she found themes and strong images for each story page, which she sketched on paper.

Bubba’s Bubble Bath

“(Bubba) could have looked so many ways,” she says. “I had to do my research about what I wanted him to look like, about what the whole world of Bubba would look like.”

For example, on one page, the animals ask Bubba to leave their community because of his bad attitude.

“So he had a suitcase and he’s sadly walking away,” Kliewer says about the illustrations she created. “I wanted (readers) to see that.”

Kliewer used Adobe Creative Cloud software, primarily Illustrator and InDesign, to format the images and create the pages. She used Create Space, owned by Amazon, to publish the book.

“It was super easy and free,” Kliewer says. “It worked out really well.”

The books are sold on Amazon and printed as people order them. Kliewer says that was one reason to choose the route they did to publish the book.

“As a grandparent, there’s a lot of ways you measure riches that go beyond how the world measures riches,” Klassen says. “I think having a granddaughter like Mariah and working with her, for her to call and work with me in this way, this is true riches.”

He credits his granddaughter and wife Gladys with making decisions involved with publishing and marketing the book.

“I think Mariah and her Nanny were the ones who talked about the business side and explored different ways of publishing and the pros and cons,” Klassen says. “I just did the work in the workshop.”

Soon after publication, he says someone identified a mistake they hadn’t caught before the books were in print. But Klassen doesn’t know if he wants to eliminate the mistake.

“Making a mistake is part of our life,” he says. “As a child or an adult, we make mistakes. We try not to, but we do.”

So a mistake may be something to intentionally incorporate into future books about Bubba that parents can discover and discuss with their children, he says.

“Making mistakes is not a fatal problem,” Klassen said. “We learn through them and grow through them.”

Asked about writing future Bubba books, Klassen says he’s thought about writing one to which children can particularly relate.

“I have little ideas that go through my mind about Bubba starting school, thinking he doesn’t have the best attitude toward school and having to get up in the morning,” he says.

Kliewer says she’d consider working on another book once she’s settled into her new job as the graphic designer for a church in Wichita, which she started in early August.

Proceeds from books sold during July went toward supporting Kliewer’s month-long experience with MB Mission in France.

“Part of the story with all of this was right at the beginning, or as we were getting ready to publish, Mariah was making her decision to go on this mission trip,” Klassen says. “So we made a decision that all the proceeds that would come from this (project) would go toward supporting Mariah on this missions trip.”

Most of the books sold to date were purchased by early August, says Klassen.

“In some ways, the book has a value that goes way beyond just making some income for income sake. It’s been helping a young lady as she pursue’s God’s direction in her life. I’m very grateful for that,” he says.

Kliewer adds with a smile, “Me, too.”

 

Aleen Ratzlaff
Aleen Ratzlaff is a news and feature writer with the Hillsboro Free Press, a weekly newspaper serving Marion County, Kansas. She is professor of communications at Tabor College, the Mennonite Brethren college headquartered in Hillsboro, Kansas.

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