Rising sixth grader Benjamin Brown of Orangeburg is like a lot of kids his age -- he enjoys video games, golf and recycling. But unlike most of them, he is a published author at the age of 10.
Brown and his mother, Kimberlei Davis, have co-written a children’s book, “The Day Dennis Lost His Whoo!” The book was recently released through Amazon’s independent publishing platform. It tells the tale of a helpful and friendly young owl who loses his “whoo” and his confidence. The tale touches on the subject of bullying and encourages young readers to believe in who they are and who they are created to be.
“It’s primarily a book about friendship and also encouragement,” Davis said. “Dennis is an owl who lives in Sunnyside Forest, and he’s really confident about himself and loves to help out.
“But then there are some antagonists in the story who not necessarily are jealous of Dennis, but they bully him in school,” she said. “So the premise of this story is not only does Dennis lose his “whoo,” the audible sound, but he loses the ‘who’ that God created him to be.”
Family and friends encourage and help Dennis along the way, Davis said.
The message of the story is a good one “not only for children, but also adults when they’re going through life and they meet challenges, whether it’s through people or whether it’s through circumstances,” she said.
“It just encourages them ... to let them know they were created for a purpose and (to) never forget who they are,” Davis said.
A Principal’s List student, her son, Benjamin Brown, just finished at Marshall Elementary School in the Gifted and Talented program and will be entering middle school in the fall. Davis is an Orangeburg-based multimedia journalist and public relations professional.
Brown said the idea for the book came from “elementary students having confidence and then they get bullied all of a sudden and they start feeling down about themselves.”
“Through conversations that we would have at home, through experiences that he would see, different things he would see on television, he would have questions and (ask) how we could best address these things,” Davis said.
“And we just came up with the idea one day,” Davis said. “We knew that we wanted it to be a children’s book; we wanted it to be animals so children could relate to it."
“And it just spawned into something bigger than ... we thought it would be,” she said.
The mother-son duo said they enjoyed working together.
“It was very fantastic. I feel very excited to have written my first book and hers of many,” Brown said.
“It was interesting -- I won’t say challenging -- at times,” Davis said. “But ... I had one direction I wanted the book to go in, and he had another direction he wanted the book to go in."
“But different periods of the book where I couldn’t find words or rhyming words, that’s where he came in,” she said.
“And when it came down to what we wanted the character to look like, he really helped with all the character development,” Davis said of her son. “He knew he wanted Dennis to have a bow tie because he likes bow ties. He knew how he wanted the antagonists to look -- he wanted them to be bigger animals.”
Being a child of the digital age, Brown helped out by looking through pictures on the internet and social media for inspiration, Davis said.
“It was a positive experience,” she said. “Where I lacked in different ideas, he was able to come in and say, ‘That doesn’t rhyme’ or ‘That doesn’t go together.'"
“And so I definitely couldn’t have done it without him,” Davis said.
The book took about four months to write, Brown said. At one point, they had to go back and revamp their story.
“He’s a stickler if ‘this wasn’t right’ or ‘this was misspelled’ or ‘this part of the story should go in the middle,’” Davis said.
So the basis of the story was done in about a month and a half, she said, but they went back and revised and tweaked until it was just right.
Dennis and the other denizens of Sunnyside Forest were brought to life by the colorful illustrations of David Jackson. Jackson was formerly district director of Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Orangeburg/Lower Savannah District and is now attending seminary, according to Davis. During the writing of the book, a friend suggested that Davis reach out to Jackson, who Davis had known previously in her career as a journalist.
“All this time that I knew David, I had no idea he was an illustrator,” she said. “So God really brought that together.”
"The Day Dennis Lost His Whoo!” is available for sale on the Amazon website, Davis said. And youngsters will soon be able to check out the book at the Orangeburg County Library, she said.
“We’re waiting on the publisher to send us the copies,” she said, adding that copies will be available at the Orangeburg and Holly Hill branch libraries and will likely also be available for sale at nearby locations yet to be determined.
Brown and Davis will also be holding “meet the authors” book signings this month at the following locations:
• Saturday, July 15, from 1 to 3 p.m. at Swift Books, 950 Chestnut St., Orangeburg.
• Sunday, July 16, at 12:30 p.m. at Williams Chapel AME Church, 1198 Glover St., Orangeburg.
• Tuesday, July 18, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. during storytime at the Holly Hill Library.
• Wednesday, July 19, from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. during storytime at the main branch of the Orangeburg County Library.