By Kristina Houck
To share his love of fantasy with his then 5- and 7-year-old sons, Henry Herz of Carmel Valley wrote a book. He didn’t anticipate his sons to name some of the characters and suggest plotlines.
“Over time, they gave me some feedback,” Henry said. “What I thought was just going to be, ‘Hey, let’s get them interested in reading,’ turned into a collaboration.”
At the suggestion of family members, Henry and his sons published “Nimpentoad” in 2011. The early chapter book tells the story of Nimpentoad, who leads his fellow Niblings through the Grunwald Forest, overcoming obstacles and encountering strange creatures along the way.
“That started us down a long path of finding the artist, getting the artwork done and publishing the book,” said Henry, a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. “It’s been very well received.”
Not long after “Nimpentoad” was published, Henry, Josh, 13, and Harrison, 11, began working on their second book, “Twignibble.” Aimed at second, third and fourth graders, the 1,000-word easy reader was published in June.
“Twignibble” is a conservation-themed book about a sloth that helps his animal friends when faced with threats to their habitats.
“A lot of kids grow up not really knowing about the environment,” said Harrison, a sixth grader at Ocean Air Elementary. “They can do a lot of things that pollute and kill a lot of animals. This is getting the word out to people that you shouldn’t pollute.”
Although self-publishing was “much smoother the second time around,” Henry said it’s still a lot of work to write, illustrate, self-publish and promote a book.
The Herz family is set to sign copies of “Twignibble” during a book release party on Aug. 4 at Mysterious Galaxy. In addition, Henry and his sons plan to promote the book at local bookstores, farmers markets, libraries and schools like they did with “Nimpentoad.”
“We’re our own editors, art directors and promoters,” said Henry, a self-employed management consultant. “We have to be involved in every aspect, which is good because it started as a way to get them interested in reading, and it turned into this huge development opportunity.
“They’ve gotten so many skills from this, not just writing, but meeting new people, handling money, public speaking. It’s just been a great developmental project for us all.”
Despite the long hours at book signings, readings and other promotional events, Henry said he enjoys working with his sons and writing books for children.
“I did it initially just to interest my boys in reading fantasy. Then I realized how much I enjoyed the storytelling,” Henry said. “I like writing children’s books. For me, the juice is getting kids excited about reading and telling fantasy and science fiction stories to spark their creativity.”
Josh, an eighth grader at Carmel Valley Middle School and a parkour enthusiast, said he’s enjoyed discovering and working with artists.
“I’ve really liked working with the artists, seeing pictures and telling what I liked and didn’t like,” Josh said. “I really like the art.”
Harrison, a basketball fanatic, enjoyed meeting Kareem Abdul-Jabbar while promoting “Nimpentoad” at the Orange County Children’s Book Festival. The retired professional basketball player was at the festival signing copies of his children’s book, “What Color Is My World?”
Harrison said he’s also appreciated the time he has spent with his co-authors.
“I get to spend a lot of time with my dad and my brother,” said Harrison, who plays basketball for the Carmel Valley Stingrays. “It’s also fun writing it and seeing other people enjoying it.”
Henry hopes his creative journey with his sons inspire more children to write, whether or not they publish their stories.
“We want to encourage kids to read and we want to encourage kids to write,” Henry said. “It’s got to start somewhere. Write a short story and submit it to magazines. You never know if it will get published, but just the process of writing is great to spark creative expression and to develop a skill that will serve you at almost any career you choose.”
The book release party for “Twignibble” will take place on Aug. 4, from 2-4 p.m., at Mysterious Galaxy. The independent bookstore is located at 7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. in San Diego.
For more information about Twignibble, visit www.twignibble.com. For more information about Nimpentoad, visit www.nimpentoad.com.