The Guelph Mercury
Getting Into A Book
Children can find themselves smack in the middle of an adventure
The Guelph Mercury
Curly up with an exciting adventure novel could be the ultimate
Safe in the confines of an armchair, the reader is whisked around
the world, can travel through time, can face and over-come
Well, move over Harry Potter. There's a new adventure hero in town,
and it's you!
Mike Pocock, founder of London, Ontario based Book By You
Publishing, has just launched his first full-length, personalized
children's novel called "The Golden Key."
With the information given in a character questionnaire, readers
will find themselves smack in the middle of the book. It is not an
unknown character who crosses the Land of Shadows, but you - or your
child, or whoever you've given the story to.
"Putting children's names in the storyline really drives the message
home," said Pocock. "It can motivate and can teach. It's very
Pocock's first foray into the world of personalized novels was just
last year when launched a personalized romance novel called Love's
Next Door. It was geared to the adult reader who found herself
locked in an embrace with the guy next door, whose name and features
are just like her husband or boyfriend, or...
"We received wonderful feedback from the romance novel," Pocock
said. It really pulled on people's emotions. I started
thinking if these books can affect emotions, they can deliver
So Pocock headed to the library where he did extensive research into
children's writers. And he found a little-known but
imaginative adventure writer in George MacDonald.
|Your child's best friend plays an important
role in the story as well!
"MacDonald was a mentor to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien back in
1867. His stories are absolutely phenomenal," Pocock said.
But most of MacDonald's stories are deep and dark and Pocock
said that as they are, MacDonald's stories are not really meant for
children. But there was one, 'The Golden Key" that particularly
caught his fancy and Pocock decided to used it as the basis of his
personalized children's adventure concept.
What appealed to Pocock about 'The Golden Key' story was the whole
concept of aging. In the story the elders are held regard and as
they gain wisdom - they appear physically younger.
So the Old Man of the Sea, the Old Man of Fire, and the Old Man of
the Earth are pivotal characters and they impart their wisdom to the
hero - remember - that's you - in the quest to solve the mystery of
As the original story was adapted, growing from MacDonald's 10,000
words to Pocock's 18,000 the underlying themes of the value of
friendship, perseverance and following your dreams was strengthened.
"There is no violence or frightening scenes and it's much brighter
and more up-lifting than MacDonald's original manuscript. It is
completely appropriate for children and adults will enjoy it too,"
Pocock was intrigued by the land of shadows and includes
instructions on how to make shadow puppets. Three shadow
characters - a bird, an elephant and a dog - are part of the story,
and learning to make them also becomes part of the readers and
There are personalized picture books on the market but Pocock hasn't
found anything more than 20-page picture books with a child's name
plopped in the text. The Golden Key is a real novel with 100
pages of action and adventure. and the personal details that enter
the story include appearance along with the names of friends and pet
Indeed, your child's best friend plays an important part in the
story as well. The hero and best friend are separated on their
journey and in finding the source of the shadows, they also find
"That wasn't the theme of MacDonald's book but it's a good message
for children." Pocock explained, adding that the book is appropriate
as a bedtime story for ages 6 and under and as a chapter book for
children of reading age.
Pocock did an interview for CBC radio and said that within two
minutes he got a call from a teacher in Toronto who gave the book
glowing reports. "Personalization motivates children to read
and learn," Pocock said. "She understood how this would encourage
the slow reader and encourage the advanced reader. To actually
be a character in a novel is a great motivator. The teacher was very
excited about this." he said.
A passage from Chapter 5 of - offers a glimpse of how the story
unfolds. The hero - here he's called Bobby but it would be your
child's name instead -and his best friend are separated and Bobby
meets up with the Old Man of the Sea who offers some assistance:
"Bobby it is quite a long journey
and I don't know the way my self, but I can send you to the Old Man
of the Earth. Perhaps he can tell you how to find this shadow land
that you are seeking. He is much older and wiser than I," said the
Old Man of the Sea.
"Who is the Old Man of the Earth?" asked Bobby,
brushing his brown hair from his forehead.
"Oooh, he is very old. I joke with him about
being older than dirt. When he laughs it creates thunder and
lightning in your world," the old man said with a twinkle in his
eye. Then he continued, "You see, I am the keeper of the seas
and my purpose is to watch over all that live within the sea and
oceans of the world. The Old Man of the Earth lives within the earth
and watches overall creatures and animals that are of your world. I
know him well and one thing is certain - he will find your friend
Tommy if anyone can. Come to my home and rest a while before your
In his other life, Pocock is an inventor with several interactive
television patents. Although he saw the personalized novel concept
to be a 'low tech' venture, he now sees a marvelous opportunity to
expand Book By You into specialized publishing niches in conjunction
with e-books and customized web site.
"Once a child finishes reading the book, he or she will be able to
log onto our web site and take part in interactive activities
related to the personalized novel they've just read. There's also
potential to develop e-books," explained Pocock. "I think we are
going surprise a lot of people in the publishing world."
While reading chapters off a computer screen is no substitute for
curling up with a good book, Pocock said sample personalized
chapters sent via e-mail to specific clients can entice readers to
order sequels in the series.
And for those adult readers who loved the first romance novel, love
is in the air once again, this time in a book called Medieval
The books sells for $24.95 (plus shipping and handling) and can be
ordered through their web site: www.bookbyyou.com or by phoning
(519)439-6100. While on the web site you can also try out a
personalized demonstration of each of the books.
Reprinted courtesy of The Guelph Mercury