Josie Safir, a freshman from Overland Park, released a children’s book called “A Special Gift” that she co-wrote with her brother Nathan and grandfather Bob Benson.
I STARTED WRITING [“A SPECIAL GIFT”] WITH MY GRANDFATHER AND BROTHER WHEN I WAS JUST SEVEN – so many years ago. The book itself, it’s about the special bond between a boy and his dog, and through that bond he kind of realized that the dog has a special gift.
I REMEMBER SITTING ON THE COUCH IN MY LIVING ROOM IN MY OLD HOUSE WITH MY BROTHER AND GRANDFATHER. He was just brainstorming topics until we decided on a story about a boy’s special relationship with his dog. I remember just writing down anything that came to mind…then we had to narrow down the idea and string a couple of them together. Anything in the brainstorming stage is good to get on paper.
WE NOTICED A KIND OF GAP IN THE BOOKS THAT WERE AVAILABLE TO ELEMENTARY AGE CHILDREN. There are books like “Sally Slid Down the Slide” with really simple sentences for beginners, and then there are chapter books kind of geared towards students with a lot of reading experience. But there’s not really a whole lot of books in that middle range between them. So we set out to write a children’s book with an adventurous and engaging storyline [and] reasonably complex vocabulary that would entice young readers.
WE ALSO HAVE SOME KEY MORALS IN THE STORY because we didn’t want it to just be like a fun and adventurous story. Some of those morals include the power of communication, friendship and diversity.
FROM THE END OF GRADE SCHOOL ALL THE WAY UNTIL I WAS A SENIOR, THE BOOK HAD BEEN WRITTEN. It was always kind of like, “Okay, we’ll get it published one day when everything works out.” Then I was like, “You know what, I want to get this published before I graduate [high school].” So then I finished the drawings and was talking to my grandpa and my brother, and I was like, “Okay, we’re going to do this…a decade later.”
WE NEEDED TO GET IT ILLUSTRATED TO ACTUALLY PUBLISH IT. So when COVID hit, I realized that I had some extra time in quarantine… I said, “You know what, why don’t I digitize all the drawings?” So after a couple months, I finished all the illustrations and it was time to get it published.
IT’S HONESTLY SO FUN TO HEAR WHEN PEOPLE SAY, “WE ENJOYED THE BOOK.” It just makes me so happy because we put so much work into it. It’s been a decade-long process. Now, it’s finally done, and people can enjoy the book. That’s really what we want – we want little kids to love reading the book. We want them to learn things from reading the book…There might be a sequel on the way.