TRU professor publishes new children’s book

Aldo Renaldo takes young readers on a new adventure while learning the alphabet

Dr. George M. Johnson, a professor in TRU’s literatures, languages, and performing arts Department, has published his fourth children’s picture book, Aldo Renaldo and The Renegade Alphabet.

Johnson sparked this story about 13 years ago when his kids were five and six.

“Like many parents, I had the experience of going to the library with the kids, and they would take out books and picture books,” Johnson said, “and alphabet books to me were always very sort of standard and a little bit boring, like ‘A is for Apple and B is Ball,’ that kind of thing.”

“My one daughter, Sophia, she developed a skill really early on of doing the alphabet backward at high speed,” Johnson said. “That doesn’t exactly play into it, but she was having fun with the alphabet so that probably was part of the original thought or idea in my mind.”

In Aldo Renaldo and The Renegade Alphabet, Aldo is having trouble with his alphabet, but when he thinks he’s finally learned it, Aldo finds the letters misbehaving. He tries to restore order but cannot. When his mother enters, Aldo uses the new words he heard from the letters as he recites the alphabet, and they are restored to proper order.

“I knew an artist in town, who was actually a teacher at the Kamloops School of the Arts named Dawn Burn, a friend of mine,” Johnson said, “and I wanted her to do the illustrations, so that limited who I could approach for publishing.”

“I’ve found that I like writing picture books,” Johnson said. “They’re short. They’re snappy. They’re like poetry often; every word has to count. You can only have, these days, around 600 words in a picture book because kids’ attention spans are shorter, and parents don’t want to read a long picture book at night when they’re trying to put their kids to bed, so you really have to compress everything. That’s part of the challenge. It’s like writing a sonnet.”

In the Pacific Northwest Writers’ Association competition, Aldo received 50/50 from one PNWA judge and 41/50 from another. The book was also a finalist in the San Francisco Writers Conference Writing Contest.

On Saturday September 30th, Johnson and Burn presented a public reading of Aldo Renaldo and The Renegade Alphabet at Indigo Chapters in Kamloops, British Columbia, where they sold copies of their book.

“We’re obviously hoping that Aldo Renaldo and The Renegade Alphabet does well, and we think it will, because it’s funny and appealing,” Johnson said. “It’s meant to be the first in a series, and the second one is Aldo Renaldo and The Numbers That Just Don’t Add Up … A weird, zany book about a kid trying to learn how to add and subtract, and the numbers get out of control. So that’s the next one.”

Aldo Renaldo and The Renegade Alphabet was published by Histria Kids, and is on sale now – both in print and online – at all major book retailers including Barnes and Noble, Indigo, and Amazon.