BOOK BEAT Naples Sun Times January 31-February 6, 2007
by Philip K. Jason
By the age of three, Rockford, Illinois native Erin Rabon was entertaining her parents by making up silly tales. Older and wiser now, Erin still allows a streak of silliness in the tales she writes for children. More than that, there is educational value and excitement. The Great Monkey Adventure, illustrated by Jeff Kriberscheck, is the first of her books for children to appear, launching a venture that she hopes will bring joy, especially the joy of reading, to many youngsters.
The writing bug infected Erin when she took her first journalism course. Upon graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1996, she worked as what she calls “odds and ends” jobs before moving down to Southwest Florida. Here, she worked in advertising with Mike Romano & Associates and then as editor for what was then a start-up lifestyle publication, Bonita Life, in 2003. Several years into her successful career in magazine publishing, Erin decided that she would pursue her long-held goal of creating a children’s classic. The Great Monkey Adventure is the result, and Blue Monkey Publishing is the vehicle.
The mission of Blue Monkey Publishing, says Erin, is “feeding imaginations and instilling a life-long love of books.” She and Jeff Kriberscheck “want to get kids excited about books and reading—not just for their childhood, but for their entire lives.” To help fulfill this mission, Erin visits elementary schools, reads The Great Monkey Adventure to the students, and entices them to make reading time a part of every day.
Jeff Kriberscheck moved here with his family over twenty years ago as a middle-schooler. This Lely High School graduate honed his artistic talent at the Ringling School of Art and Designed and learned commercial (read “income-producing”) skills in graphic design at the Tampa Technical Institute. Jeff served for a while as Advertising Art Director at Gulfshore Life and also was involved in Mike Romano’s enterprises, where he and Erin met.
Both business partners have enjoyed the process of discovery as they put their company and their first publication together. For Jeff, illustrating a children’s book is the fulfillment of a dream. For both, especially Erin who is a self-confessed control freak, the independence of doing it all themselves is more valuable than the compromises necessary in working with an established publisher. Furthermore, they did not want to go through the submit-and-wait routine. Erin’s experience in marketing and publishing combined with Jeff’s raw talent and design ability give them the combination of ingredients that they hope will make for success.
And the Blue Monkey? Well, he is a mischievous fellow who is always searching for his beloved bananas and encountering many slips along the way. And each slip brings him from the branches above to an obstacle below: a lion, a crocodile, a hippopotamus, a snake, and a tiger all stand in the way of Blue getting his banana – but he is able to escape each confrontation. The book’s simple diction and artful repetition of phrase teaches language, the names of animals, and also colors. But whimsy is the hallmark of the book – a wonderful adventure realized in words and in the bold, cheerful watercolor and ink artwork by Jeff.
Erin has already dreamed up future titles, but she and Jeff are hoping that Blue Monkey Publishing becomes an outlet for the work of other creative writers and artists who share their vision about what creates a commitment to reading. At bottom, the goal is to bring joy to young readers. Part of that joy is to engage pre-readers in the repeated rhythmic patterns so that they can contribute by having memorized some of the text. In this way, a positive relationship with books begins and reading is encouraged.
Visitors to the Naples Writers Conference and Authors & Books Festival are likely to see Erin and Jeff on February 25. If you miss them there, catch up with the Blue Monkey team on March 17 at the Southwest Florida Reading Festival in Fort Myers.
The Great Monkey Adventure is available through amazon.com and bluemonkeypublishing.com. You can also find it at Arabesque, Attic Toys, Cottontails, and Learning Express. The press also exhibits at the Open Air Market in Sugden Regional Park the first and third Saturdays of every month (through April 7).