Two years ago, my sons and I were discussing their favourite books over dinner, when they decided that we should publish some thrilling stories set in Asia, mostly to entertain their friends. I thought this would be a good way to deepen their interest in both creative writing as well as entrepreneurship, so I took this more seriously than most sane parents would. We started Super Cool Books in 2011 and launched “The Secret of Monk’s Hill”, Book One of our Time Talisman series. Since then, we’ve released nine of our own titles, plus lots of free activity sheets and learning guides.
Mark is now nine years old, and Luke is seven. They’ve spent weekends brainstorming plot ideas, creating artwork for the books and learnt how businesses make money. My wife and I joke that Super Cool Books is like our third child.
As we work together on the books, some issues keep coming up. Why should we give away free reading resources when we can charge for them? Are we prepared to go all the way and print the books, ship them ourselves, get them into retail stores, give talks, and more, especially when it’s not an easy job? Will we commit to doing a really good job?
Working through the issues enables my kids to examine how generous, brave and committed they’re prepared to be.
These values also come through in all our stories. Our Sherlock Hong series, for example, is about a young detective in Singapore a hundred years ago. When things get rough he reminds himself: “The future belongs to the young and brave!” This gung ho attitude is something I want my boys to adopt. We also discover that many kids love the character and this catch phrase!
Although we don’t have a TV set at home, the children get to watch documentaries, cartoons and movies on the computer on weekends and during the holidays. I also encourage them to develop strong digital skills. They use computers not just for entertainment but also as a tool for learning and creating. Their favourite game now is Spore, which teaches them about evolution, ecosystems, intergalactic trade, computer game design and so much more.
They are currently using a software to design toys. I’ve promised to send their work to a 3D printing shop so they can play with the finished product. We’re also working on an iPad app for Super Cool Books, which should come out this August. This allows parents to download stories for free or buy them really cheap, and features lots of drawings and creative ideas from my sons. Working on projects like these has been a great learning and bonding experience for the whole family.
I asked my sons recently to reflect on what we’ve achieved since we started working together on ideas.
Q: What did you enjoy best?
LUKE: Drawing the cover for our “Ghostly” book. I like to draw stars, and Daddy said it looked good. Finally it came out as a book and it made me happy because I worked on it.
MARK: I like helping to distribute the books and meeting all the customers. It makes me feel good that I have a job.
LUKE: Once we all took photos of Daddy for a website, and there were so many photos but Daddy picked mine!
MARK: When we first started, we needed drawings of swords, lions, dragons and other stuff. Everyone helped to come up with ideas and do the research. I remember there was a big sheet of paper covered with everyone’s drawings. I liked that a lot.
Q: What surprised you the most?
LUKE: We could mix drawings from different people to create something new.
MARK: We made Father’s Day cards for Daddy and he posted them on the Super Cool Books website! Also, once I had to design 600 logos for Daddy in one morning.
LUKE: No lah, Daddy only asked you to draw 60.
MARK: Eh? I thought it was 600.
Some day when they’re all grown up, long after I’m gone, they’ll sit with their families and reminisce about their joint ventures with their dad and the good times we shared. I won’t be there, but it makes me happy to imagine this scene.
Don Bosco co-founded Super Cool Books with his boys, Mark and Luke. They hope to inspire kids with thrilling stories of mystery and adventure set around Asia, and make these available at low prices. You can check out their progress at www.supercoolbooks.com.