Clemson associate professor publishes children’s book to encourage interest in national parks
CLEMSON — Jeffrey C. Hallo has published a children’s book written to inspire and educate children on the topic of national parks during the parks’ centennial. Hallo, an associate professor in the Clemson University’s parks, recreation and tourism management department, released the book “Rosy Ralph Visits His National Parks” in mid-March through Amazon’s online bookseller CreateSpace.
Hallo has contributed to numerous journal articles and research reports, but this is the first children’s book he has tackled in his career. Hallo said that while the book and his research endeavors may share subject matter, “Rosy Ralph Visits His National Parks” forced him to rethink his entire approach to writing.
“Seven hundred words in a children’s book has required more work from me than 5,000 words in a research manuscript,” Hallo said with a laugh. “My goal has always been to contribute to my field of study, and the effects of that might take years or even a lifetime in scientific writing, but this book is meant to inspire and make an immediate impact on a totally different audience.”
The entire project from concept to publication took more than two years, and the idea for the book sprang from the enthusiasm Hallo, his wife and his three children share for national parks. His children range in age from 4 to 7, and Hallo said these “impressionable” ages are the perfect time to expose kids to positive concepts they can latch onto, like parks and environmental stewardship.
So Hallo put pen to paper with that age group in mind. He researched appropriate word lengths for a children’s book and changed his usual writing style. He used his own personal and professional experiences to select parks, wildlife and natural features that would appeal to young children. Hallo felt that children required more than just pretty scenery or a hike to get excited about parks.
“They need an adventure defined by wondrous things that draw them in,” Hallo said. “This book sets them off on that adventure.”
Much like an interaction between Hallo and his own children, the book became a conversation between Ralph and his mother on the importance of parks and the wonders to be found in them. Featured parks range from the easily recognizable, such as Yosemite National Park, to the lesser known, like South Carolina’s Congaree National Park.
“I wanted to use parks that people recognized to draw them in” Hallo said, “but there are more than 400 different park units in the U.S., so I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce people to others they may not know.”
Hallo even took on the task of recruiting the book’s artist. He selected Charleston-based artist Lucy Elliott based on the balance she struck between realism and whimsy. He said Elliott’s work communicates the intrigue and beauty of parks in a way that will really appeal to young children.
The themes of the book became ownership and stewardship, because Hallo wants children to enjoy parks and feel a sense of responsibility for them. Now that the book is complete, Hallo isn’t so much concerned about sales as he is getting the book into the hands of children. For every book bought directly from Hallo’s website through the end of April, he will donate one to an elementary school or public library.
“I want people to visit and enjoy our national parks,” Hallo said. “If that means kids read this book and nag their parents until they take them, that works for me. It is the national parks’ 100 year anniversary, so it is a great year to visit them.”