Kail Thomas was 10 years old when his fourth-grade teacher, Jesse Randolph, assigned his class a special vocabulary project.
Students were expected to write short, creative stories using the terms given by Randolph every week for the remainder of the semester.
Kail, now 12, had other plans for the assignment, and with the assistance of his father, Monte Thomas, he wrote a novel titled “Pugsley’s Knightly Adventures.”
“We basically went beyond what the homework was and for every single spelling assignment, we turned it into a chapter,” Kail said. “For the chapters, well you gotta write what you know, so we turned it into ‘Pugsley.’”
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Pugsley is the name of a miniature stuffed Pug that the story centers around. Pugsley comes to life with his friends and foes to interact with squirrels and hoodlum cats in the neighborhood from the apartment window.
“He generally is just the protagonist in the book and is basically a security guard-ish character,” Kail said, not wanting to spoil the book.
Kail transformed other stuffed animals found in his apartment to characters that he used in his novel. During the interview, the Idaho Statesman got to meet the side characters Red Monkey, Big Bear, and Owley — even Pugsley himself. Kail is also a character in the book, and he often reassures and helps Pugsley and other characters.
“This is our apartment, and I must be included one way or another,” Kail said. “If it’s going to be the setting of where I live, you have to include me.”
Neither of them realized how long writing the novel would take to complete, but father and son felt that since they were already doing the homework, they might as well put it to good use. While writing, they found themselves having to rearrange a couple of weeks to make the storyline fit, but used all the vocabulary words given.
You can find historical references, Latin words and unique phrases distributed throughout the book.
“It was challenging to incorporate all the spelling words into a storyline,” Monte said.
“Into a story that made sense!” Kail added.
Fourth grade ended, but Kail and his assistant Monte continued working on the novel. They spent 10 minutes writing each day, this time with no vocabulary words to include. Kail would create the story while Monte would write it on the computer. Monte also illustrated and edited Kail’s novel, working off of another juvenile nonfiction book published by then 9-year-old Alec Greven titled “How to Talk to Girls.”
The duo aimed for 200 pages, creating different characters and plots, to ensure the book would be considered the length of a novel.
Two years later, the book was finished and published, just waiting for children to read.
Inspired by “Swordbird,” a novel written by a 13-year-old and put in his local libraries, Monte decided to donate a copy to Kail’s school, Pierce Park Elementary.
“The school librarian [has plans] of calling other librarians in the area and getting it into other school libraries,” Monte said. “We would also like to give an eBook to every Statesman reader.”
The book is the beginning of a trilogy, similar to the style of “The Lord of the Rings.” Kail’s inspiration for creating a trilogy came from his desire to publish game play videos on his YouTube channel.
“I basically fell in love with gaming videos,” Kail said.
While they didn’t have the equipment to produce these videos, Monte thought it wasn’t a good idea until they had something to sell.
“I said if we’re going to create a bunch of free content, we need a product that we can actually monetize,” Monte said. “My goal was to challenge his creative endeavors into a single project.”
Kail’s goal is to have 10,000 reads by the end of October.
“It just can’t stay on shelves,” Kail said.
Kail, who wants to be like Indiana Jones when he grows up, plans to write and publish another book in the near future.
To purchase a hard copy of the book, or to contact the author, email firstname.lastname@example.org.