Zack Freeman lost his father when he was a young man. A freshman in college, and nowhere near becoming a parent himself, he grieved, along with his sisters, for the man that had been such an influential figure in his life. "My dad did every thing he could to make sure we had everything we needed," says Zack. "My grandmother told me, after he died, that he would 'go without' and 'make do' so he could take us to do things. We were always off on an adventure of some sort either hiking or picnicking at state parks. Occasionally, there was the 'spur of the moment' beach trip when he would pick us up from school on Friday afternoon, bags already packed, and head to the beach, and sometimes, it was simply playing Frisbee in the yard just to get us up and out of the house." Zack recalls, "He would tell us to 'have fun and find the good' no matter what we were doing. He encouraged us to enjoy everything we did, so now, I'm trying to pass that along to my kids. Whether it's playing a board game, cards, kayaking, camping, or watching a movie together, it's all about keeping them active and open to trying new things. We are always on the go, visiting new places and doing new things, which is what the book is about -- finding the fun and excitement in everything you do by using your imagination."
The book Zack is referring to, 'Inside the Imagination of a Little Boy', was conceived when Zack's young son, Cole, became frightened during a thunderstorm. "I got the idea a few years ago when Cole was in kindergarten. A big thunderstorm came up and Cole was afraid of the crashing sounds outside. I reminded him of all the things he does that made him much too brave to be scared of a little thunder. It was around that time that I started to list all of his stories and sketch images of how I thought he saw himself. All the stories in the book came from comments Cole made, or how he saw things happening, like the little boy catching a whale."
What began as a simple project for the two of them took on a life of it's own. "I originally thought I'd print a copy or two for myself and Cole but when my family and friends found out what we were doing, they wanted a copy too, and it just snowballed into me self-publishing the book."
As an artist, Zack was able to illustrate the scenarios of his son's imagination. "I went through old pictures of Cole to find references to paint from like him fighting imaginary ninjas in the yard. The image for the front cover was from a photograph taken when he was jumping the speed bumps in the parking lot of the church across the street. I had to lie down to get the right perspective and hope I didn't get run over."
When asked how Cole has responded to the book, Zack tells us, "He is excited about it and thought it was really cool that he had his own book and that he was the star. The first thing he asked of me was to make sure I donated a copy to the library at his school. In the future, I hope it's something he can look back on and remember all the great adventures we had and the fun times we shared working on the book and making it come to life... it has helped us to get closer as father and son, and as best friends."
Cole's little sister, Cora, is anxiously awaiting her own book. "She is excited that I will be making a book for her as well. She has been posing for pictures and sharing ideas with me about what she wants in her book. I actually 'sold' the first copy of Cole's book to Cora. As soon as we got it home from the printer, they both asked for their own copy, and after giving Cora hers she returned with $.44 cents saying, 'I want to buy the first book, Daddy."
Although Zack's father passed away long before the births of his grandchildren, his spirit and sense of adventure is alive and well preserved. The characteristics he passed along to his only son are being gifted to his grandchildren, and one would expect, will continue for generations to come as Cole is now planning to write a book of his own. The delightful and humorous stories told and illustrated in 'Inside the Imagination of a Little Boy," serve as a tribute to a father who obviously loved his children and sought to give them the ability to find great fun and adventure in even the simplest moments. Like father, like son -- passing down the gift of a vibrant imagination cannot be measured... it is indeed, parenting, done right!
Zack has donated copies of the book to several libraries in the area.