When Kevin Edwards started working on his book, his goals didn't extend beyond having fun with Photoshop and providing entertainment for his youngest children. Even now that it's about to be published, Edwards sees it as a pleasant diversion.
"I don't think I'm that talented to write anything that'll sell big. I do it as a hobby and for the family," the Brainerd psychologist said in a chat at Boardwalk Bread 'N Bagel. "If the rest of the world's interested in it, that's OK."
"What Will I Be?," slated for release this month by Publish America (www.publishamerica.com), is aimed at preschoolers. Edwards took photos of a poodle (actually several poodles from the same litter) in various roles, with his children's toys as props.
"Usually you see books with 'I want to be a fireman' and so forth," said Edwards, 44. "I tried to integrate more concepts in there: 'I want to take care of children.' 'I want to be a grocer.' And I also put some in there that are more whimsical, like, 'I want to be a precious peacock.' And then the last picture is, 'I'll just be me.'"
After studying a variety of subjects at Mankato State University, the Fairmont native decided to be a psychologist. He is currently the program director at the Brainerd Regional Human Services Center. His schooling and career have taken him to Lawrence, Kan.; Kansas City; Omaha, Neb.; Beatrice, Neb.; Macon, Ga.; and Anoka.
But Edwards also wanted to be a writer and photographer. Through all the cross-country moves, the one constant for the four Edwards kids -- Nick, 17; Misty, 7; Joseph, 3; and Benjamin, 1 -- has been listening to Dad tell stories.
"I've always liked doing stories," Edwards said. "When I became a parent, I found myself telling a lot of stories. When we were driving from Lawrence, Kan., to Kansas City I found myself making up stories along the way."
It's hard not to notice the innocence of a book like "What Will I Be?" in today's marketplace. Edwards, who has a master's and Ph.D. in human development, family life and child psychology from the University of Kansas, believes children's entertainment -- be it books, TV or film -- could stand to lighten up.
"I am kind of from the 'Andy Griffith' era of television," Edwards said. "I like shows with positive outcomes, that show people working together. (Today), there are cartoons geared towards kids that I think are too rough, with too much fighting, and they don't resolve the conflicts."
Even Disney films and TV shows can be too dark for young kids, he believes.
"I still don't like that they killed Bambi's mother," Edwards said with a chuckle.
Edwards said children are smarter than they are given credit for -- "they're little sponges, they soak up everything" -- but studies have shown they are influenced by what they see on TV and in movies. Media hype often compels people to see movies as soon as they come out, but Edwards believes it's OK to wait. Kids grow up too fast as it is.
"I love ('Lord of the Rings'), but I'm not taking my young kids to see (the movies); it might traumatize them for life," Edwards said. "I love 'Star Wars,' too. But again, for young kids, I don't think you have to push them to see those things because they're going to have plenty of time. They can see them any time they want when they get older and can make the decision if they can handle that much shooting and violence."
Ultimately, Edwards said, mass entertainment is "only one thing in a huge matrix that impinges on a child's life." Parents are still the biggest influence.
"I think parents overall do a good job," he said. "Most people know they need to discuss things and will do that with their kids. Most kids are turning out OK, so it's working, despite all the stuff we have happening, including things in the news like shootings, war and terror."
It seems the world will always have room for a book like "What Will I Be?" to spark kids' imaginations (and offer cute pictures of poodles).
"I like the idea of providing a positive story," Edwards said. "Something that has a little hope to it, something that would be a good bedtime story, something that makes people smile with delight."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.