Many city workers use their commute to catch up on much-needed sleep, but Gavin Rhodes couldn’t – he never managed to find a seat.
Instead, he spent the 50-minute journey from his Mill Hill home to his office in Moorgate typing away on his phone to write his first book, Superstar Kids: Rhyming Moral Fun.
Rhodes, 38, who works as a relationship manager for a financial technology firm, had always aspired to do something creative.
“I had many ideas floating around my head, but it was my children who inspired me to write stories about them,” says the father-of-two.
“I started making some notes on the train one morning a couple of years ago and it evolved from there.”
The book, which comprises five short rhyming stories suitable for age three and upwards, explores issues of confidence, kindness and sharing, helping others and the importance of keeping tidy, and is based on the parenting experiences of Rhodes and his wife Nicole.
All the stories end on a positive note.
“The idea of having a clear moral as the basis for each story was something I felt was missing in a lot of books I had read to my children,” says Rhodes, who attends Mill Hill United Synagogue. “I felt it was important to provide a clear simple message a child can understand easily and relate to.”
Luckily, his children, now aged five and three, not only related to his stories but absolutely loved them. “They made me read them at any given opportunity,” he explains. “With short attention spans, I took it as a huge compliment they weren’t bored!”
There is no chance of that, as Rhodes has two more books in the pipeline – the second has already been written and is with illustrator Aliyah Coreana, while a third is in progress.
Children were also the inspiration behind a new fantasy book for youngsters, The Kingdom of Puli, written by husband-and-wife Karen and David Levy under their pen name, Karen David.
Wherever the couple went, be it the park, supermarket or in town, children would ask about their late Hungarian Puli, Jimmy, intrigued by his long fur that resembled white dreadlocks.
“They would ask if he was a sheep or a cotton wool dog,” explain the couple, who live in Old Hatfield, Welwyn, and have four grown-up children. “Eventually we decided to make up fairy tales of Jimmy, telling the children he came from the kingdom of Puli and had magical powers bestowed upon him by wizards.
“We found the parents loved to listen to the stories as well, so we decided to write them all down in a book.”
Karen, 53, a retired hairdresser, suffers severely from lupus, an autoimmune condition that affects the body’s muscle and soft tissue. She has constant headaches, problems with her motor skills and is constantly in pain. Writing the book with her husband, 58, a retired electrician – and illustrating it – gave her another focus.
The kingdom of Puli is a magical place, featuring mystical flying horses, gladiators who fight in the Great Arena, magical trees that line the streets and have diamonds and rubies dangling from the branches. The streets are indeed paved with gold.
The Pulis themselves, meanwhile, are a highly intelligent species that are dog-like in appearance and whose royal family has magical powers bestowed by the highest wizard.
“Puli is an enchanting world where good always conquers evil. There are loads of heart-warming characters with whom the reader will fall in love,” the couple enthuse, suggesting that their debut is a traditional family book, written in a style dating back to a bygone era with many historical facts.
“Our book tells the story of the Puli royal family and a human family and their friendship and adventures, over hundreds of years, spanning more than three generations.”
The couple say the message they want children to take from it is that good conquers evil, and the importance of values such as friendship and loyalty. “The modern world is so fast-paced that people need to get back to basics,” say the Radlett Reform Synagogue members, who are concerned by people’s preference for technology over conversation.
“We want families to reconnect. By sitting down together, by reading for even half an hour together, they will have something to discuss and enjoy as a family unit.
“We hope our readers will be transported into a world where fantasy exists and be taken away from all the day-to-day routine for a little while, and it will give them something they can all enjoy together and talk about over dinner.”
The pair have already completed a sequel, The Kingdom Of Puli: Origins, which takes readers back to the beginning of the saga, when the Pulis became a civilisation in China, and explains their magical powers.
Superstar Kids: Rhyming Moral Fun by Gavin Rhodes is published by New Generation Publishing and available from Amazon, priced £7.99.
For more information, see superstarkidsbook.com
The Kingdom of Puli by Karen David is published by Austin Macauley, priced at £11.99, and is available now.
A book signing will take place at Waterstones, The Galleria, Hatfield, on 13 April at 12pm. For more details, visit thekingdomofpuli.co.uk