PROSPECT — What do coatis, aardvarks and okapis have in common? Not much, but Prospect author John Altson is sure he’s found a common thread—they’re not animals covered by most children’s books on zoology.
“As a kid, even when I was seven or eight years old, I would write comic books about animals,” Altson recalled in an interview last week. “Then I said, ‘Okay, let me write a book for kids that’s going to fun and celebrate some of these unusual animals. And I didn’t want it to be the usual ‘A’ to ‘Z’ book where we have bears and lions and things like that.”
Each page of “The A to Z of Forgotten Animals,” Altson’s second self-published children’s book, contains a picture of an obscure animal, a short, alliterative introduction (e.g., “Coy Cora Coati contemplating coats”) a poem and a snapshot of where in the world each animal might be found. One appendix lists other animals that start with each letter of the alphabet, and a second lists each animal’s threat level for extinction.
Furthermore, Altson supplemented the print edition of his book, which he says is intended for children ages 6 to 10, with an interactive version on his website, johnaltson.com.
In addition to duplicate content from the book itself, the website links to videos of each animal from arkive.org, a multimedia guide to the world’s endangered species.
“The interactive version is basically the book plus links to arkive.org for each animal, and you can actually see the aardvark walking around or all these animals, with actually multiple videos, in their environment,” Altson said. “Also, what I wanted to do with the interactive version is to have them be able to click on an animal and send me an e-mail. ‘What do you think about this animal?’ I’m going to develop this into a blog so kids can see their names and can see what other people think about them and so on.”
The book is available on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, along with his first book, “What Happened to Grandpa? A child views the hereafter through the world’s major religions.”
Altson, who retired from IBM this year and lives in Regency at Prospect, an active adult community off Scott Road, said he wrote that book more for parents to read to their children to help them understand death in terms of the tenets of several world religions.
“It looks at it from all the major religions,” he said. “So what does a Buddhist think, what does a Hindu think, Christian, Jew, atheist etc. So that’s the theme: Father telling his son, without leading him down any path, what all the religions think and then giving him some hope that he went somewhere.”
Altson is not sure what his next writing project will be—he said he’s interested in writing “serious poetry” for adult readers—but in the meantime, he plans to contact actor Edward Norton’s publicity agent to see if he can “find a way to put it on his Facebook page or whatever makes sense.” In July, Norton was named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador for Biodiversity.
“I’m willing to cut a deal with him, or anyone for that matter,” Altson said. “In return for the proper exposure, I would donate all the profits to the charity of his choice, preferably an environmental charity.”