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Family writes interactive children's book
[January 24, 2013]

Family writes interactive children's book

VALDOSTA, Jan 24, 2013 (The Valdosta Daily Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Valdosta State University mass-media professor Frank Barnas and his children work well together.

A few years ago, Barnas and son Church, 16, and daughter Aloura, 13, cowrote the play "Slumber Party," which became a Gingerbread Players of Theatre Guild Valdosta production.

Seeing the audience response to the plays prompted them to write a children's book, "The Epic Adventures of Whiz Grass and Poot Berry." "'Whiz and Poot' started as a series of bedtime stories that I told the kids a few years ago," Frank Barnas says. "It began as a simple story about two cowboys, Whiz Grass and Poot Berry. I thought nothing more of it until the kids wanted a follow-up the next night. The story became more elaborate over a few days, and after a while, we started jotting down notes." In developing these adventures, they also created a story book that can be interactive between parents and children. They did not want a children's book that becomes an exercise in recitation after a few readings. They want children and parents to share in Whiz and Poot's "Epic Adventures." "Whether it's a pillow fight, pretending you're boneless, or climbing the bed like it's a mountain, we wanted activities that could be shared," Barnas says. "There are 21 characters with different voices, so the parents and kids can read it together. If you can do a scratchy voice, you can be Fluff the Omnivorous Beaver. If you can make a bubbly voice, you're ChoCho the Ninja Trout." With three authors, the writing process is also interactive.

"The best part of having three people is someone's always chewing on a different aspect. I may be stuck on a phrase, but then Aloura chimes in with a line, then Church brings in an idea, and it all sort of fits together," Frank Barnas says. "For example, we were terribly stuck on having a character speak only in palindromes, so his lines all had to be the same backwards and forwards. It drove us nutty, but we had never seen a book pull that off before, so we each worked on that until we got it right." For the past 15 years, Frank Barnas has taught broadcast journalism with VSU's mass media department. He also writes textbooks on news production and has been a Valdosta radio personality.

Church Barnas is a Valdosta High School junior. A member of the International Baccalaureate program, he hopes to study genetics. A member of the school chorus, he traveled and performed this past summer in Europe with the Georgia Ambassadors of Music.

Aloura Barnas is a Valdosta Middle School eighth-grader. She performs with VMS Players, the school's theatre troupe, and her abilities to play bassoon have led to the offer of a college scholarship.

The three are working on a new play called "Science Fair," which may possibly be as interactive with an audience as "Whiz and Poot" is with readers.

___ (c)2013 The Valdosta Daily Times (Valdosta, Ga.) Visit The Valdosta Daily Times (Valdosta, Ga.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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