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Thu, Aug. 22

Column | Rapunzel vs. Frankenstein: Yes, that’s a thing

I'm a big softie when it comes to children's books.

I remember my first library card (TWO trips to the library that glorious day!), and my held-together-with-duct-tape childhood copy of Little Golden Book "Danny Beaver's Secret" (sits proudly on my writing desk.)

So, I was overjoyed to pose some questions to author Martin Powell, whose latest children's books, "Private Eye Princess and the Emerald Pea" and "Rapunzel vs. Frankenstein" are out Aug. 1.

Powell and wife Leia live in Florence, Alabama. He has been a professional writer since 1986, not only creating original characters but also regaling the reading public with adventures of timeless literary and pop-culture figures such as Batman, Sherlock Holmes, Superman, Hercules, Dracula, Robinson Crusoe and The Phantom. His most successful books include "The Tall Tale of Paul Bunyan."

In addition to prose, comic books and graphic novels, he is writing online comic strips for Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. – the folks carrying on the Tarzan legacy.

Powell says most of his books are aimed at an "all ages" audience, but these ARE the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth books he has written for Capstone. Powell's Facebook page makes frequent mention of inspirations Ray Bradbury and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. When I narrowed the discussion to children's books, he unhesitatingly cited Dr. Seuss, L. Frank Baum (author of the Oz series) and cartoonist E.C. Segar (creator of Popeye the Sailor) among his indispensable inspirations.

The basic concept of Powell's two newest books is to "take a well-known fairy tale and twist the elements into something more entertaining and relevant for a young reader of the 21st century." Powell is aiming for 4th- through 6th-grade readers, but he adds that both books would certainly be fun for parents to read aloud to much younger kids.

Powell noted that kids, and girls especially, seem to read lots more than adults nowadays, which is why he focuses on an element of "girl power" in all his books.

Powell receives fan letters from all over the world. ("I always answer them, every single one.")

When I asked Powell for closing remarks, he opined, "When I was a kid, a book was a window into a wonderful other world. It warms my heart to see kids absorbed by an open book, rather than squinting at the screen of an electronic device. The greatest playground of all is within their own imaginations. We must continue to nurture those adventures."

Well said. A 2011 quote from my son (then age seven) recently resurfaced in the "Memories" section of Facebook. Gideon wanted to "spend some quality time with Daddy."

"Quality time" is that will-o'-the-wisp that parents and grandparents yearn to share with the youngsters in their lives.

Luckily, books are a great way to get a grip on quality time and bonding.

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