Children’s book highlights Hamilton as supportive community, sheds light on mental health awareness

Two locals combined to write and illustrate a Hamilton-centered children’s book — it’s a book that lightly tackles mental health, seeing past differences and finding support in a community, while the book’s proceeds will go toward a revered local charity.

Scott Smallwood, the author of “Monkey & Bug’s Night at the Corn Stand Jam,” is a local chemist and a volunteer at the Hamilton-based charity Christian’s Corn Stand Jam, a series of Hamilton concerts at Marcum Park that promote mental health awareness and commemorate the life of Christian Unger, a Butler County native who died by suicide in 2019.

Smallwood, who said he’s always wanted to write a children’s book, decided this past May that he would write one to benefit the Corn Stand Jam.

“I told my wife, ‘I’m gonna write a kids book for the Corn Stand Jam,’ and I actually wrote it in about 90 minutes,” Smallwood said.

From there, Smallwood went to local artist Hannah Tebbe and asked her to illustrate it. Smallwood described Tebbe as the “true architect” of the book. Smallwood said, “I wrote it, but who made it come to life is my illustrator Hannah Tebbe.”

The book is centered around fictionalized versions of Smallwood’s dog, Monkey, and Tebbe’s cat, Bug. Smallwood said there are two main messages within the text.

“The first message is: Monkey is a dog and Bugg’s a cat, but even though they’re different, they become good friends and they’re able to go out and enjoy each other’s time,” Smallwood said.

The second, grander message comes from how Bug helps Monkey deal with sadness. IN the book, Monkey misses his litter-mates, and Bug takes him around to meet interesting, helpful people in Hamilton.

“Monkey learns that it’s okay to not to feel okay, and that when you don’t feel okay, you should talk to somebody — it could be your parents, it could be your friends, it could be your teacher, a doctor, or whoever,” Smallwood said. “But, make sure you talk to somebody when you’re feeling down, and when you’re feeling down, there’s a community of people around to help lift you back up again.”

For Smallwood, the topic was important and the proceeds going entirely to the Corn Stand Jam were important, but he also felt it was important to showcase Tebbe’s illustrative talents.

“I wanted to help her get her name out there and get this in her portfolio,” Smallwood said. “She’s an amazing young artist, she’s just amazing.”

While Smallwood wrote most of the text in 90 minutes, Tebbe said it took her about three months to illustrate the entire project, which involved mapping out 36 pages and figuring out where to place the sentences to help the story flow. She said it was the first time she’d illustrated a project like that.

Smallwood said there were other folks throughout the community and even outside it that helped the book come to fruition. He had friends that donated money for publishing costs, the Corn Stand Jam helped raise funds, and even the book’s publisher, Barringer Publishing, cut the publishing costs in half out of support for the message.

Smallwood said he’d love to do more children’s books for local charities, and added that it felt good to complete a project like this for what he called “true reasons.”

“You’re not gonna get rich,” Smallwood said, “but you might make a little bit of money to help a charity, and that’s what I really wanted to do.”

The book is now carried online on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $13. Smallwood and Tebbe will do a live reading of the book for Fitton Center’s Family Fridays on Jan. 20th, 2023.

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