A Boy Named Logan Penguin is a children’s book with a message of hope and resilience for kids with autism and others.
BY PETER JONES
Every 7-year-old boy has a fantasy. For Logan, it is life as a certain flightless bird.
“Certain situations really scared him and so he would convert into a penguin,” his father Aaron LaPedis explained. “He would waddle like one. He would make noise like one.”
But not just any imaginary Antarctic seabird. This honker can fly.
Meet Super Penguin, mild-mannered Logan’s alter-ego and the co-star of LaPedis’s new children’s book adventure aptly titled A Boy Named Logan Penguin.
The playfully illustrated 55-page storybook is neither fish nor fowl when it comes to the fiction-nonfiction question. The real-life Logan (as well as his imagined counterpart) happens to be at the highly functional end of the autism spectrum and often “becomes” a friendly penguin as a way to cope with social pressures and life’s frustrations.
Penguin has even become the real Logan’s good-natured nickname at school.
“The teachers would call him Penguin. His friends would call him Penguin. For the longest time, this went on and I didn’t even know about it,” LaPedis said. “That’s how he was able to adapt in public school.”
It was not until Logan’s random encounter with a stranger that LaPedis realized how Logan’s sometime coping mechanism had real narrative possibilities.
“By chance, somebody walked up to him and said, ‘Hello, what’s your name?’ He said, ‘My name’s Logan, but you can call me Penguin.’ Right there, it clicked, ‘Oh my God, this is a book,’” the father recalled.
Aaron LaPedis, owner of Fascination St. Fine Art in Cherry Creek North, dedicated A Boy Named Logan Penguin to his 7-year-old son Logan (below).
Although A Boy Named Logan Penguin essentially began life as a sketchily produced Mother’s Day card for Logan’s mom, LaPedis soon realized that a real publication could serve a teachable purpose for other kids and families.
“The book is about acceptance, not only for kids like Logan, but for kids who have any kind of disability—a disability you can see or an invisible disability,” the author said.
The book follows Logan on a fanciful visit to the zoo that turns out to be anything but typical. In the face of the stress of loud noises, the boy becomes Super Penguin, saving the day in more ways than one, especially for an endangered real-life baby penguin.
Although at one point Logan’s friend comforts the boy, autism is never explicitly mentioned in the book, keeping its themes of acceptance, imagination and friendship universal.
The author said it was important for the story to be relatable to all children.
“The goal is to have schools and organizations read it to kids and then it starts a conversation,” he said. “Kids are just learning and they need to be taught about accepting people of different colors, different disabilities, different everything.”
The book is not LaPedis’s first. His nonfiction debut, The Garage Sale Millionaire, a how-to on the in’s and out’s of spotting treasures among junk, received front-cover accolades from none other than billionaire presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Even as he scoured garages and ran his business, LaPedis, the owner of Cherry Creek North’s Fascination St. Fine Art, had known for some time that his son was different well before Logan was finally diagnosed with autism at age 3.
“He would never look us right into our eyes. It took him a long time to start walking,” the father said. “Today, he does have friends, but he’s very hard on them. A lot of his friends need to be very patient with him because he’s very, very smart, but he wants to do things his way, which makes it very difficult at times.”
LaPedis said it is not always the kids who judge, particularly when a child acts out in public.
“People will look at you as a bad parent,” he said. “Every day you don’t what’s in store for you and it makes it 100 times harder when you’ve got people around you judging you.”
Half of the book’s profits—it’s available at Amazon.com—are being donated to the Autism Society of Colorado to keep the message and support programs going.
Dad says sequels are likely in the offing.
“Even though my son is an amazing kid, he has to work twice as hard as all the other kids just to get through life,” LaPedis said. “You can’t forget that. You just have to hope that you and your child have the strength to get through it successfully.”
2018 All Rights Reserved. Villager Publishing |