A Jefferson City resident — and former mayor — has published his first book, and it's a book for children and their families.
John Landwehr's "Ken and Barney, The Cabin at the Lake in Northern Minnesota" features the adventures of a man and his dog as they spend time at a cabin near a lake. The adventures include rescuing people in trouble as well as encounters with a wolf and lumberjack. The stories aim to highlight bravery, resourcefulness and generosity.
Landwehr said he thought it would be fun to recapture the stories he used to tell his children, Dave and Rebecca.
"Plan A was to get them written out and make them available to the kids," Landwehr said. "Then the project grew, and I decided to try and publish the book."
The characters are based on real people in Landwehr's life.
"Ken is my wife, Peggy's, brother who is a lawyer in Minnesota, and he did have a dog named Barney," Landwehr said. "Ken used to go to a cabin at a lake in northern Minnesota."
Landwehr said he never had thought about being an author.
"As I worked on these stories, though, it just became one of those fun things to do," Landwehr said. "They say everybody should have a hobby, especially men my age — at least that's what my wife Peggy keeps telling me. Hobbies are good for people, and I found I really enjoyed the wordsmanship of developing plots. Fifty percent of the content was stories that I told the kids, but as the project grew, I elaborated more."
Landwehr also said writing for the book was a relief from the technical writing he has to do as a lawyer.
He is a partner at Cook Vetter Doerhoff & Landwehr in Jefferson City. He was elected Jefferson City mayor in 2003 and served in the office through April 2011.
At the end of each chapter, there are places for children to talk about experiences that might be similar to the story they just read.
"That happened by accident," Landwehr said. "Publishers told me you can't have a blank page in the middle of the book. So I had a brainstorm to make it a little more interactive, and at various points you have a way to get the kids involved in what's going on."
In the book, Landwher said, they don't have many images or drawings depicting events.
"I did the illustrations more to set the stage and give the kids a starting point to think about in the story," he said. "Then, as events unfold, instead of a video where every event is presented, it's up to the child to think and imagine about the characters in the story."
Landwehr said a parent could read the book to a child who is 4-5 and a child of 8 could read it by themselves.
Downtown Book & Toy has scheduled a book-signing event with Landwehr during Downtown Living Windows, scheduled from 6-9 p.m. Dec. 6.
Landwehr said he thinks he'll do another book but is unsure whether he will have it formally published.
"Kids get so much of their stimulus now from computers and the internet," he said. "One common problem with those types of experiences is that those devices do the imagining for the child. The child doesn't have to work a lot to have those experiences. With storytelling and reading, the child is called upon to do the imagining themselves. I think that's a good part of your brain to exercise once in a while."