Brunswick student pens children’s book

Chizi's Tale, by Jack Jones and Jacqui Taylor

Chizi’s Tale, by Jack Jones and Jacqui Taylor

We know what you’re thinking. Sure, you say, pandas are cute and cuddly. That it must be pretty easy to raise awareness and funds for an animal that so many people love. But what about other endangered species that aren’t as soft and lovable?

What about Chizi? Chizi is a black rhino, and one high school senior wants to make sure it is still around for years to come.

Jack Jones, a senior at Brunswick School, is very concerned about that and he came up with a unique way to help raise awareness of the plight of the black rhino. He wrote a children’s book about it.

“It’s a true story about an orphaned black rhino that was adopted and raised by a family,” Jack told the Post in a recent interview. “It covers Chizi’s first year at the residence, where he lived in the house. The kids played with him, used him as a pillow, and he did some funny things. Then the book addresses what will happen to Chizi when he gets older, but right now he’s still just a little over a year old.”

Jack Jones

Jack Jones

Jack said the idea for his book which he called Chizi’s Tale, came from a story told to him by a park ranger he became friendly with during time spent in Africa.

“I’ve been going to Africa for many years, and I’ve gotten to know Colin Wenham, the park ranger who rescued the orphaned rhino,” Jack explained. “Last year, he told me the story of how his family brought this rhino into its home, and the more I heard anecdotes from Colin and his wife and especially their children, the more it just seemed to me that this would make a great children’s story.”

To Jack, the stories he heard practically were illustrations already. The situation seemed to demand a story be written about it.

“I mean, think about it — a rhino walking around your house like a pet dog,” Jack said with a laugh.

Jack was not just struck with the idea of being an author out of the blue, though. Writing is something he said he has always enjoyed. It was just a matter of applying his talents and his enthusiasm toward finishing a story, one that would both be entertaining and colorful but also really bring attention to the issues surrounding the survival of the black rhino.

“I like how great writers can use words to clearly tell stories or convey ideas that move me,” he said. “I try to do the same, but it’s hard. It seems like it should be simple, but it isn’t.”

Jack said he felt that same way about writing Chizi’s Tale. He said the biggest challenge was making this something interesting for kids and adults. He said he loved the idea of the story so much and wanted to convey how fascinating and funny it was. Jack also wanted to humanize Chizi and make readers care about him as a way of bringing attention to the struggle to protect rhinos.

“It was lot harder than I thought it would be,” he said. “I thought it can be 20-some pages. No big deal. But there was a lot of outlining and planning before I could even start a rough draft. Then, there were so many great stories about Chizi that it became difficult to decide which ones to use, which ones not to use. And some of the stories were really funny or interesting, but they didn’t fit into the story line.”

But the story was only one-half of the equation. The story needed the kind of striking illustrations to really bring the book to life. Jack said from the start that he knew he wanted to work with an illustrator from Africa so they could bring a great feel and understanding of the land to the work. Ultimately the choice was made to go with Jacqui Taylor from Zimbabwe, who was a friend of a friend.

“Once I saw her work, I knew she’d be perfect, and she was,” Jack said. “She also worked incredibly hard to get the pictures done in such a short amount of time. The plight of the rhinos in Africa is so urgent that we really wanted to get the book out as soon as possible.”

While putting the story together took a little longer than he first expected, all the work has been worth it. Jack said his real motivation behind the book was to raise awareness and funds to help save the black rhino.

“I’m trying to raise awareness on the plight of the black rhino and how it’s being hunted toward extinction by poachers,” he said. “And with the sale of the book, all proceeds are going to TUSK, a group dedicated to keeping the black rhino alive.”

Jack said he is excited about the book, but more excited about the results it may bring to help save the rhinos.

“It’s exciting to see the finished book, and I feel proud about my part in it, but my whole focus really is on saving rhinos, and my book is just a small part of a huge effort by a lot of people who are working toward that goal,” he said.

He added, “The black rhino is a noble, majestic creature, and it’s amazing to me that we could honestly be headed toward its extinction. I really hope people become aware of this plight and work towards a solution because a world without rhinos would be grim.”

Chizi’s Tale may be found locally at Diane’s Books, which Jack said has been a huge supporter of the project. Owner Diane Garrett even made suggestions such as listing rhino facts at the end. The book is also available nationally, and an online visit to Chizistale.com will have links to retailers like Amazon.com as well as local bookstores along with more information about the book and videos of rhinos.

“The response I have received has been overwhelming,” Jack said. “Not only have people said they loved the story and found the illustrations beautiful, but they’ve been inspired by the message and the call to action.”

A book launch party for Chizi’s Tale will take place on Sunday, Sept. 21, at Tudor Investment Campus at 1275 King Street from 1 to 3. Copies of Chizi’s Tale will be available for purchase. All proceeds will benefit TUSK.

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