“The initial idea came while I was driving my oldest son, Alex, home from soccer practice. He happened to tap his seat, and I sneezed an instant later,” says Kalmbach. Before the ride was over, father and son had found three more “magic buttons” that made dad do silly things. “I realized we could share the idea with others in the form of a book.”
While parents know it’s not always good to have children “pushing your buttons,” Kalmbach’s book makes button-pushing into a fun activity. The book is full of magic buttons that make parents or other readers do zany things. One button makes the reader describe the taste of a gym sock.
Alex (5), Nate (3), and Lily (18 months), Kalmbach’s three children, are listed as co-authors for the book. Kalmbach says his kids gave great advice. “They don’t have a filter, so I can trust them to tell me if they don’t like something…Once I got their feedback, I went off and worked for a while, usually after they went to bed.”
Describing writing with his dad, Alex says, “We just played.” Kalmbach echoes this sentiment. “I approached this as a game with the kids…I don’t think they realize how valuable play can be in the creative process.”
Kalmbach hopes to co-author books with each of his children. So far, Nate wants to work on a book about trains (one of his favorite subjects), and Alex hopes to write a book “where everyone ends up dancing.”
Kalmbach has penned other books, including Revenge of the Dust Bunnies and Shark at the Park, but a new skill he developed for this book was illustration. “Learning how to draw the same character in different positions, while still being recognizable, took a lot more time than I had initially realized,” he said.
“What I love about this book is how it’s interactive. Instead of me reading while my kids listen, they play a role in the book as well. This interaction allows for hundreds of options for how the book can be read since the kids decide the outcome,” says Krista Batzel, member of the Rochester Writers Group.
Batzel shared the book with her three-year-old son. “It was really fun to see his eyes light up when he realized the ‘magic buttons’ could make me do things.” Kalmbach intended the book to be for kids who are ages three to five, though he’s quick to add that his eighteen-month old enjoys it, too.
To launch his book, Kalmbach planned a release at Bounce World, a setting that, like the book, is unconventional. “I wanted to do something different. The whole point of the book is to enjoy time with your kids, and I wanted the book launch to have the same message.”
Batzel sums up the book’s spirit best by saying, “Let’s face it, all kids love to see their parents act silly.”