By CRISTINA JANNEY
What started out as just a fun project for Josh Dechant and his daughter, Marley, to explore reading and science has blossomed into a series of books about a giant, friendly, red dinosaur named Roara.
Dechant, 32, has three books that have been published: “Hello Roara,” “Where’s Roara,” and “Macara’s Treasure.”
Dechant did not start out with the intent to be an author. He is an app designer.
When Marley, now 6, was a baby, he began to read to her. He eventually started to have Marley do small activities with the books. He asked her to look for a cloud or look for a tree. The father and daughter also made up some of their own stories.
Dechant started the Roara project with the intent of creating a hunt-and-find app, but it evolved into a book. Dechant worked side by side with his daughter in the creation of the book and its characters.
“Every piece of Roara, she had a hand in,” Dechant said.
Marley liked to visit the Sternberg Museum of Natural History and specifically enjoyed the T-Rex, although she was initially scared of it. The father and daughter decided their main character would be a dinosaur.
Dechant sketched pictures of the character and other illustrators he had worked with on apps did the same. Marley chose the images she liked best, including Roara’s red color. She also picked the dinosaur’s name.
“All of this time, she was still 2. Basically everything was designed for her,” Dechant said.
He had help creating the characters and original illustrations on the first Roara book. He took those beginnings and reillustrated the first book. Tamara Forge wrote the story after Josh and Marley had worked out the characters. Dechant then self published.
Dechant intended to just create the first book, but a second book was soon in the works.
“People like it, and it was a lot of fun to do,” he said. “I really enjoy it, and Marley really enjoys it, so we ended up doing more than going past that first book. It has really been a fun journey. ”
Dechant does all of his own marketing. He has been selling his books through book fairs and Amazon, and at museums, including Sternberg in Hays and the and Smoky Hill Museum in Salina.
“I really like to talk face to face with people about the book,” he said. “It is not just another book on a shelf. It is something me and my daughter created. It is just a really cool thing for me to talk about.”
They have attended book fairs in Topeka, Las Vegas, and Dechant was invited to speak to a classroom in Berkley, California.
Dechant recently read the Roara books to children in Hays USD 489 Summer Reading Camps at O’Loughlin and Wilson schools. He also told the children the story behind creating Roara and gave them the opportunity to create their own books.
“We had some really cool stories between both schools in all the classrooms that we visited,” he said. “There were just really funny stories that these kids came up with. They are so creative, and they are so awesome at telling their own stuff. It was fun.”
“I had a great time. It was an awesome experience, and I am glad Marley got to come with me,” he said.
Dechant said the Roara books have been popular enough he plans to publish more. He has three more books that have been written and are waiting for illustrations.
“Macara’s Treasure” is the first in a series. Dechant wrote this book and had it illustrated by someone else. The series includes STEAM activities. He has created Adventure Crates to go with the books that include science experiments.
In “Macara’s Treasure,” Macara has been looking for a magical treasure. She finally finds the island where the treasure is hidden, but she forgets her supplies. The reader has to help her create items, such as a compass. The child also goes through a map maze.
Dechant has several of these STEAM books in the works, but they are not yet ready for publication.
“This was just a little project, a fun thing to do with Marley,” he said of the books. “I never thought it would be that big. I never thought I would be invited to classrooms.”
Dechant’s wife owns a dance studio in town. A mother of one of her students realized Josh had written the Roara books. She told his wife “Hello Roara” is her son’s favorite book, and they read it every night before bed.
“How cool is that?” Dechant said. “I think that is just awesome that people are reading it to their kids and they love it just as much as we do.”
Find out more about Roara and print out coloring pages at roararex.com.