J. Steven Spires has book signing at Ascension Living and Outdoors

Darian Graivshark
Spires signing one of the two books he had on display.

Educational and entertaining is what Steven Spires goes for as he writes children's books.

Spires is a third grade Reading teacher at a school in St. Tammany Parish, and on December 23 he held a book signing at Ascension Living and Outdoors in Gonzales. He had hisThe Oak Tree andThree Little Shrimp signed and displayed for visitors.

His writing journey began when Hurricane Katrina was approaching and he evacuated Mississippi. During his time there, he got tired of all the bad reports about New Orleans and started writingThree Little Shrimp.

The book is a cajun spinoff of The Three Little Pigs tale. It was released in 2013 and was the first book published by Spires. There are three shrimp and a raccoon called Roux.

Currently, this book has sold over 10,000 copies in over fourteen different countries. It even received an International Mom's Choice Award. Illustrations for the book were done by Jonathan Caron, who was only fifteen when he first began working on the art for it.

"I wanted to create a prey and predator book, but without the typical lions and gazelle," Spires said. "It turned into a book because one of my teaching colleagues challenged me to make it one. I did years of research on shrimp in the wild, and decided to incorporate the process they go through as they go from the estuary to the Gulf."

Three Little Shrimp portrays the innocence of children in a sense, because the three shrimp are so young when they first start at an estuary that they don't realize they're in danger on their journey to the Gulf.

"Adding scientific words was something I wanted to add, too," Spires said. "Like for the sea turtle. In the book she's called Mrs. Caretta C. That's because the scientific name for them is Caretta Caretta. The kids always remember it this way, too."

The Oak Tree was his second published book, released in 2015 on the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. It is explained as a love story in the midst of a disaster, because the oak tree loves the family who eventually returns after the hurricane.

"Inspiration for the book struck me as I was driving home one day and was looking at the trees," Spires said. "I began to wonder what it may have been like to be a tree and seeing the hurricane approach in their viewpoint. The next morning, I got up and began writing the story. I eventually decided to include my family in it, too. My wife, four sons, and daughter."

To allow all children the ability to read the book, Spires used a font called Dyslexie, which helps individuals with dyslexia to read the words easily. Spires also went through the sequence of a hurricane in order to help educate the children on how to prepare for one.

"Since this story is a little more intense emotionally, we included a green tree frog called Gus," he said. "Gus was inspired after a citizen from Rayne, Louisiana challenged me to include a green tree frog in the book. Jonathan and I decided to hide Gus in different parts of the spreads in the book. So, when things get more intense, I'll ask the children if they can spot the frog while I'm reading to them. This helps make the book lighter for them."

Adults have even told Spires that they cannot read a book about Katrina, because it hits so close to home. Others have teared up while reading the story.

On the release onThe Oak Tree, George W. Bush was interested in going to the event, and even asked to have the book in his library while in office.

To find out more about Spires and his books, you can visit jstevenspires.com.

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