Henry Michel: Writing stories, teaching lessons

For Henry Michel, writing a children’s book was only natural.

“I’m an elementary school teacher by trade, and it’s always really cool to see the effect of a book on kids,” he said.

So about a year ago, Henry decided to start writing the first book of what he plans to be a series, called “Little Pro Surfer.”

In the book, the child, who lives in Hanalei, has dreams to become a professional surfer and compete in the world tour. Along the way, the child faces self-doubt and disappointment, but is always encouraged to continue on his path by a smiling uncle.

“For kids’ books, it’s about overcoming obstacles and learning more from losing than winning,” Henry said.

In an effort to make the books relatable to everyone, Henry wanted the main character to remain ambiguous.

“I told the illustrator I didn’t want it to be identified as a girl or boy,” he said.

Beyond that, Henry gave the illustrators — his daughter, Paulina Michel, and her boyfriend, Bobby Skelton — free rein of the artistic process.

“As soon as we read the story, we started getting ideas for what the imagery would look like,” said Paulina. “We did some sketching and concept development before coming up with the final product.”

The book was illustrated with watercolor paintings.

“He wanted the book to be colorful,” Paulina said.

Paulina said she felt a bit of pressure, illustrating for her father.

“It always hard to create for clients, but it’s extremely hard to create for family,” she said.

The pair own Krush Illustration, a freelance business that creates logos, business cards, collages and other projects for businesses on Kauai. They have also illustrated the children’s book series, “Fly Pup.”

Henry, who said he always wanted to write a children’s book, said his daughter was his first choice for illustrator.

“I’ve always known she was an awesome artist, since she was 5 years old,” he said. “When she got her degree in illustration, I knew she was going to be my illustrator.”

He wasn’t allowed to see the paintings until they were finished.

“It was a total surprise,” he said.

“Little Pro Surfer,” which was self-published, has been in stores for about two weeks.

So far, it’s had a positive reception, Henry said.

“I’m so stoked because everyone likes it. The response has been amazing,” he said.

So far, it’s been selling by word of mouth. It sells for $14.99 and copies can be found locally at Kauai Nut Roasters, Kokonut Kids and The Barn 808. The book is also available on Amazon.

Henry also donated a couple copies of the book to Kilauea and Hanalei schools. He wants to visit schools and libraries for group readings.

“I’m happy to go anywhere people want me to go to read it to kids,” he said.

He hopes to translate the book to French, Spanish and Portuguese.

“Surfing has grown so much, and I want the book to be available to everyone,” he said.

The second book in the series, “Little Pro Skater” is already written, and he hopes it will be available in stores by the spring. The third book in the series is “Little Pro Snowboarder.”

At the end of “Little Pro Surfer,” the child wins the world pro junior tour, and is on his way to becoming a surfing champion.

“It’ll be cool for one day, a kid from Kauai wins the world tour, and said ‘Little Pro Surfer’ was their inspiration,” Henry said.

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