Comic Books & Fudge: Writing the Ura's Dream Workbook

by Shawn Morrissey, 12/12/2011

Some of the dearest memories of my childhood are of Sunday drives with my parents. Although I often hated the driving itself because of terrible bouts of carsickness, the places we would visit usually made up for all the queasiness. We would often end up in some small town, streets strewn with antique shops and teahouses, where I was allowed to indulge in old comic books and chocolate fudge. Other times, though, we would make our way to a trailhead beyond which were woods and thickets, fields and streams that stirred with equal fervor the adventure and sweetness of all the comic books and fudge in my tiny self-contained world. It's these places that I remember most fondly, and in retrospect I realize that these early experiences were the setting of roots - the genesis of my love for the wilderness.

I met John Walker, The Head of The Macquarie Group of Companies in Korea, about four years ago before he had written Ura's World, the first in his series of books about the lovable little moon bear. John and his wife, Gina, had been invited to attend a seminar my organization had hosted to celebrate International Mountain Day. John and Gina's concern and efforts for conservation and animal rights were shared by good company that day and it came as no surprise that John would eventually pen a book to underscore his concern. That it was a children's book was even more telling of John's efforts to spread education of preservation. In time, John wrote the second Ura book, Ura's Dream, but soon realized that an entire group of readers was left untapped: the ESL market. Since the ESL market is within the education field, a workbook was necessary to successfully distribute the storybook, and no workbook existed.

Over dinner one evening, John expressed his interest in having me propose a companion workbook for his storybook to boost his philanthropic efforts. I considered how to go about it. I had been a teacher in the ESL field for a decade, and I had published two books and many articles, but I had never taken on a children's workbook. Luckily for me, the conservationist content of Ura's Dream made the effort of the proposal a cinch. Those memories of adventurous hikes and sweet sceneries of my youth inspired the ideas to make my workbook a practice in inquisitiveness and critical thinking. Rather than simply providing information and then a series of comprehension questions typical of most workbooks, I attempted to infuse my workbook with the same wonder and creative expression I experienced as a kid on those Sunday hikes. With that in mind, I hoped to create a workbook that wasn't simply an academic component of Ura's Dream, but rather an extension of it, filled with the magic of John's story, the exquisiteness of Sohn Heejung's art, and the inherent incredibleness of nature.

Fortunately, John liked my ideas and accepted my proposal. Then the work started: brainstorming, writing, researching, rinse and repeat. The result is something I'm deeply proud of, a workbook that I feel confident is unique in its approach and intriguing in its content.

It's my hope now that my workbook coupled with John's story will help influence an early understanding of the wilderness. I believe understanding is the greatest thing we can give our children. When we understand, we can care. When we care, we can act.

Importantly too, all of the proceeds of Johns’ books to date have been donated to environmental and animal welfare causes throughout Asia and these donations have been matched by his company’s charitable group, The Macquarie Foundation. To the extent that my workbook will also boost the sales of Ura's World and Ura's Dream, John intends to continue donating all sales proceeds to such worthy organizations and I hope this is a further incentive for teachers and schools to utilize the workbook. The profits will directly benefit animals and the environment.

Fellow conservationist and mountaineer David Brower told us that we don't inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. This workbook is my gift of gratitude to them. In writing it, I tried to be a kid again and made all the effort I could to fill its pages with those woods and thickets, fields and streams of my youth, with a few dashes of comic books and fudge thrown in for good measure.

About the Author: Shawn Morrissey is the Founder of Korean Mountain Preservation League    

To purchase: (64 pages soft side book, price 10,000won)

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Internet Bookstores:
Alternatively, email if you can't purchase on-line.
Funds raised from the sale of Ura's World/Dream and the workbook are distributed among a number of related organisations.

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