At eight years old, he can tell you thousands of random facts about animals and nature.

He’ll draw for hours and sit contentedly on a blanket watching birds flutter around his feeders.

Writing – well, despite how good he is at it, he just doesn’t see it as his thing.

And then we figured out a way to make it his thing…or at least something that makes him excited. He made a book. A real printed book.

He typically illustrates all over his writings, but this time I asked him to illustrate every sentence or main point. Once his illustrations were complete, I photographed each illustration and then uploaded them to Mpix and added his text. We ordered a softcover book from Mpix. He checked the mail everyday waiting for it to arrive. After some frustration and worrying on my part as his mom/teacher regarding teaching him to write, what a joy it was to see him so excited about his book. I remember making my own book in 6th grade. It wasn’t printed by a company, but my teacher bound it for me. I need to search my parents’ house for that book. It was about a gymnast and had a joke about a cow with no feet. Random. Like my blog. I’ve been doing random all my life. By the way, a cow with no feet is called “ground beef”. You’re welcome.

His book is about a Japanese adventurer. He searched online for popular Japanese names and picked “Kenji Hamada”.  Turns out there is a voice actor by the same name, which is kind of appropriate because this kid can make a whole range of great voices.


He wanted to use colored pencils for his illustrations. I had him take a gel pen to outline the main parts so they would stand out more when printed in the book.khbook-3

The guy falling off the pirate ship was yelling, “there goes my breakfast”. It is my favorite part of the book.khbook-4khbook-6

He wrote an “About the Author” page and picked the picture he wanted included. You can’t put a price on the value of literature like this.khbook-7khbook-8khbook-9khbook-11khbook-12

He wants me to print more so he can sell them. I’ve got a budding author and salesman on my hands. I couldn’t be more proud.

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  • Jacki - If you decide to support his salesman hankerings, I commit to purchasing a copy of Kenji Hamada, I would love to read it!

  • Jess - What a great idea! I will try this with my 8 year old.

  • Chantel - Ashley, this might be my favorite idea that you’ve blogged about! I remember my brother being this age and writing all kinds of stories, I can’t wait till my kids are at this stage. I love how getting the book printed is not only a good way to encourage him but also makes such a beautiful way to preserve his writing. This book looks amazing!

  • danielle - This is great! I have had the boys make paper books to incourage writing but they would love doing this! What a wonderful imagination he has!

  • Amy - I would totally buy this! I love his sea monster and the guy fainting at the sight of the bear!! Seriously, if he sells them I will buy some. What a wonderful way to inspire writing.

  • Michelle Hill - This blog post is so endearing! Your son very inspiring. His illustrations are so detailed and tell a wonderful story. He has a true talent :) Go, Big Brother! I hope he gets his wishes honored and has a book sale in the future, I would love to support him.
    Looking forward to the next edition of Kenji Hamada!

  • Michelle Hill - p.s. His “About” picture is hysterical!

  • Jenn - i love love love this
    so great
    so wonderful
    i love that you made his book for him
    i love that he was excited to do it and get it in
    i love that he wants to sell them
    it is all just so precious

  • Erin - What a treasure! This is a great idea! Thanks for sharing–and I LOVE the picture he chose for “About the Author.”

  • tara pollard pakosta - that is adorable!
    My 12 year old has been working on a novel for two years. it went from 80 pages to 130 while being edited, but she’s only at the beginning of editing it because she said she’s a way better writer now after two years, so she basically wants to rewrite the whole thing!
    he can sell his books on!
    tell family members and friends to go buy them!

  • heather - BEST IDEA EVER! pretty sure i will be doing this this summer often!

    btw i would be open to a book swap with him once i talk my kiddo into writing a book too :)

  • kassondra - Thank you thank you thank you! !! For months my daughter has been begging me to help her get a book published! She has researched publish companies and try to write books every week. I want to help make her dream come true but was worried she would get over looked or rejected. This will be perfect for her!

  • Southern Gal - Love his book and especially that author page.

    A cow with two legs is lean beef. A cow with one leg is a steak.
    ;) Courtesy of my son.

  • Haley - This is such a great idea! I love the About the Author page.

  • Laura M. - My 5 year old has been “writing” a book for probably almost a year. :) He taped pages of paper together and has just slowly been working on it over time. The book doesn’t really flow well and it is sort of random, but I love it! And because he has been working on it so long, it is fun to see how his handwriting has improved. I wanted to make an actual book out of it for him after it was done, but wasn’t sure how to go about doing that, so thanks for the idea!

  • Paige - This is AWESOME! What a great way to encourage writing! My guy does great short stories on the back of work papers at school and this would be perfect! Motivation to keep up writing skills this summer. GREAT idea, thank you!

  • Ginny - Great idea! And another cow joke for you… what do you call a mama cow that just gave birth to her calf? Decaffeinated!

  • Jolene - How sweet! Love this idea!

  • marie - This is awesome! You (and your sweet son) have just given me an idea for Christmas gifts…from my grandchildren to their parents! Thanks for the best idea!!

  • Kaleigh - This is so excellent! The younger version of myself is sooo wishing someone had done this for me once upon a time! Thank you for sharing!

  • RaD - I hear if you do the book on Blurb you can set a price, promote them, and make some money off of them as they sell…

  • emily hope - super love this. my kids are always writing & illustrating their stories, but I hadn’t thought of getting them printed. going on my to-do list ;)

  • Ruth - What a fabulous idea! Love it! I have a 5 year old and I wonder if I could photograph her school artwork to make a similar type of book.
    And I would totally buy one of your son’s – maybe you could get them printed and sell them to raise money for a charity? :)

  • shantele - This is fantastic Ashley, I have just started getting back into making art and an so inspired by your little boy!!

  • Seamingly Sarah - So fun! My daughter has been loving illustrating and writing (at first she just dictated to us, now she writes it herself) stories she makes up since pre-k. She’ll grab paper from the printer and then when she’s done I sew the pages all together. I love it.

  • Megan - My son wants to sell his books, too! He also invented a game that we’re considering actually having made. Maybe our boys could go into business together. :) Your son’s book is wonderful and such a precious thing for you to have as he grows up.

  • AshleyAnn - that is hilarious Ginny!

  • Eva - This is so awesome! So happy you found a way to encourage your son to write. What a treasure his book is!

  • Fiona Mae Alvero - You had me at ground beef. =))

    I hope he will continue to write and will grow more in love with writing. :)

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - We would totally be his first sale!

  • work placement - Wat a fabulous idea!!

  • meg - My middle boy isn’t into sports and is just starting to tap into his creative side through writing and drawing ( he is a kindergartener), this would be perfect be perfect for him! Thanks for the idea :)

  • Monique Willms - LOVE it! Such a great project. My kids have both made Lego Star Wars books that we had printed. They set up the scenes with their lego mini figs and I took the pictures (they were 3 and 5) at the time. They still read their book to anyone that comes in our house and can recite it word for word even though they can’t full read yet.

  • Taylor - This is so awesome! I remember making a book back in the day as well. I would love to do this for my little sister, she would get a kick out of it!


  • Anne - He is awesome! I’d love to read the whole book! There’s nothing like a child’s imagination.

  • Frida - This is absolutely wonderful!
    I would so love to buy this book, it is just so beautiful!

  • Natalie - Ashley his illustrations are incredible!

  • Christina - Since I first started reading your blog several years ago, this son has reminded me so much of my own. There are so many similarities. My son loves to draw and write little captions – the pirate losing his breakfast is just the sort of thing he would do. You should help him to set up shop and sell a few copies. I think it would be encouraging to my own son to have a book by another boy his age. It would give him something to look forward to doing with his own drawings. We have made the decision to homeschool next year, and I think this will be just the sort of fun school work to challenge him with. He loves books, so what better encouragement than to write his own!

  • Keshia - OMGoodness!!! I love love love this idea. I’m borrowing this for my budding reader!????????????

  • Robert - Hi

    I just accidentally bumped into you website and it is so a beautiful blog so i bookmarked it! Now i am having a closer look, at your profile and your family story, i got really touched! Maybe it is because i am a farther of 1 year and 9 month old son. You children look so happy and i wish i could offer that kind of life and childhood to my son and the other on the way!


  • rosalind - That is awesome!

  • Elisha Wolter - This is such a great idea! My daughter loves to write and I think that I’ll do these books for her stories too! Thanks for the great inspiration … I love your boys illustrations, very good!

  • Shauna - We homeschool, &I am so doing this with my kids. What an awesome idea! Thank you :)

Last week I was asked a lot about the headband my daughter was wearing in the post with pictures of her and her dad. It is actually my headband that she keeps nabbing. Earlier this year I joined Crossfit and my hair has been driving me nuts. Bangs are not fun when you are working out. I recently told my coach/trainer that I was going to have to shave my head if I wanted to keep going. Instead of shaving my head I ordered a new headband. Two years ago when I was training for a 5k, I met Julie – owner of Fit Chic Headbands. She gave our whole running group headbands. I choose black. I always choose black.

Anyway, I lost my black headband so I ordered a new one.

When my package arrived, Julie had surprised me an included a gray one and the colorful one that my daughter keeps taking. I would have never ordered the colorful one because I tend to avoid things that might draw attention to me. BUT – it is my favorite one of the three. So, for those of you that asked, and those that didn’t – the headband is from Fit Chic Headbands. It isn’t tight and holds my bangs back perfectly. FireCracker looks way cuter than I do, so I’ll stick with pictures of her in it. When I am wearing it my face is all red and sweaty and there is usually chalk in my hair. She’s way cuter in it.

She calls herself a “work out girl” when she wears it. Cracks me up every time.5.14fitchic-35.14fitchic-25.14fitchic-5

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  • Heidi - Cute! I need one but can’t find this on her site. Do you know what it’s called? Thanks!!!!

  • Ruth - Gorgeous! I just ordered one from her website! Thank you :)

  • Caroline - I think it’s the Gia print, I just ordered one for myself!

  • susie - Cute! I was going to ask you where you got them too, glad you posted it! I have been looking for a good headband.

  • susie - She has good prices on headbands! I ordered one too… I think she owes you another free one! :)

  • MrsFun - Oh I am going to have to order one of these. Awesome price and they look like I might be able to actually make them work with my ever so difficult hair.

  • Emily - Oh my goodness – perfect for climbing! (When I also have scraggly sweaty bangs, a red face, and chalk in my hair ;-) ) thanks for sharing!

  • Jenn - she is precious
    i love that head band too
    it is great

  • Ashley - Please tell me how you have time for crossfit??!! Very cute by the way! I will be ordering one just to wear : )

  • AshleyAnn - Ashley – waking up and going before the sun rises :) – it is my much needed stress relief!

  • AshleyAnn - Heidi – here it is

  • Seamingly Sarah - Well that is a super cute headband and I love the colors. I love looking at rainbow-ish things, but I also find that I have a lot of black, gray and muted earth tones in my closet. I bet you look radiant in the headband and I’m definitely trying to add more color to myself. Pink, pink, pink!

  • Taylor - I’ve been looking for cuter (and less grimy) workout headbands and these ones are so cute!! I may just buy one now that Firecracker has convinced me!


  • Courtney - The whole article I was reading the name of the company as “Fat Chic Headbands.” It wasn’t until I went to the website that my brain corrected itself. Hahaha! I thought it was a funny reference to the width of the headband. Guess I’ll have to start my own Fat Chic company.

  • Heidi Jo the Artist - Very cute!

  • Treva - Loved reading this tonight!!!!

  • Nancy - Will you please share a bit about your experience with Cross fit??

ISO 320, 1/125, f/2.8
5.14smitten-1ISO 400, 1/160, f/2.8 – both5.14smitten-2ISO 400, 1/160, f/2.85.14smitten-4ISO 400, 1/160, f/2.8 5.14smitten-5ISO 500, 1/125, f/2.8 – both 5.14smitten-6

Canon 6D, 50mm f/1.4 lens, edited with Replichrome II

When he walks in the room, her eyes light up. Her smile grows. She squeals, “Daddy!”

She’s my little shadow – but she’s his little girl.

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  • Avenlea - So so sweet! :)

  • Katie - This is beautiful! And her headband is amazing!

  • Sarah - Adorable!

  • michelle - that is a very special kind of love. How sweet are they ?! Her outfit is adorable!

  • Haley - Beautiful! I love how you can see how much your daughter’s loves her father in these photos. What kind of songs does he sing for her?

  • Sarah - wow, these photos are some priceless treasures.

  • Lori Danelle - So incredibly wonderful. I know you know, but that right there is incredible, and all-too-often, rare. Love that you captured it.

    However, what I really want to know: Did Lesley approve that artistic embellishment to her design???? ;) (part of me would be freaking out just a bit — while the other part would be questioning what is wrong with me!?!?) :)

  • candy - Melt my heart-precious!

  • Sarah @ House Made of Marital Glue - I don’t comment often but have been a longtime reader. This post is so beautiful! She is beginning to look so grown up! It’s so beautiful to see the way she looks at him. I hope your children are able to appreciate, if not now then one day, all the memories and little intricacies of their childhood that have been captured on camera. So special!

  • angie - I die. This is SO sweet!

  • Janice - That last image is just incredible. I was a Daddy’s Girl, and the only bad thing about being a Daddy’s Girl is how broken your heart is when your Daddy is gone. You capture the love in your family so very well.

  • Kristin S - Oh, Ashley, as it should be.

  • Carrie - Oh such precious images. They remind me of the hugs I used to give my Dad…I miss them xx

  • Jenny B. - Oh, this just made me tear up! Seriously… hormonal issues, or what? :) LOVE that photo where she’s looking up at him (3rd from last). It makes me think about how her love for her dad will carry through her whole life and impact things like who she marries and such. So much in that one photo!

  • DebZorn - Such sweet and tender moments.

  • Marie - The photo below the close-up of the guitar…..well, my heat just melted!

  • Stoich91 - Tears..all the tears…

  • Taylor - These pictures are absolutely adorable! I can only imagine the way my little girl will look at her kind and loving daddy too and I can’t wait to see those same loving eyes.


  • danielle - Those are beautiful!

  • amber - Just the sweetest thing. My 7 year old daughter is still just as smitten with her daddy. These pictures are awesome. What a treasured memory that will make you cry one day!!

  • Jill - This is so cute!!!

  • haili - I love these! beautiful.

  • Nichole Young - Firecracker posts are my favorite!!

  • Seamingly Sarah - I love this. I want my girls to be more Daddy Girls, but alas, they are Mommy Girls ALL the way. =)

  • Barb - Nice pictures! Where did you get your daughters headband? Did you make it?

  • Kendra - These are so precious! I love her smile and overflowing joy that is captured in these images :)

  • Jen @ RamblingRenovators - I always love your photos but these are exquisite – her expression is so precious and the photos themselves are so sharp. Your 6D is amazing!

  • Kate @ Songs Kate Sang - So. Much. Love.

  • Sarah - This is so precious, Ashley!! xx

  • Kathy - Have you read Meg Meeker’s book, STRONG FATHERS, STRONG DAUGHTERS
    ? I think you would like it. :)

  • Carrie - You capture it so well, “She is my little shadow – but she is his little girl”. I have three little girls who are my shadows, but definitely their daddy’s little girls. So precious!

  • MrsFun - I love these!! We only have one girl, she’s graduating next month, and she still looks at her daddy like this.

  • Helen - Wow, she is a lucky girl to have such a daddy to admire.. and live music in her life! Love it.

  • Shelly B. - I tell ya, this is the sweetest thing. The bond between a father and his daughter….it is an incredible thing. Very sweet photos.

  • Heather - Oh my gosh! Thank you so much for sharing!! My daughter and husband have this exact same relationship but reading your last line brought tears to my eyes because it put into words exactly what I see between the three of us. She truly is my shadow and his little girl, so perfect!