Westchester Mother and Son Authors Create “Shipwrecked on Fudgepop Island”
We love books as a way to teach our kids something new while connecting with characters who are just like them. Enter a new book, “Shipwrecked on Fudgepop Island” that instills the importance of kindness, sharing, including others, being open to new adventures, and problem-solving created years ago, and then during the pandemic by Westchester Mother and Son authors, Jonathan Ross Notis and Deborah Raider Notis.
The idea for the book actually started when Deborah was in third grade. She would get challenging assignments from school that her father would help her with. One such topic was: “You are shipwrecked someplace. Go!” Deborah wrote about a place called Fudgesicle Island and didn’t think about the story until she saw her old notebook again until 2019 when her father passed away. Deborah discovered that he kept her old composition book with the story she worked all those years ago.
During the pandemic, Deborah read the story to her sons where her younger son, Jonathan, suggested that he could write a better essay about Fudgesicle Island. After Jonathan wrote his own version, they decided to revise both versions together. What resulted was a more elaborate, colorful, and imaginative story that planted the seeds for the book that’s out today.
Learn more about the process of how they created this children’s book together and what your kids can expect from “Shipwrecked on Fudgepop Island.”
Westchester Family: How did the idea for “Shipwrecked on Fudgepop Island” come about?
Jonathan Ross Notis: My mom wrote this story when she was in third grade (You can find her original story on our Instagram page raiderreads_kidsbooks). She found it in her father’s office when she was helping my grandmother clean out the office after my grandfather died.
During the pandemic, she decided that my three brothers and I had to hear this story that she wrote when she was eight. I told her that I could write a better story, so she told me I had to do that. She thought what I turned it into was a fun idea, and we decided to work on it together.
Westchester Family: What can kids expect from the book? What age is it for?
Jonathan Ross Notis: The book is perfect for children ages 2-9. It is written in verse, so it should help children develop reading skills. The book is imaginative and fun, and it will keep children engaged. It invites children to guess what is going to happen, teaching them to predict outcomes.
The story teaches children about being open to new adventures, sharing, including others, and being thoughtful.
Westchester Family: What were some of your favorite children’s books growing up?
Jonathan Ross Notis: I was the fourth boy in my family of baseball fanatics, so I read a lot of beginner books about The New York Yankees. I remember reading a lot of Tedd Arnold books. I was engrossed by the adventures of “Fly Guy.”
Westchester Family: What was the process like to write the book with your mom?
Jonathan Ross Notis: My mom will say that we had a lot of fun. It was but the project sort of took on a life of its own. We were stuck at home during the pandemic lockdown, so this became a constant topic of conversation.
We would come up with couplets over breakfast and character descriptions while watching repeats of old Yankees games (since baseball was cancelled). I came up with the idea of an adventure with four boys, and my mom named them (the four boys’ names are the middle names of me and my brothers).
Westchester Family: Tell us more about the characters.
Jonathan Ross Notis: The four boys in the book are actually named after myself and my three brothers. We use aspects of their personality/interests to shape their bios. For example: my brother, Joseph, who is Adam in the book, always said he wanted to be an only child, so we made the child with his middle name an only child. Additionally, my other brother, Aaron (Michael) is a big country music person, so we put that into his character. Hersch is short for my Nana’s maiden name, Herschkowitz, and so on.
In the book, kids will meet, Adam Zhen. He is an only child and really excited for this class trip. He’s never visited a nature preserve before, and he wants to learn to spell the names of the different types of plants and animals he sees. Adam loves reading, playing the drums, baseball, and football.
Michael Morales has one older brother. He is excited to spend his day digging in the dirt and exploring the bugs he can dig up. Michael plays the piano and guitar, and he loves country music. He spends his free time watching the latest superhero movies.
Jay Hersch is the oldest child in his family but also hyper-focused on eating dessert. He has two younger sisters, and he likes video games and watching basketball. His character is super friendly, but his teachers have historically described him as “easily distracted.”
Ross Wilson is the youngest of three boys. Ross plays soccer and lacrosse, but during his free time he loves playing video games. He likes to take charge of situations because he gets tired of his older brothers bossing him around. Ross is excited that he won’t have to spend his day sitting at his desk studying his least favorite subject, math.
Westchester Family: What are your plans/hopes for the book?
Jonathan Ross Notis: My mom originally contracted with an agent, and she wanted to go the traditional publishing route with the book. But after a year, we both decided to self-publish. I think my hope is just to introduce these fun characters and this whimsical story to as many children as possible. I would love kids to enjoy it, laugh, and be “wowed” by the magical story and pictures.
We are bringing it to some Westchester libraries, and we hope that they will include it in their collections. It would be cool if my elementary school, Grafflin School in Chappaqua, added the book to their library. We’d like the book to be available in stores throughout Westchester. My mom sent a copy of the book to her third grade teacher, Mr. Chaput, in Poughkeepsie.
We are also trying to honor my grandpa with this story. It is dedicated to him. Mr. Stanley is named for my grandpa, Dr. Stanley I. Raider, who helped my mom write the story when she was in third grade. The image of Mr. Stanley is based on a picture of my grandpa as well. I am starting a literacy foundation in memory of my grandpa, which you can read about on our website, raiderreads.com.
Westchester Family: What are you working on now?
Jonathan Ross Notis: My mom and I are slowly working on another story together. Since we’re not on lockdown anymore and I have a lot of school work, it is taking a lot longer (and I’m honestly much less enthusiastic about it). The new story revolves around the same four children, so it will have some continuity.
Westchester Family: We love the illustrations. How did you find your illustrator?
Jonathan Ross Notis: Our amazingly talented illustrator,Jennifer Kaye. Jen is from the UK and we found her on Instagram. We loved her style so much that we decided to take a chance and try to work with her. Turns out, she is super talented, incredibly fun to work with, and really understood what we wanted to say in pictures.
Westchester Family: Where can families find your book locally?
Jonathan Ross Notis: The book is available at Black Cow Coffee Company on Wheeler Avenue in Pleasantville, The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville, Scattered Books in Chappaqua, Town Center Pharmacy in Armonk, and Learning Express in Scarsdale. You can also Shipwrecked on Fudgepop Island on Amazon.