Now and Next
This is the last chapter in the story of three sharp engineers, who decided to make a difference – and write childrens’ books. Read the first two episodes if you haven’t yet: …Chapter 1: the story of why [link] and Chapter 2: the how’s of planning children’s books and learning to rhyme [link.]
So, you’ve planned out and written these books, formed an organization (The3Engineers.com), done the audio-recordings, started re-recording, and have an animation (https://youtu.be/HaPquk8qVoY) to introduce your project. What are you working on now, and what’s next?
Nick: We are now working with our illustrator, Anuka Baratashvili (https://www.behance.net/anuk), who has just started. She has a lot of other projects going on and getting her onboard was tricky. Her talent is incredible.
Matt: And it’s really important to us, so we don’t want to rush it. The illustration is almost like 70% of what will sell the books, what children will get out of it.
You’ve also been reading the books in schools and talking with the kids – Did you know in advance that you wanted to get involved in schools?
Nick: I don’t think we did.
Matt: Our mate, who was a teacher, reached out to us and asked if we wanted to come into the school. And we thought, “well, that was a good idea, why don’t we do that?”
Nick: When the idea popped up, I liked the idea… It was a way to go into schools and basically then present. But I think the first question was, well, can we present not only about the books but talk about sustainability ideas?
Matt: We had one school visit before we went into lockdown, and, unfortunately, Jon couldn’t attend. It was the week before lockdown, and Nick and I really enjoyed it.
Nick: When we went to the schools, we were giving a sustainability presentation 7-10 year olds. It wasn’t just about the books; it was a talk to teach the general basics of sustainability and renewable energy and things like that.
Matt: Within their curriculum of science and sustainability.
Nick: Yeah. We also went in to basically test the books, and the feedback [through children’s reviews] has been good. I think now we’re confident enough with the feedback that we’re happy with the books, https://www.the3engineers.com/gallery/our-first-book-reviews.
Vinnie, Scout’s frog friend.
Matt: Some schools are now open; like my son’s going to school now. We want to go back and deliver presentations. But there are no school assemblies.
Nick: We have a teacher on board who has helped us create lesson plans. … It’s like, piecing itself together. We wanted this book to go out, let’s say to bookshops or for kids at home to read. … And then we started realizing, “well, how cool would it be to take what we’re planning to the next level and potentially get it incorporated in schools?”. Because that’s going to have the most profound effect for us, I think. Via education, schools, groups, and the younger generation getting quite clued up to [environmental issues]. I think it’d be a wonderful thing to be able to have the books in school, have teachers and schools use the material. And then they as a collective can do some of the things from the books.
What are your favorite moments from presenting to the kids? Did you have any ‘aha’ moments?
Matt: I was amazed at how much they understood — and cared. They actually cared about it. Which is making me a little bit teary. I felt so warm afterwards.Nick: During a Q&A with all the pictures, we were asking about favorite characters. One kid said: “I like Scout, she’s an inspiration, and makes me want to pick up litter.” My response: “Ahhh.” And all the teachers were like… “Aaah.”
“The best day of nonwork – ever.”Nick
The books are expected to come out Fall or Winter of this year. Where are you going with this afterwards? What if this gets really big?
Jon: Yeah, definitely we want it to get really big. [Followed by a discussion by the gang, wanting it at the level of a popular book series and a popular TV series]. We hope to get some income from this, so then we can make it even bigger, so that the impact is even greater. The impact is the really wonderful part, having this actually send a message – and to take part in some of these things.
Nick: I would absolutely love the schools to take it on and run with it in that respect. Have the schools take an interest in the messages, buy into it, and do lots of activities and self-promote it in that way.
Matt: I’d like for people to send us questions and look to us for inspiration. I really like the feeling of helping people, encouraging people to do things. Looking to us for advice on how to do it. I think it’d be great. I wouldn’t say we’d have all the answers. It’s scary at the same time.
And I’d love it to be a cartoon, I’d like to be Executive Producer on a cartoon on Scout’s adventures. And be given a blank cheque by HBO [a cable company]. And come up with crazy, wacky stories on how she’s going to save the world, the ocean, extinct/endangered animals, the forests from fires…
Nick: The thing is, it should be already a thing. [Regarding popular kids’ books], there shouldn’t be pointless journeys. Instead, it should be where kids see positive outcomes, and they can make a difference. We have some feedback already. Someone got their child to read the story, and the child went out into the garden and said “Mommy, the bees! I’m Scout.”
Your biggest struggle?
Jon: Writing the books was really hard. When we first thought about it, we were like, “We could do it. We’ve never done it, but we can do it.”
Nick: [To me,] the biggest struggle was learning about each other, and meeting halfway on things; having difficult conversations but trying to remain friends. It was setting expectations. …. We’ve all got different priorities, different lives and different families.
Matt: Finding the time to dedicate to this project, to make it one of the priorities. Because I care about it, I care about it a lot. But dedicating the time to it is another thing. Full-time job, two young kids, one or two things with your wife. And you’re not allowed to go anywhere because of the virus.
How do you think young kids and their parents can get involved in environmental action? There are ideas in Scout’s stories, such as creating a scrapbook of projects. Others?
Nick: Keep a plastic diary – capture what you’ve used, and discarded, plastic-wise. Make the logging of it a mini-game.
One of the best things about your work is that it shows that real impact can happen from planning with friends, maybe over some pints of beer, but not just spitting out ideas or rhymes. Instead, you have really thought through and planned what to accomplish.
Every three to six months, we map out our objectives. We keep check on what we want to do.
And it’s like a double example too, because Scout actually plans things in your books: Thanks for creating Scout and showing kids how taking action works.
And we’ll just end with some advice from the kids themselves:
If you find the project interesting and want to chat or ask them to do a presentation in the UK about a certain thing, or even help problem-solve, they are happy for you to reach out. Here’s how: Contact@the3engineers.com.