When a change in the weather forces a little boy to change his safari adventure plans, he decides to instead take readers through the story of how he came to be. Zak is the child of two moms, who met, fell in love and decided to start a family just like couples everywhere. Babies come to be when an egg and a sperm come together, and different families bring these two elements together in different ways. With a focus on two-mom families, Zak’s Safari talks about what a donor is, how he was created with the help of a sperm bank, and how his family is just as full of love and zaniness as any other family.
What makes Zak’s Safari pretty neat, in addition to the fact that it deals with an underrepresented family dynamic, is the way in which the book came to be. The author, Christy Tyner, and her wife grew their family through sperm donation, and when the time came to talk to her children about where they came from, Tyner went searching for picture books to share with them. When she couldn’t find any picture books that reflected her family’s story she decided to write her own, and turned to Kickstarter to help fund the picture book’s creation. The book is now available on Amazon, but in a really fantastic move the author has made the entire book available to read for free on the book’s website.
My partner has supported several campaigns on Kickstarter (usually board or video game related – what can I say, he’s a nerd), and I’m always amazed by the variety of projects seeking sponsorship on the site. Crowdfunding campaigns like Kickstarter provide opportunities for authors/illustrators to bypass traditional publishing houses and publish their works with the support of the community. While I have my reservations about self-publishing (some stories get rejected by publishers for valid reasons), I can readily see its appeal for writers looking to create stories that mainstream publishers might pass on. As well, self-publishing allows creators to maintain full control over their stories, which could be very important to writers for whom their story has deep personal significance. Self-publishing also allows writers to be very involved in the marketing and promotion of their book, which could be very appealing.
While I don’t see self-publishing supplanting traditional publishing any time soon (and I wouldn’t want it to), I think it’s great that writers have different publishing and funding options available to them as they work to bring their stories to life, and I applaud the variety that it helps bring to our collections.