If you’re a parent or teacher of middle graders, you’d know how challenging it is to get them to read. Equally difficult is finding books that can entertain and inspire kids to grow into empathetic human beings. We met with an author who writes stories that kids love reading to not only have fun but to learn from. Dames Handsome is a father, teacher, and excellent author of the most-loved book series, the Fairy Knights. Here’s Dame’s story in his own words.
Hi Dames, how does one come up with such a cool name as Dames Handsome?
From my students! Here in Korea teachers are addressed by their last name and then the word teacher. My actual last name sounds a lot like Handsome so they started to call me Handsome Teacher. And then the Dames part is an old high school nickname so when it came to me making my pen name I found that really it had already been made and it was just waiting for me to pull out and dust off to be made official.
Why did you decide to write children’s books?
I didn’t haha. All of this started when I sat down with my wife and son to play a role-playing game that I’d made. It was an awesome time and afterward, I realized that I wanted to remember it all forever. So I wrote it all down. And then after it was down I decided to make a story out of it for my son. I adjusted this and that to make it into a real kids’ story. One that I also torqued to teach him a lesson, as all good kids stories do. I read it to him and he loved it. Then it sat on my computer for months. I shared it with some people here and there and they loved it as well. So, finally, I decided that I should “make it real” and publish it. And so it all began.
How did Fairy Knights come to life?
When I asked my friend Warwick, who teaches people how to be Kindergarten Teachers, to read it and how much it would cost me for him to make a cover for me. He read it and got back to me and asked if he could make pictures for the inside as well. I really can’t imagine the series without him. Our partnership really makes these books snap and I’m so happy to be working together.
What are the unique “superpowers” each of the Fairy Knights possess?
I’ll start with everyone’s favorite, Hamster Rick. He’s a hamster pet that my son named after one of his teddy animals. But rather than being all fat and round like most hamsters, he is super strong and he is incredibly chiseled. A handsome hunk of hamster.
The viewpoint of the series so far has come from Ching Goo and his school’s specialty is changing shapes. Depending on how much Magic Mana he uses, he can become about anything he can imagine. And he has a few more magic tricks up his sleeve as well. He can make himself travel very quickly, he can become super strong, he can make people believe that he is famous, and he can be very lucky. He has to be careful, though, because all of those spells cost mana and if he runs out he can’t cast any more magic for the rest of the day.
And of course, we have Oma Bell, the responsible voice of reason. She is an arcane spellcaster which means she can do powerful spells if given enough time to cast them. But more often she uses her fairy dust to create small but immediate magical effects. She can fly and she also has a mean right hook so you don’t want to mess with her. She has some more spells as well that are more specialized. Her super-smart spell makes her twice as intelligent and she can use magic to become about the cutest kid you’ve ever seen or talked to.
How have Ching Goo, Oma Bell, and Hamster Rick grown from one book to another?
At the very start of the series, Ching and Oma were just besties who liked to hang out, and Rick was Ching’s familiar, an animal pet that bonds with their owner to become something very special. But by the time the fourth book has come, we see that Rick has become a full-fledged hero in his own right and is even enrolled at Boogie Elementary School. Oma and Ching have gone through a lot together and Ching has become more mature, responsible, and kind. He has overcome the fear of being no-good, the complexities of jealousy in friendship, and he has more realistic expectations of himself and his friends. He is no longer quite so silly and headstrong. And Oma has let herself loosen up a bit. She has learned that while her ideas and plans may be brilliant, they are always better as a team. It is actually a lot of fun to chart out their lives as they go from book to book, and yet a little sad at the same time because they grow alongside my son, and each little success and every little bit of maturation means he himself is getting that much older and wiser, and that much less of my little baby boy.
Could you share one heart-warming comment you received from a reader recently?
A father told me that his daughter was all excited about the series and kept talking about how she was going to be super good so she could level up and be a hero. That really made me laugh and smile.
What is the one lesson you’d like your little readers to learn from the Fairy Knights books?
That it is okay and natural to feel anxious, scared, and not as good as the others. And that everyone else feels that same sense of doubt and unworthiness. It is a natural part of growing up and it is okay to feel it and to talk to people about it.
Rapid Fire time! Answer the following questions with the first thing that comes to your mind.
Morning person or night owl
Kindle or audiobook
Panda or koala
A preferred writing snack
Your favorite movie of all times
Do you still have your favorite book from childhood?
I don’t but that’s because it wore through!
Warwick has told me that the next one needs to be something special and different. So we are working on an anthology of 5 stories told by different characters within the series. But that won’t be out until at least January due to the Holidays.