UK student pens children book

By Morgan Eads

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After returning from four years in the Army in 2009, UK graduate, cartoonist and author Christopher Epling set to illustrating a children’s story which had grown from his own military journals.

Epling is a Kentucky native from Wolfpit, a Pike County community.

The author has received recognition and a number of awards for his work in cartoons and illustrations.

His first book “Erby’s Turn to Rake” was published this year and gives a couple of lessons for its target audience – children.

The main character of the story, Erby, is called a polliwog, which is another name for a tadpole.

Erby wakes up late for his chores and then runs away to avoid dealing with the consequences.

After a difficult journey, Epling says an appreciative Erby returns home.

“It’s important for kids to know that, no matter what, they need to admit their mistakes,” Epling said. “It is easier than running from them.”

But there is another message he hopes children will also take away from the book.

When visiting elementary school classes, Epling said he would ask the kids if they liked to draw.

He noticed while nearly all of the younger children would raise their hands fewer did as he went on to higher grades.

“I want to encourage them to draw and to create, it’s so important,” Epling said.

“Erby’s Turn to Rake” is going to be featured at this year’s Kentucky Book Fair in Frankfort on Nov. 9, and Epling with be signing the book at Joseph-Beth Booksellers on Nov. 3.

The book is also in the special collections of W.T. Young Library, as well as being available at the UK Bookstore and on Epling’s website, christopherepling.com.

The author plans on writing a sequel to “Erby’s Turn to Rake,” but is currently working on a graphic novel about living in Appalachia.

Being an author isn’t the main goal Epling has for his future, he said.

“I never in a million years thought that it would be published … I didn’t really set out to do that,” Epling said.

Epling hopes to attend law school at UK and then bring his practice back to a store his great-grandparents used to own.

The store was a place of imagination and creativity for he and his brother, Epling said.

“The old store is kind of like a secret garden in a weird way.”

The inspiration for Erby’s story came as Epling was deployed in Iraq.

Being around the Iraqi children moved the Kentucky native to begin putting together the book.

Within a short time of Epling’s returning to civilian life, his brother passed away from an aneurysm, as well as his mother from pancreatic cancer.

Epling’s religious faith and preparing the illustrations for the book, which he dedicated to his mother and brother, helped him through this impossibly tough time, he said.

“Working on the book really helped me to keep my mind focused,” he said.

Since the release of the book, it has received a fair amount of media attention, spread to different elementary school libraries and reached many children.

“I’d have never thought that something positive would come from such a dark period,” Epling said.

If he ends up achieving his goal of practicing law, Epling plans to continue making art and trying to be published.

“Art is kind of something that relaxes me, it was my first love,” Epling said.