If you’re looking for a good summer read, don’t look too far. La Cañada Flintridge’s first-time authors Daylen and Kai Larsen — La Cañada High School 7th-grade twins — and their dad Seth Larsen have just put out a book: “The View From Mars.”
It’s a coming-of-age tale about a 12-year-old boy named Mars who invites readers along as he learns about the importance of family, friendship, speaking your mind and the quest for a perfect comeback.
The results are downright funny, with a poignancy that sneaks up.
Don’t judge me until you’ve walked a mile in my shoes.
Actually, it’s best that you don’t walk a mile in my shoes. You’d just be tired, and I’d probably want my shoes back.
Over the course of about two years, the trio met three times a week to work on the book, which was illustrated by their talented younger siblings, Savahn “Shiu Shiu” Larsen, 9, and Seth K. “Sumo” Larsen, 10, and is dedicated to their mom, Jacqueline Larsen — or Jaki, as her friends in La Cañada Flintridge all know her.
“Life doesn’t stop because you want to write a book,” Jaki said. “The part I’m most proud of is that they were just very committed. I learned a lot from my kids.”
Much of the self-published fictional book — a blend of the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” book series and “The Wonder Years” TV series — is based on real-life experiences. Some of the key characters are based loosely on members of the Larsen family, including a younger brother named Sumo … after Sumo.
“It was pretty collaborative, we met somewhere in the middle with our influences,” said Seth, who still has the post-it on which Kai scheduled their thrice-per-week writing schedule, to which the team managed to adhere while working together to shape the story until it arrived at its climax and was done.
“This was something that we were able to work on together, which was pretty special,” Seth added. “And, for me, one of the many benefits that I never really considered was that a lot of the story ideas, almost all of them, came from them, something that either happened to them or that they saw or observed or heard about.
“And then I was able to chime in, ‘Oh yeah, that happened to me when I was 12.’ So you could kind of see a light bulb coming on, ‘Oh, he’s not this robot that comes home from work, he’s lived through some circumstances.’ It was a great bonding experience for all of us.”
Said Kai: “A lot of things that happened to him, we changed it a little bit and put it in the book.”
The boys — both of whom showed an interest in creative writing at Paradise Canyon Elementary School — had the idea of making the main character a worrier, a boy who is “always inside his head,” because that was something they could easily describe in writing.
And if it’s true that making a mistake means you’re human, it only proved we were particularly human.
And then, because they wanted a foil, they made his sister really smart and supremely confident, and they named her Barrie (because Kai’s favorite fruit is strawberries and he was hungry.)
We spotted the apartment manager. Stating the obvious, Sumo marveled, “Oooh! He’s smoking!”
“Never smoke,” Mom commanded. “There’s a seventy-five percent chance you’ll die.”
“You’re saying, then, if I smoke, there’s a twenty-five percent chance I’ll live forever?” Barrie retorted.
“It was really fun, and the ending was really cool,” said Daylen about crossing the finish line with the project. “You open the box and you see a book that you wrote and that was cool.”
“And a lot of people liked it,” said Kai, who read a chapter aloud to his class before the school year ended. “And a few people bought it right on the spot! I saw kids reading it, so I was happy. I was like, ‘Whoa!’”
There’s a growing collection of pictures of kids reading their book — which is available at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, on Kindle and in all of LCUSD’s school libraries — on the Instagram account, @TheViewFromMarsBook.
“I think not only did they enjoy the creative writing, but they also learned a lot about dedication and now the entrepreneurial aspect of it,” Seth said. “And we’ve been pretty overwhelmed with the support.”
“I’m hearing from parents, ‘Now my kid wants to write a book this summer!’” Jaki said. “And that is so inspiring. They inspired other kids to do that. That’s amazing, right?”
Oh, Daylen and Kai are definitely inspired. They both recently got braces, and they’re thinking that experience will probably make good fodder for the sequel.