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Wednesday, May 22, 2013 11:00 AM
Devon Kondaki reads one of his books to Owain Kelsey, 4, his mother Jamie, and a group of other children and their parents at the Jefferson County Public Library - Hanover Branch on Tuesday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchieemail@example.com)
Sariah Williams, 2, and Poppy Kelsey, 3, listen to Devon Kondaki as he reads his book “The Mystery of the Magical Bwa Bwa Fruit” during story time at the Jefferson County Public Library - Hanover Branch on Tuesday. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
Devon Kondaki was sitting in class doodling on his notepad when he drew something that would ultimately change his life. The Hanover College junior drew a squiggly rectangle, almost like a cloud. He added two eyes, a mouth and a hat. The doodle ended up being his trademarked children's book character, Winzlow the fuzzy gnome.
The Florida native took his first step toward creating children's characters in high school when he wrote a children's book for a class project. He says he's always loved to doodle and color.
"I thought 'I'm pretty good at that,'" he said. "I got an A on the project."
Kondaki, a double major in business and political science, plans on taking his doodle and making it into a brand.
He's already self-published two books featuring Winzlow, "The Mystery of the Magical Bwa Bwa Fruit" and "¡Hey Ya Mama!" and created a handful of characters to inhabit Winzlow's world.
On Tuesday, Kondaki read his two books at the Jefferson County Library in Hanover to a group of children. He says interacting with children is one of his favorite parts of the job.
"I love teaching values," he said. "Every time I do a book reading I hope something new sticks."
He started doing book readings last year, and he's already done 20. At the end of his reading, Kondaki hands out coloring sheets and colors with the children he just read to.
"Everybody loves coloring. Even adults," he said. "It's just fun."
All of Kondaki's stories try to teach a moral lesson. "The Mystery of the Magical Bwa Bwa Fruit" teaches children that how people look doesn't matter. The book follows Winzlow and his best friend Grimble Grumble who ate the magical Bwa Bwa fruit. Together, the two friends travel around looking for the right fruits that will change Grimble Grumble back to his normal color.
"¡Hey Ya Mama!" teaches children about different languages and family, he said.
According to Kondaki's research, children are most susceptible to learning values from ages 3 to 7.
"Once you get older than that, (values are) a lot harder to learn," he said.
Kondaki is hoping to teach those values in more media than books; he wants to create a multimedia company around the gnome's adventures.
His professors at Hanover College's business center are helping him. He says they've helped him get scholarships for his publishing, set up a website and helped him trademark Winzlow as his intellectual property.
Winzlownation.com allows Kondaki to get his message out and also sell Winzlow merchandise. Kondaki is already selling his two books, lanyards, T-shirts and bags online.
He's planning a book tour to get Winzlow in front of as many young children as he can. He says he'd also like to make Winzlow cartoons in the future.
"I just really love teaching and storytelling," he said.
PHOTOS: Your Story - Character Building
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