When Stephanie Kahle’s husband Ehren, a firefighter with the Imperial Beach Fire Department, went to Mendocino to fight a fire in 2008 as part of a strike team, he was gone for 21 days. Out of that time when the couple’s children missed their dad came a story, now a book recently release called “My Daddy Slays Dragons.”
During the 21 days, the Kahle’s children Tehren and Vailyn were 4 and 2 years old, respectively, and wanted to know where their dad was. Kahle came up with a story she told them about their dad. When her husband came back home Kahle had written down the story and wished to publish it as a children’s book - but first she had to find an illustrator.
Kahle went on Craig’s list looking for an illustrator but she didn’t have much luck. The idea of the book continued to be in the back of her mind over the years but nothing happened. In 2014 she found out the daughter of a teacher at the school where she works was an illustrator.
Kahle works as a special ed teacher’s aid in the Ramona School District where she and her family also live. Once the illustrations, done by Karen Riedler, were finished, Kahle started looking for a publisher. Kahle was happy with the illustrations Riedler had come up with, including one of them which was inspired by a photo of the fire engines in the strike team traveling together.
“My Daddy Slays Dragons” tells the story of a dad who fights dragons with other dragon slayers, like a knight in shining armor, while the children are safe at home. The book has whimsical and rich illustrations with a fun storyline that children will enjoy whether they read it to themselves or someone else reads it to them. “My Daddy Slays Dragons” is for children up to first grade.
The last page of the book features fire tips for children in keeping with the theme of the book.
“I wrote to 40 or more publishers and sent samples but I was told that was not what they were looking for right now,” she recalled.
Then in 2019, four or five publishers showed interested. Kahle shopped the publishers for the best contract, since she wanted to retain the rights of the book and finally chose Fulton Books based in Pennsylvania.
Her children are now 16 and 14. How do they feel about their mom publishing the story she used to tell them as children? “They’re teenagers. They’re kind of excited,” she said.
Kahle has worked in education for the past eight years and she has an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education and a Bachelor Degree in Sociology.
“The first time I had the book in my hands I couldn’t stop crying. It’s been a dream since I wrote it,” confessed Kahle.
Kahle credits former Imperial Beach Branch Librarian June Frost, who read the book before it was published, and offered a suggestion. Frost thought it would be fun to include a page describing what the children were doing at home while their dad was slaying dragons. Kahle followed the suggestion and included it in the story. Kahle recently heard from Frost just a few days before this interview to say she was excited to have received the book in the mail.
“I always knew it was going to happen,” said Kahle of publishing her book.
Ten percent of the proceeds of the book will go to the Burn Institute, an organization that inspired Kahle. When her husband won the demolition derby, the family was invited to Camp Beyond the Scars for one day. “We did archery with campers, played laser tag. To see their faces was magical,” she recalled.
Kahle hopes to do readings of the book at the Imperial Beach library once the pandemic is over. Her husband has read the book to children during Heroes Readings before.
Because of the pandemic, the release of the book was a low key affair. In fact Kahle was not aware her book was already for sale online until someone called her to let her know. The book is currently available through amazon.com and Barnes and Noble, and will soon be released on iTunes, Nook and more.
“I wrote it all at once, it just came to me. You know when things come to you and you don’t know where they come from… Kids like firefighters the whole idea of real life heroes… It’s whimsical, it has reality and fantasy…” she said of the book.
Kahle always loved reading and knew she would write a book someday. “I was waiting for the book come out of my head,” she said.
Kahle has already penned another book in the process of being illustrated, called “Stitch Bear” based on the bears the first responders carry in their vehicles for children in crisis.
“It gets them through bad times and still connects them with first responders,” she said. “It talks about how bad things happen, and to get through it you have to find it inside yourself. There are less words [than the other book] but more meaning,” she explained.
“My Daddy Says Dragons” can be purchased on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.