For most families, summers with no school mean barbecues by the pool or nights huddled around the television set watching their favorite sitcom. The McElroy family in Turlock, however, took a different approach to one summer vacation, writing, publishing and even illustrating their very own book.
“The Sea,” written by Dutcher Middle School eighth grader J.T. McElroy, Julien Elementary School fifth grader Jillian McElroy and their father Jay McElroy, follows best friends Theo and Bug as they join a pirate crew, surviving encounters with magic, monsters and, of course, the sea.
“We just thought about what we would do if we were in a world of pirates,” J.T. said. “We wanted to see what would happen back then from the point of view of actual pirates.”
While the text for the book was a collaborative effort between the three, Jay, a 10th grade English teacher at Turlock High School, oversaw all things grammar when it came to the novel, and Jillian served as the book’s sole illustrator.
J.T. credits himself for thinking up the idea for the novel, which came to him in June 2017.
“These words just flowed into my brain, so I ran to my computer, opened it up and typed it out,” J.T. said.
J.T. showed his father what he had written, which ended up being the first paragraph of “The Sea.” From there, the family embarked on a summer project unlike any other.
“At first, my dad was afraid it would be one of our usual summer projects where we would start it, it would get boring and we would give up,” J.T. said. “But, we kept at it.”
The trio worked tirelessly throughout the summer to write the book, working during any free time they had. Jillian, who has been drawing since she could pick up a pencil, she said, was eager to bring the book to life.
“Every time I would read through what we had so far, there would be a thrilling scene that just needed an illustration because the page was that good at explaining what was going on,” Jillian said. “I wanted to see what it could look like, so I just started drawing.”
By the very last day of summer, right before school was set to start, the family had a finished product. A drawing by Jillian graces the book’s cover, featuring a very fitting skull and crossbones over some enticing treasure.
“It’s really nice to know that we actually finished something and now it’s published,” Jillian said. “Anyone out there can buy it, so that’s crazy.”
J.T. said it was difficult to find time to write in between his participation in both drama club and Boy Scouts, but the finished product was worth the time put into the project.
“It’s the most amazing feeling that me, my sister and my dad created an entire universe onto itself with just the three of us,” J.T. said. “We just wrote and it created a whole world of magic.”
“The Sea” is available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes and noble.