It has been almost a year since the start of this pandemic. During this time, people have taken up many new hobbies to keep their brains and their bodies active, doing things like knitting, baking, piecing together jigsaw puzzles. Parents with young children have found this time especially challenging because down time can be very scarce. Another huge downside has been trying to keep those young children close with family member who live far away.
This is where our friend Cayleb comes in. Cayleb is a lucky boy. He has some close family who live nearby, but he also has close family who lives far away. With his parents’ help, this precocious 3-year-old has learned to navigate his relationship with his “far away” family with the help of modern technology. His precocious parents, while observing how this relationship was developing, came up with an idea of writing a children’s book based on this theme.
And they followed through. They self-published “Cayleb’s Magical Adventures: Stuck in a Cave,” and now it’s available on Amazon.
So this is the story behind the story of how a couple from Fair Lawn, used the pandemic not only to bake and do puzzles, but also to become authors.
Kira and Andrew Wigod have lived in Fair lawn for about four years; they’ve become active in their synagogue, Congregation Ahavat Achim. Cayleb, their eldest child, attends Anshei Lubavitch preschool, while his little sister Charley has yet to make any decisions about her future schooling.
According to Andrew, the situation that made them think about writing a book was their separation from their family. “One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic was not being able to see Kira’s parents, brothers, and grandparents, who all live in Montreal,” he said. “Even though we live in New Jersey, we’ve always been really fortunate to be able to visit each other often, so not having the ability to get together in person was a big change. We’ve definitely tried hard to make the best of it and are so appreciative of how technology has helped in this regard.”
Kira and Andrew were inspired by the way Cayleb would interact with his grandparents on FaceTime, they said. “He never missed a beat, and although he misses seeing them in person, he has stayed connected to them in the most amazing ways despite the distance,” Kira said. “Cayleb will literally walk around the house with our phones and ‘play’ with his bubby and zaidy as though they are standing right beside him. He’ll build a fort and hide in it with our phone and tell us that only bubby and zaidy are allowed to be in there with him.
“His imagination and creativity are what inspired this book.”
They also were inspired by their own struggles with technology. When the lockdown went into effect, Kira and Andrew realized that there would be challenges in limiting their kids’ screen time. They both felt that “We really wanted to emphasize some positive aspects of technology,” Kira said. “We know that other parents faced similar challenges and so we wanted to write this book as a way to ease that stress a bit for them. Technology isn’t perfect, but the ability it has to keep us all connected really is incredible.”
According to the Wigods, “The two of us sat down together weekly to brainstorm, and those sessions were largely based on observations we had of Cayleb in the preceding days. Once we settled on the ‘Stuck in a Cave’ story as our first, it evolved over time.”
The book is about a little boy, unsurprisingly named Cayleb, who uses his imagination to build a cave — and then takes his grandparents with him on his adventure.
Each week Kira and Andrew worked on developing the story a bit further, revising or changing it until they felt it was perfect. “Our goal is to write a series which will include other stories including Cayleb and his grandparents,” Andrew said. “We may even introduce his baby sister, Charley, at some point soon!”
The Wigods said that there definitely was a learning curve involved as they worked at readying their book for publication, and that at times it was frustrating, but eventually they realized it was important to them to have control over the direction of the project. In the end, they said, it was a wonderful experience. “The project took several months to come together,” Kira said. “Andrew had the idea originally, and we worked on developing it further as a team. Once we had our manuscript complete, we hired an illustrator who helped bring our story to life.” The couple went on a website called Upwork, where you can find all kinds of freelancers, and they found Brandon Weiner. “He was very patient, timely and responsive to our needs and created incredible illustrations,” she added.