Alumni use Kickstarter to launch children’s book, plant trees


Eco-responsibility is something that has weighed on the minds of Chris Laingen and Kevin Kelly for years. But, even more importantly than doing something about it themselves, they wanted to find a good way to pass on the desire to act to others. This led to a joint project between the two K-State alumni: a children’s book.

“We talked about writing a children’s book for a long time,” Kelly said. “From the art side, I wanted to get into animating and digitizing kids’ books for a long time. And Chris had a baby two years ago, and he wanted to relate these things to a child.”

The result was “The Old Red Barn,” written by Laingen, who received his Ph.D. in geography in 2009, and illustrated by Kelly, who received his M.F.A. in printmaking in 2008. Kelly said they tried to make it appeal to as broad a range of ages as possible; those who are too young to grasp the meaning of the story will still be able to follow the narrative through the large colorful illustrations. The book teaches children about the history of farmlands, the danger of increasingly dwindling family farms in America and the need for eco-responsibility.

“The growing disappearance of American farms is tragic,” Kelly said.

Both Kelly and Laingen grew up on farms with big red barns, so having the barn as the focus of the book to tell the story was relatable to them, Kelly said.

In order to make the book as eco-responsible as the story, itself, they opted to have it made in the U.S. on recycled paper.

“Millions of books are made each year, and only about 5 percent of publishers use recycled paper,” Kelly said. “If you’re writing a book about eco-responsibility, you might as well do something eco-responsible.”

They have also teamed up with the company Eco-Libris, who has pledged to plant a tree for every book sold. Laingen and Kelly have a goal of selling 3,000 books, which would mean 3,000 new trees are planted. They have launched a Kickstarter campaign to help their project.

“Kickstarter is really designed to test the market,” Kelly said. “If this does work on Kickstarter, this means other publishers will see this is a relevant thing and it deserves to be in major bookstores.”

“The Old Red Barn” will be on Kickstarter through the end of May. Donations start at $1 and incentives, such as copies of the book, are available for those who pledge more. As of Tuesday, the book had raised just over $4,000 of its $30,000 goal.