When we were little, we all had a favorite children’s story. The books we read as children can have an impact on us as we grow older, whether they change our attitude on something or make us look at the world in a different way.
This October, “Take It from Me” could become that cherished, special book for many children. Bill Snyder, Kansas State head football coach, is working with Kraken Books to impact many young sports fans throughout the United States.
Kraken Books is a small publishing company based in El Dorado, Kansas. In 2016, the company published “You’re Too Big to Dream Small” in collaboration with Ron Baker, former Wichita State basketball player.
Jefferson Knapp, owner of Kraken Books, decided he wanted to step it up a bit.
“After I did Ron Baker, I wanted somebody else even bigger,” Knapp said. “My stepson, Josh, is in the Kansas State marching band … I asked him and Josh said, ‘Well, what about Bill Snyder?’ and I wish I would’ve thought of that. Bill Snyder is probably the most-liked person in the state of Kansas.”
Knapp almost immediately sent his proposal to Snyder, eagerly awaiting a response.
“Last August, I got a package together,” Knapp said. “Three weeks later, I got a letter from him, and he said that it sounded interesting and to get ahold of him after [the] season was over. I priority mailed him a letter the day after the Texas Bowl. I didn’t hear back from him, and then soon after, news broke about his cancer.”
Right as Knapp began losing hope, things started looking up.
“I didn’t hear back, and then in June I missed a call, and it was his secretary,” Knapp said. “I’d never been so nervous in my life.
Knapp said Snyder was fun to talk to on the phone.
“On the phone, he was so apologetic,” Knapp said. “I remember thinking, ‘Why are you apologizing? I think you’ve got a legitimate excuse, and plus, you’re Bill Snyder.'”
Working with Snyder on ideas for the book was an experience Knapp will never forget.
“I’ve never met a more respectable man in my life,” Knapp said. “He approved everything, and he did have some say. He was just the grandpa for everyone in the state.”
During the process of creating “Take It from Me,” Knapp hand-picked Tim Ladwig, a local 65-year-old artist, to draw the illustrations. Ladwig grew up in Emporia, Kansas, and lost an eye at the age of eight. As Ladwig got older, he became an artist to show his talent. Together, Knapp and Ladwig finished work on Snyder’s book in five weeks and one day.
“I wrote the story in one long day in a secluded camper on our family farm, and the illustrations took five weeks,” Knapp said. “It was the [fastest] job my team has ever accomplished. It usually takes three to five months. … Coach Snyder, however, wrote his part many years before.”
Once the book was completed, Knapp went to Snyder’s office to show the finished product.
“When I showed Bill, he smiled so big, and it was nice to see him so pleased with it,” Knapp said. “We put a couple surprises in there for K-State fans. It doesn’t matter if you’re a young fan or if you’re 90, it’s a legacy book for Bill Snyder that’s gonna be preached from here on out. There’s only one Bill Snyder.”
During the book’s production, Knapp and his family had a lot of special moments with Snyder.
“I’ve always heard of how respectful and genuine [Snyder] is, and he really is; he is the most amazing man,” Knapp said. “He saw my daughter and picked her up and hugged her. When we were leaving, he said he needed another hug.”
Knapp was so excited to work with Snyder, he put the fifth book in his own children’s series, “The Kingdom at the End of the Driveway,” on hold.
“This was by far the most excited I’ve been,” Knapp said. “I have four books and I’m working on my fifth, but when Snyder said yes, everything was put on hold. We needed it to come out during football season.”
When everything was done and the book was approved by the man himself, Snyder thanked Knapp for all his hard work.
“[Snyder] smiled and said, ‘Thank you for being very thorough,’ and my stepson Josh said that’s a big compliment,” Knapp said. “This book is very special and it’s very awesome. It was nice to see the man himself smile at the layout.”
Snyder himself also talked about the main purpose of the book and the effect it could have on a young audience.
“It’s geared toward the 16 principles that we talk about all the time,” Snyder said. “It’s something young people can respond to. I think the main purpose is that they can get a feel of what values are and that they are significant in their lives. If they have a basis, those values will pop up in their minds and actions and allow them to think about that.”
When it comes to being an inspiration to young people, Snyder is humbled by the thought.
“Well, I don’t know if I really am or not,” Snyder said. “If indeed that is the case, then that’s very humbling. I am pleased to have an influence on young people.”
When asked if there were any other secret projects in the works, Snyder smiled.
“No, I’m just trying to get ready to play some ball,” Snyder said.
Kraken Books is taking pre-orders, which will be shipped out in the beginning of October. To get a first copy edition of “Take It from Me,” go to BillSnydersBook.com. If the book sells out, Knapp said he hopes for the next printing to be done by Christmas, but there are no guarantees.