West Bloomfield resident publishes children’s book

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 23, 2021

 West Bloomfield resident Al Stokes wrote a children’s book that features three stories with alternate endings.

West Bloomfield resident Al Stokes wrote a children’s book that features three stories with alternate endings.

Photo provided by Al Stokes

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — Life recently took an interesting turn for West Bloomfield resident Al Stokes.

Prior to accepting his current position as an attendance agent at an elementary school in Detroit, Stokes was a substitute and homeroom teacher for Detroit Public Schools for more than 10 years.

Little did he know when he began as a teacher that some of those experiences would eventually lead to writing a book.

Stokes taught kindergarten-fifth grade students in what he said is a predominantly Hispanic area of southwest Detroit from 2005-2019.

In 2017, Stokes began writing a book that he said was an “outgrowth of my experience as a substitute teacher at first, and then later on as a homeroom teacher.”

In order to help inspire creative writing and reading, Stokes said he would give students a story to read, and before finishing it, he would ask them, “What happened next?”

“Kids like to read things that they have to solve,” Stokes said. “They have to use their mind, and they don’t like to be told how things have to develop. … I gave the students a choice of how the story would end.”

Stokes employed that concept in the writing of his own book, which came to be titled, “WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?”

In the book, there are three short stories, with each having three different endings, giving the readers the option to choose which one they like best.

The names of the short stories in the book are, “The Window,” “The Bracelet” and “The Bicycle.”

Stokes said he discovered that kids like to read mysteries.

“They were real-life fictional stories that I thought children would enjoy,” he said. “One thing about being a homeroom teacher, I had the opportunity to ask kids, ‘What do you like to read?’ Apart from what some authors write, stories that they hope kids like, I had firsthand knowledge of what kids like to read, and this was (an) outgrowth of that process of discovery.”

In each of the stories in the book, the separate events are the same, with the readers then being presented with alternate endings.

Stokes discussed “The Window” as an example of the book’s concept.

In the story, some boys are playing baseball, and a window ends up getting broken.

“The intrigue comes in because the boy who breaks the window and the boy who takes the blame may not be the same person,” Stokes said. “And there’s a story involving around what actually happened. That’s why it’s called, ‘WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? It develops into three different scenarios.”

In the book, which has some Hispanic characters, each paragraph has both an English and a Spanish version.

Stokes sent the English text to a translator in Mexico — a translator for Fortune 500 companies.

The first paragraph is in English, followed by the Spanish version, “and it alternates like that throughout the book.”

“The idea of it being bilingual came from my experience working in southwest Detroit, where there’s a very large Hispanic community,” Stokes said. “Many parents speak no English; they’re not fluent at all. But they made known their desire to be able to read the books that their children read. And they (want to) be able to read to their children.”

After having previously written a self-published book about employment in 2002, this was Stokes’ first experience going through a publisher.

Floricanto Press, which is based in California, is the book’s publisher.

According to Stokes, Floricanto primarily publishes books written by Latino authors.

The book became available for purchase around the end of December and is available on barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.

Stokes, who attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit before going on to earn a mechanical engineering technology degree from Lawrence Technological University, has been married to his wife, Yvonne, for 43 years. Together, they have two sons and a daughter.

Stokes’ writing skills are nothing new to Yvonne, as he used to write notes to her after they met.

“He was dedicated and understood what it took to write a story,” Yvonne said. “He also ran the story by family members (and) kids. … He took their suggestions, which I think made it a better product.”

Having a book that took more than a year to write go on to get published is not something everybody gets to experience.

“That was glee,” Stokes said. “And to have a publisher that specialized in marketing to the target market, and to have the avenues spelled out, in how they were (going to) market it, that felt really good.”

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