A local author shares his passion for children’s books that benefit mental health

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Local author Robert Dustin Campbell says the effects that come from reading a good book, such as educational value and escapism, are equally prevalent for someone who writes a book.

This, and his passion for helping children read, is what drives him to spend a significant amount of his free time writing children’s books.

“I’m a children’s author, I want kids to read. That’s why I do this. And it’s good to have imagination,” he said recently during an interview at the Garland County Library.

Her first book, ‘Face Your Fears’, in 2020 was followed by ‘The Legend of the Cove Witch’ in October last year. Although his books are available on Amazon, he said the majority of his sales come from the various conventions and events he attends.

“If I were to tell you that I was making money with Amazon, I would be lying to you,” he said. “I’m not; I’ve been making more money here lately from scams and stuff I’ve seen.”

He and his illustrator, Chris Meeks, plan to have a booth at this year’s Spa-Con – a multi-genre entertainment and comics convention, hosted by the Hot Springs Convention Center and Visit Hot Springs. Scheduled for September 23-25, he said he expects to sell 150-200 books.

Meeks, who is a Hot Springs-based illustrator, recently did the interior artwork for legendary “Goosbumps” author RL Stine’s re-imagining of the 1980s Garbage Pail Kids series.

Although he is a fan of all things horror, he has stated that telling scary, mysterious and adventurous stories for children is his passion. His books are generally aimed at the 8-12 age group.

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“Kids are more fun, I think,” he said. “It’s a very entertaining audience. With children’s books, I don’t have to talk about adult situations. For me, it’s more of an adventure. I tell people, with my books, I want that it be like (the 1984 motion picture) ‘The Goonies.’ That’s what I want my books to be like, like a ‘Goonies’ adventure.”

Believing that imagination should be at the forefront in children’s books, he doesn’t talk about politics, religion or other issues like troubled youth. He thinks back to his childhood growing up and the fascinating wonder of being able to enter a different world by opening a book.

“They’re just kids in situations that could never happen. It’s an escape from the real world because that’s what books were to me when I was growing up. They were an escape from homework or teachers or pressures of being a teenager. Like having to stay late for football practice, then when I get home, I have five homework to do. And then, if I don’t do my laundry, my mom goes get mad at me. So books have always been an escape for me.”

In “Face Your Fears”, a 13-year-old boy has to do just that when, on Halloween night, he comes in contact with the Halloween spirit, Samhain. It’s the first in a series of anthologies he calls “Frightmares.”

Although taking a temporary detour from the children’s genre, “The Legend of the Cove Witch” is 372 pages of horror fiction with dark overtones. The book, which he noted spanned five years and three drafts, revolves around a senior student at Magnet Cove High School who begins to have nightmares that she is being chased by a witch in an old village. She later learns that, supposedly, a real witch had put a curse on her family years ago. The ghost of her late aunt visits her, warning her that the infamous witch is coming for her.

Campbell currently has two books he is finishing. “The Boogeyman Exists” will be one of the longest stories in the “Frightmare” anthology, he noted, and is a psychological tale about a boy who is haunted after moving to a new town with his parents. .

“The Hunt for Dink the Clown,” he said, was inspired by the Magic Springs theme and water park. It tells the story of a 12-year-old girl obsessed with ghost hunting.

“When she grows up, she’s determined for that,” he said. “She worked a few summer jobs and saved some money and bought this ghost hunting gear. She and her best friend, Benjamin, have broken into this old carnival, and she’s trying to capture the ghost of this boy named Dink.

His brother was a night security guard at Magic Springs several years ago, he noted, and accompanied him many nights.

“He just had this creepy vibe,” he said. “I was sitting there thinking, ‘What would be another fun adventure?’ And I thought of Magic Springs and how they do ‘Magic Screams’ every October. ‘What if a kid breaks into an abandoned carnival or something and looks for a clown?’ “

He said he thought it would be a lot more fun than the first and really adventurous.

Hot Springs author Robert Dustin Campbell talks about the unique escape that children’s books recently offered at the Garland County Library. – Photo by Donald Cross from The Sentinel-Record
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