the words "nursery rhymes" on a rainbow background


So, I wrote a book of nursery rhymes. Here’s how that happened:

After working for almost a year on a book that would encapsulate my extensive knowledge on public speaking and presentation skills, I published The Confident Presenter in June of this year, 2023. In the dedication of the book, I did something I thought was pretty sweet.

I’m a good dad: dedicating a book to my children

The dedication is as follows:

For Arya and Neve. This is what Papa does when he’s working and why he needs quiet time sometimes.

Sweet, right?

When the first author copies arrived, in bright yellow and smelling of newly milled paper and freshly spilled ink, I showed them proudly to my children. They were very excited.

For a second. 

Then, after flipping through the book, it quickly became obvious to them that this wasn’t a book for kids. Their joy quickly turned to befuddlement, before shifting gradually into disappointment. 

And so, Arya asked me to write a book for her birthday. Which was just three months away. (Remember: this was on the same day that I received the first copies of a book I’d been working on for almost a year. Such is parenting.)

Anyway, I ended up writing two different books for her birthday.

The first is a story of a girl playing hockey in my hometown of Summerland, Canada. It’s based on stories I sometimes tell them at bedtime. 

But I learned as I went along in the writing process. The brand new writing-a-children’s-book writing process that writing a full narrative story and getting it into publishable state and finding someone to illustrate said book in the style you have in mind is a big ask. Especially if it’s during your summer holidays.

And the whole time, the clock was ticking.

A project-saving idea comes to mind

Then, while we were on holiday this summer we were doing some hiking. During one of these hikes I started teaching Arya some nursery rhymes. I think it began,a s we were marching up to the top of some hills and marching down again, with the Grand Old Duke of York.

She asked me to teach her some more. So I started racking my brain, London Bridge, Humpty Dumpty, Little Bo Peep… that kind of thing.

She loved them. 

Then I started looking online. I was reminded of some from my childhood, and some I’d never heard before.

And that’s when I got the idea to save my sweet ass. “Arya,” I asked, “would you like Papa to write your birthday book of nursery rhymes?

Yes!” she squealed delightedly.

And that was that. I spent the next months compiling nursery rhymes and classic poems that kids might enjoy, by Ogden Nash, Lewis Carrol, and so on.

Plus Arya loves knock-knock jokes, so in those went, and then I began figuring out how to make it better. A kid’s book needs some illustrations, I thought. Complicated and expensive to coordinate though. “Fuck it,” I thought. “I’ll illustrate it myself.” And so I did.

For example, this crocodile.

crocodile drawn by ryan millar

And many more illustrations besides.

And then I bought a computer program so I could lay it all out and put it together with a cover I made, all just for her. And so I did.

And, the book, specially made for her, on a very short time budget, went over very well. Despite being a few weeks late.

Turning a small project bigger

Now, I’m not going to publicly publish a book I made just for my daughter, that book is only for her. But a very similar book is on its way to being published. It just needs a title. So that’s the stage I’m at now. Getting a title, then getting a professional cover design and then making it available to the world.

But who is Julius Dogwood?

One final note. Both the book for my daughter and the nursery rhyme book that will soon be publicly available are actually written by someone named “Julius Dogwood”. Julius is a big-time book enthusiast, very reclusive and might seem suspiciously a lot like me. While I can confirm you won’t ever see the two of us in a room together, could that be because we can’t stand each other? I’m not saying yes, but I’m also not saying no.

The other thing is, as I write and am in the process of preparing more and more non-fiction books for adults, I may have thought that having a handmade and perhaps charmingly amateurish children’s book of poetry might seem, at worst really confusing, and at best, off-brand.

Thus Julius and I have agreed on this breakdown on responsibilities: He gets writer credit, and I do all the work.