LHS teacher, former student collaborate on children’s book

Gabriela Muñoz, Christian Montes, and Giovanni Ruiz

Justin Kirk was watching a “Blue Planet” nature documentary when he got the idea of a remora fish being the main character in a children’s book.

Lufkin High School Deaf Education teacher Justin Kirk has written a children’s book, “Ramon the Remora.” (Photo by GIOVANNI RUIZ/Lufkin High School Student Media)

Kirk, a Deaf Education teacher and the Sign Club sponsor at Lufkin High School, said that when he gets an idea, he has to put it down on paper, or he will forget about it. So he wrote it on a sticky note.

That was about three years ago. Kirk said he was trying to do the illustrations for the book himself, but wasn’t having much luck. One day after school, LHS student Quinn Bryant (who has since graduated), volunteered to help. She took his storyboard ideas and began to give him samples of “Ramon the Remora.”

Kirk said he had help from many people with editing his script and giving feedback. It took a couple months planning and getting proofs, he said, but they were able to finish “Ramon the Remora.”

Now, Kirk plans on the story of Ramon being a five-part series, with the second book coming out later this year. He expects a plush toy of Ramon to come out, as well.

Kirk wrote “Ramon the Remora” to teach children about the ocean and marine life, with at least 10 facts in every book. He said he doesn’t have a specific grade level in mind for the book’s readers, because he focuses more on upper-level vocabulary with a low word count.

When he needed a name for his little guy, Kirk said, he wanted the name to be close to the name of the fish. Now that he’s Ramon, Kirk said, “I couldn’t see him with any other name.”

The message for Kirk is that children’s books don’t have to rhyme or be a typical “Sally goes to the park” storyline, he said, but that they can be full of facts while being entertaining.

As part of Ramon’s journey, Kirk started his own publishing company, “Captain Publishing.” He said he plans to put out even more books, and that it’s important to have each of his books interpreted in American Sign Language by someone in the deaf community.

Trout Primary Deaf Education teacher Glena Marcum will be featured in the Ramon the Remora ASL story, Kirk said.

Anyone can purchase the “Ramon the Remora” book on Amazon or at The Bosslight book store in Nacogdoches.