In the midst of working from home, grappling with the threat of a global pandemic, and caring for his newborn son, high school economics teacher Joe Lilek found it challenging to separate home life from work life last spring. Now in his fifth year teaching at North High School in Eau Claire, Lilek often pulled late-nighters either working or taking care of his two children, Eli (2) and Caleb (5 months), and so he sought something that could give him a mental break while keeping his mind busy. His solution was to pen a slew of new children’s books, including Come Fishing With Me!; Which Fish is This?: A Beginner’s Guide to Fish of the Midwest; What Trees are These?: A Beginner’s Guide to Trees of the Midwest; and Come Camping With Me! – which are available at The Local Store and on Amazon.
These paperback books explore themes of fishing, camping, and outdoor recreation using rhymes and colorful illustrations in an effort to introduce Lilek’s young children to some of their father’s passions while developing their literacy skills – something that Lilek and his wife, Ashlyn, feel is important. Not only did Lilek write the books, but he also hand-illustrated all of the pictures – often while holding his son Caleb in his other arm. He found his older son, Eli, frequently recites some of the rhymes that appear throughout his books. Lilek hopes to create a more basic color and shapes book, continuing to write and illustrate as time allows. “It’s certainly an enjoyable hobby,” he said.