The luck of the lemon: former adman James Hurman writes a children’s book

Can luck be taught and learned?

That’s the question explored in a new children’ book called The Boy and the Lemon, a rhyming story designed to explore life’s most magical lesson – how to be lucky.  

Writer James Hurman and illustrator Juliet Burton are on a mission to teach children how to be lucky and to do so, they’re looking to fund the production process through Kickstarter.

With the crowdfunder due to launch this Saturday, we were lucky enough to get half an hour with Hurman to discuss the genesis of the book, the philosophy behind it and just what it takes to make your own luck.

Idealog: What is it? 

Hurman: It’s a book but beyond the book it’s really a mission to teach kids the secret to being lucky. 

The secret to what now? How does that work?  

Yeah, it’s interesting. Going back to the genesis of this project, it was me reading a book called ‘The Luck Factor‘ by a British psychology professor who had studied lucky people. His hypothesis was that luck comes down to a set of attitudes, behaviours and ways of approaching life. And so he did a study of lucky and unlucky people and sought to understand how lucky people were different to unlucky people.

Let me play the devil’s advocate here. It sounds too good to be true. 

Well there is luck that you can influence and luck that you can’t. Obviously you can’t influence the family situation you’re born into, you can’t influence being diagnosed with cancer or your house being knocked down by an earthquake, and you probably can’t do much to influence positive stuff like winning the lottery, but there are a whole lot of other things in life where luck finds you or chance finds us that we can have an impact on, depending how we choose to live our lives. This is really about affecting those areas. 

You’ve been working on the book for seven years? That’s a decent amount of time… 

Yes, it’s a really long time. It’s been sort of a passion project of mine for a long time. I read The Luck Factor about seven years ago when my first born, Tripp, was in wife’s belly and, at the time, I remember thinking ‘this is so awesome and I’m so blown away by the idea that luck can be taught and learned’. But it’s often difficult to try and change the way we live our lives when we’re grownups. It’s really easy to shape children as they grow up, so it was kind of an idea that was born around that and born around the time that my son was born.

Then as he grew and got a little bit older and got to reading age, the impetus became greater to turn it from an idea into something. It’s just taken this long to get the book written and get an illustrator on board and get it down. Now we’re about to launch on Kickstarter in four days.

Those illustrations are pretty nice. 

About a year and a half ago I spoke for a group called Creative Mornings which is a regular breakfast event that runs all over the world, including here in Auckland, for creative people. I was asked to speak at the event. As part of my talk I read out the early first draft of the book and I said to the audience “If anybody really likes this idea and wants to help me then talk to me afterwards because I’d love your help. Juliet Burton, the illustrator, was in the audience. She approached me afterwards and said she loved the story and wanted to illustrate it. So that’s how I found her. Living the principles of luck! It’s lead to a wonderful collaboration. 

So where is the project at now?

The book is written, it’s in its final draft, and it’s fully illustrated. When we finished the illustrations we made a number of copies of what I’ve been calling a prototype book. It basically looked and felt like a professionally produced book but it was essentially a draft. We sent that around to mothers and teachers in the neighbourhood and said ‘Can you read this out to the kids?’ and asked for feedback on what they thought of it. So we got all this feedback from parents and teachers and we’ve taken that feedback and are using it to refine the script and make the book even better, so now it’s in its refinement stage and if we’re successful with our Kickstarter launch, that will give us the money required to do a large print run and not only print copies of the book for people who have backed it, but also books that we’ll donate to schools, libraries and less advantaged families. 

What’s your long term goal here? Are you looking to make this the next The Secret

The way that I think about it is that if every kid learnt this lesson – if every kid had the secrets of luck and understood them  and lived their lives in that way a little bit more – I really believe that the impact that that would have on their lives and the world around them, that would be enormous.

nI think the lessons of luck are not widely known – they’re certainly not part of the school curriculum for example – and I think that if we got taught the lessons of luck just as we got taught to read and write and all those other good things when we’re young, it would have a hugely positive impact on people’s lives. So my dream for this is that it finds its way into families and classrooms all over the world and all kids get to learn how to be lucky when they’re young. 

So when does the Kickstarter launch? 

The Boy and the Lemon Kickstart launches this coming Saturday morning (11 June) Find out more about the book by visiting facebook.com/theboyandthelemon or theboyandthelemon.com

  • This story first appeared on our sister publication Idealog

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