“Faraway Friends” is the inaugural book written by Warren County native Russ Cox. The story tells of the adventure of a little boy named Sheldon and his dog, Jet. When his best friend moves away, Sheldon first feels sad, and then decides to build a rocket ship. The two future astronauts build a rocket and the adventures begin.
Although Cox has been illustrating children's books for several years, he has only been writing for 3 ½ years, sending him on his own adventure.
“This venture is a little scary process for me, and it is not as easy as one might think,” said Cox. He currently resides in Maine, and recently returned to McMinnville to visit the Magness Library. While there he read his “Faraway Friends” to the youngsters at story time, capturing their imagination with his tale of Sheldon’s space travel.
While reading he donned a “space helmet” made from a brown paper bag just like the one Sheldon wore in the book. He provided the children with instructions to build their own, as well as an activity sheet about the book.
The artist also got out his sketchpad and allowed the children to provide him with characteristics for a new character for him to draw. The creative group asked him to draw a hairy character with two mouths, six eyes, eight arms, two fingers, nine legs while holding a bottle filled with milk!
With encouragement from the children, he proceeded to draw the character, all while giving pointers on how to make the creature come to life.
He also shared his personal sketches with the children, explaining the idea from each drawing.
“I have always loved to draw, and sometimes got into trouble drawing on things I shouldn’t have,” said Cox.
The successful artist has illustrated numerous books, finishing five in the “Puppy Pirates Stowaway” series, as well as several in the “Freddy the Frogcaster” series. He owns and operates the Smiling Otis Studio while embarking on his writing career.
Several cousins came to the library to visit Cox, sharing memories of their childhood.
“I drove from Pulaski this morning to see him and get a book,” said Billie Faye Vaughn. Also visiting were cousins Kim Rich and Rose Haney, as well as other family members.
“He is very talented and we are so very proud of him,” said Rich.
Following the autograph session, Cox met with a group of home schoolers and their parents. He provided them with information about the writing process, as well as his illustration skills.
“He was very helpful and offered many tips to the students,” said Susan Burks. “We appreciate so much the time he spent with the children, allowing them to meet an author in real life.”