Panama City author debuts new book series that ties to the area's history
Telling the story of Panama City's rich history is what one local author hopes to do through a new children’s book series.
Panama City native Willie Spears authored the story "George and Hawk's Big Adventure with Big Dreams," with the goal of educating readers about Panama City’s history by recreating real life events. The book is inspired by Panama City’s founder, George West, and his best friend, Narciso "Hawk" Massalina, who is also Spears’ great-grandfather.
“George and Hawk’s Big Adventure with Big Dreams” is a realistic fiction children’s book about two best friends who embark on imaginary adventures to Panama City and is based on the friendship of West and Massalina.
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“It’s important to know our local history because we need to know about where we live,” Spears said. “Panama City has this real story that is tangible, so I made it into realistic fiction that tells a fun story about (Panama City’s) history.”
“George and Hawk’s Big Adventure with Big Dreams” was published Feb. 1, and is available to purchase on Amazon.com or directly from the author’s website, WillieSpears.com. The 26-page, full-color book is illustrated by Willie Brown.
Spears said "George and Hawk's Big Adventure" is the start of a new book series, with this book being the first of five. His goal is to publish a new book to the series every February and continue West’s and Massalina’s stories.
Spears combined the history of Panama City transcribed from West’s diary from 1889 and the stories about Massalina that his late grandmother would tell him during his childhood. He said he wanted to tell the story in simpler terms, which is what led him to write a children’s book.
“My grandmother told me these stories and I thought I can have these stories live on and the best way for me to do that is through a children’s book,” Spears said. “They’re going to be able to retell these stories, and the purpose was to get the story out there about local history.”
Authoring books is not a new interest for Spears. He unexpectedly got his start as an author when his first book was published in 2009 to help students understand scenarios through fictional characters. The outpouring of support from the community pushed him to keep writing — allowing him to find his true passion.
Now, Spears is planning to publish his 15th book this summer and his books are written in various genres and for all audiences.
The story makes references to historic landmarks in Bay County such as Red Fish Point and Massalina Bayou. Spears said he hopes his new book series adds value to the life of early readers by teaching them local history.
“I just know why I’m here and that’s to make a difference," Spears said. "I'm not going to be here every day and I know I'm here to help young people and one way I could do that is to write."
On Feb. 28, Spears has plans to travel around Bay County to read his new book and provide free copies to students. An interesting element he's tying to his travel is stopping at historic landmarks in Panama City.
To start, he will visit students at Patterson Elementary, just one block from Redwood Cemetery, where Massalina is buried. His next stop is at St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club, which overlooks St. Andrews Bay, where West and Hawk often sailed. Lastly, he will read to students to Panama City Publishing Company and Museum, where West started his paper company.
For more about Spears and his books, visit WillieSpears.com.
This article originally appeared on The News Herald: Panama City author debuts new book series about the area's history