Book salutes ‘Heroes on the Job’

Jacob Cooper wrote and published a children's book to celebrate essential workers after the pandemic. He hopes everyone learns to be more thoughtful and appreciate the contributions of all workers.

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March 15, 2022 - 1:00 AM

Jacob Cooper shows off his book, “Heroes on the Job.” A book signing event is planned from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 26, at The Foundry, 228 S. Kentucky St. He is also wearing a T-shirt inspired by his book. Notice it says “hero on the job” and is pointing up. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Everyone has something to contribute.

That’s the message Iolan Jacob Cooper hopes to teach others through a children’s book he has written and published.

“Heroes on the Job” pays homage to the everyday heroes “who save the day in their own way.”

There are doctors and nurses, teachers and police, but also grocery store clerks and product stockers, janitors and more.

Jacob’s inspiration for the book came during the pandemic as he learned about “essential workers” and realized those who perform very important tasks are often overlooked.

“I thought they deserved credit for their hard work,” he said. 

Jacob wrote the book and submitted it to Christian Faith Publishing, a full-service, self-publishing and marketing company that focuses on books with an uplifting message.

The publisher provided an illustrator for Jacob’s book and set him up with an agent. He worked with them to fine-tune his story before the 24-page hardcover book was sent to press.

“There were various stages I had to go through. Outlining. Sketching. An art phase. A printing phase,” Jacob said. “I really enjoyed it. I learned a lot. I’m still learning.”

A book signing event is scheduled for 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 26, at The Foundry, 228 S. Kentucky St. Books will be available for purchase.

Books also are available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Jacob also plans to give copies of the book to school libraries.

“I hope parents read this book to children and we can learn to appreciate the people who learn to do these jobs for us,” Jacob said. “I’d like people to be more thoughtful.”

THE BOOK’S message is not surprising to those famililar with Jacob’s story.

He knows what it’s like to struggle with adversity, and how important it is to find people who can inspire you.

Jacob faced challenges from the moment he was born, his mom, Lori Cooper, said. He had trouble breathing at birth. Later, he faced developmental delays, such as walking and talking. He received occupational and physical therapy.

At age 5, Jacob started having an unusual type of seizure — laughing fits. It’s called a gelastic seizure, a rare type of epilepsy.

At first, those around him assumed it was a behavioral problem.

“It felt like someone was tickling me,” he described.

Often, the episode would leave him in tears. 

He would have up to 20 episodes a day. 

Those types of seizures typically don’t respond well to medication. After his diagnosis, Jacob underwent surgery to have the right frontal lobe of his brain removed.

That was in 2003; he hasn’t had a seizure in years.

Later, though, came years of struggling with emotional and mental conditions. He’s been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, anxiety, OCD and has experienced suicidal episodes.

School, of course, was another challenge.

“I was bullied a lot,” Jacob said. 

Still, there were many positives. 

Jacob was able to compete in track and forensics. He made a lot of friends. 

“Jacob has always been a giver,” his mom said. “I noticed he wasn’t bringing his artwork home from school, and then I found out he was giving it to his friends. He has a very giving heart.”

Jacob said he is grateful for the support he’s received from the community.

He’s happy to know that “people I used to go to school with are now reading this book to their kids.”

A page from “Heroes on the Job.”

JACOB started writing fantasy stories at a young age.

His eighth grade teacher, Ona Chapman, was a big influence.

“She helped me make my writing a little more polished,” he said. “She has always been very encouraging and helped me see things I needed to change.”

During his senior year of high school, Iola High School’s former English teacher Jessica Dvorak inspired him to try different types of creative writing. She also helped him fine-tune his writing skills.

Jacob lost touch with her after she left IHS, but said, “I’d like to show her how far I’ve gotten.”

He graduated from IHS in 2014 and attended Allen Community College as a theater major, but fell short of earning his degree, needing only to pass a math class. He might try taking it again, but admitted math has always been very challenging for him.

Jacob, who is now 26, has always enjoyed writing longer stories, particularly fantasy and plays. He never expected the first book he published to be a children’s story. 

The hardest part of the process was editing, he said. 

“I wanted to include more jobs” in the book, he said. Not everything made the cut.

Jacob still hopes to write chapter books and plays.

His goal is to publish a total of five books before he reaches the age of 30. One down; four to go.

Then, he’ll focus on bigger projects.

“I’m proud I did something not many people can do,” he said.

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