SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – Brett Banjo never had a dog growing up because his mother was allergic to them.
Now he writes books for them.
“Everything all day is a story to me,” Banjo said, but the inspiration for his books is fable and folklore. Though he writes children’s books as well, Banjo has gained some attention for his book “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.” Written in sing-song verse, it is the original book for dogs.
Banjo, now a dog owner, said he believes his book promotes language recognition in dogs and provides pets and their owners the opportunity to relax at the end of a long day.
Banjo was the youngest of five children by nearly nine years and spent his childhood creating his own toys and games out of his siblings’ hand-me-downs. A self-professed “daydreamer,” he uses the creative mind he developed as a kid to write and illustrate his books.
The idea to write books for dogs came from his cousin, who makes and sells dog biscuits. Though an engineer by trade, Banjo’s creative streak could not be denied. “I like the wordsmithing,” Banjo said. “It’s what I do. I’m going to write anyway.”
It takes him about two or three months to put one of his books together, from the words to his distinctive mixed media illustrations. You will not see any bright cartoons gracing the pages of “Let Sleeping Dogs Lie.”
“You don’t have to do art the same way as everyone else,” he said, “I do what is naturally there. I don’t plan so much. I don’t force.” The pages of Banjo’s books are instead decorated with photos of objects he finds – from crayons and hair to tennis balls and glass.
What has not come as naturally to Banjo is marketing his books. While he has received positive reactions from readers, pet stores have not been as responsive to Banjo’s books. He plans to go door-to-door to promote his book.
No matter what, though, Banjo plans to keep on writing. He has invested years in his books because he loves them. According to Banjo, “Writing is what helped keep me sane” while working toward his master’s degree in engineering.
He fosters this same silliness and creativity in his own family. “What I need is a happy environment,” Banjo said.
Banjo’s books, including his books written for children, are available at his website, banjopress.com and on Amazon.
Morgan Tornetta is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts designed to give students real-world experience.