Kristin Gudenkauf has celebrated some of life's biggest moments with a T. rex.
The publication of her first children's book "Grumpaloffagus" is no different.
"When my husband and I got married in 2018, we had this joke crop up," says Tucson author Gudenkauf, 36. "I wanted unique cake toppers, and I was thinking penguins, but we was like, 'What about T. rexes?' And I called his bluff and bought them."
The Tyrannosaurus rex cake toppers reigned atop their wedding cake, and Gudenkauf even enlisted her brother to dress up in one of those inflatable T. rex costume during the reception.
The rest is (prehistoric) history.
They received dinosaur-themed gifts, and when the time came to announce a pregnancy, they did it with those cake toppers and an egg. Welcome, Baby Rex.
In those early days of parenting — especially during the screaming — Gudenkauf and her husband nicknamed their daughter Grumpasaurus rex.
"And when my husband changed it to Grumpaloffagus, I was like, 'That's a book!'" Gudenkauf says.
And so it is.
At the end of 2019, Gudenkauf began writing a children's book in rhyme about a grumpy dinosaur learning to understand the many reasons for a bad mood. The picture book, illustrated by Camilla Frescura, comes out this week — the first of what Gudenkauf plans to be many books created under the publishing company she started called Baby Rex Productions.
The book, written for children ages 3-7, is intended to help kids define, understand and overcome negative emotions, whether those feelings stem from exhaustion, hunger or something more complex. There's also a section at the back with questions to help parents engage their kids in discussion.
As part of her book launch, Gudenkauf is partnering with the local nonprofit Red Sleigh Toy Run. For about 15 years, that group has been adopting local families, fulfilling kids' Christmas wish lists — and then personally delivering those gifts with a parade of motorcyclists.
Gudenkauf plans to donate the proceeds from every book sold in the month of November to Red Sleigh Toy Run.
"Red Sleigh Toy Run is a community outreach at Christmastime to work with schools and the local school districts in the city of Tucson to identify low-income families," says Stephanie Fletcher, the secretary of the nonprofit's board and a friend of Gudenkauf's.
This year, the nonprofit will adopt families identified by staff at Elvira Elementary School, Fletcher says. In addition to fulfilling the specific wish lists of kids in selected families, Red Sleigh Toy Run also hands out toys collected through community drives to other students and neighbors in the area. Last year, they adopted Roberts-Naylor K-8 School and handed out around 3,500 toys around the city.
Fletcher says the money they receive from "Grumpaloffagus" will help them buy toys and cover small overhead costs. They also plan to give out copies of "Grumpaloffagus" this year.
"We do this to make these kids' lives slightly better," Fletcher says. "And that's why we loved Kristin's book for helping these kids learn to self soothe."
Gudenkauf says she has been writing for years — poetry, drafts of children's books and even plays for her church. But this is her first published book.
"I've been involved with youth for a long time," Gudenkauf says. "I worked as a youth pastor. I was a gymnastics coach. I have many nieces and nephews and godchildren. But when I had my own kid, these ideas started to solidify."
Gudenkauf works full time as a project manager for the American Board of Radiology, but she's already working on her next children's book.
"[Grumpaloffagus] is meant to be a tool for parents and children to have these conversations about emotion, so it can create this open space for kids to work through their feelings," she says.
To learn more or purchase "Grumpaloffagus," visit Amazon.com.