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Local author brings children’s story to RPL

“Big Ben is the type of bully every kid fears: he’s big, mean and gets away with everything. No one at school is safe. After years of coping, watching and suffering, Jimmy Clofton has to take a stand – one that changes everything.”

July 27 readers can find out more when “Kids on Patrol” author John Cantrell visits Russellville Public Library at 1 p.m.

A Russellville native and Vina High School graduate, Cantrell has his own stories of being bullied as a child. Now as a Littleville police officer, Cantrell was inspired one night to write a children’s story of dealing with and overcoming bullying – a prevalent topic today.

“The library always likes to work with local authors and hear their stories,” said RPL director Ashley Cummins. “We particularly love hearing what motivates our citizens to write stories. John is an active member of the community, a library patron and a local police officer. We are thrilled to host him and hope to have a wonderful turnout.”

Cantrell wrote the book in fall 2017 and said he was excited to have it picked up by a publisher, Mascot Books, in early 2018. He said he hopes the story will spread a message to young people to step out of cliques, make new friends and be kind to one another.

“It was my way of trying to encourage kids to be vigilant and stand up for those who might be affected by bullying or might be too afraid to stand up and speak for themselves,” Cantrell said. “It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t been directly or indirectly affected by bullying” – including himself. “When I was a young kid, 9 or 10 years old, I was the overweight, big kid. So I dealt with it. I just remember what it felt like … The people who did it didn’t care, and the people around, even those who I thought were my friends, would laugh.” Cantrell said he became more popular and athletic as he grew older, and he made it a point to talk to everyone – and to try to stand up for anyone being picked on.

Those experiences as a child might have even been part of the catalyst for his career choice in law enforcement. “There’s a lot of injustice in the world, and we try to help as many people as much we can,” he said.

When Cantrell graduated from Vina in 2004, he said he first aspired to be a teacher and football coach, but after a year of schooling toward that end, something happened to push him in a different direction.

“I was going fishing one summer and a car came around on the wrong side of the road and hit another car head on. I watched it happen,” Cantrell said. “That was a life-changer for me.”

The offending driver was under the influence at the time, and Cantrell remembers the anger he felt at the situation. The 19-year-old took a job with the Alabama Department of Corrections for two years before moving on to serve as a deputy in the Colbert County Sheriff’s Office. Over the course of several years he obtained his associate’s degree in criminal justice, and he has been at the Littleville Police Department for the past 10 years.

Cantrell said he has always enjoyed reading, but a passion for writing developed out of the essays and assignments he completed during his work for his degree. “Kids on Patrol” took him two days to write. With the support of his family – wife Regina and children Landon, 12, Xander, 7, and Freya, 5, who are all students at Belgreen – he pursued publication and was pleased when the “yes” finally came.

“I was ecstatic – probably shocked,” Cantrell said. “I’m just a police officer – and I consider myself a country boy.”

He received the first printed copy of his book the day before Father’s Day. “To hear from someone else that it’s great and they actually want to publish it, it’s a humbling experience.”

Copies of “Kids on Patrol” will be available July 27 at RPL.

I think it’s very relatable to kids that have went to public school,” Cummins added. “Bullying is a problem that we have all dealt with at some point in our lives, and he approached the subject in a teachable way.”