Eric Fehr is one of the nicest guys in the Penguins locker room, always pleasant and smiling. And that kind of positive behavior is encouraged in the children’s book he co-authored called “The Bulliest Dozer.”
“I think it’s just try to be friendly with each other,” Fehr said of the message he wants readers to take away. “At the end of the day, that’s just all it is. Treat other people the way you want to be treated.”
When asked what the inspiration was for the project, Fehr said that he’d always wanted to write a children’s book. And once he came up with a title, everything was set into motion.
“I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about a tough subject,” Fehr said. “Just have a little bit of fun with it and give the kids an opportunity to learn about tough situation.”
That tough subject is bullying, explored through the story of Bo Dozer and his peers at Ms. Crane’s Academy for Little Machines.
Embarrassed by being unable to skate in preparation for a holiday concert on ice, Bo decides to become ‘A Mean Machine.’ Bo bullies other students until a concert day crisis helps him understand the importance of friendship.
“It was a lot more work than I thought it was going to be,” Fehr admitted. “I thought, ‘Just write a children’s book. I have a great story idea. It’s going to be a piece of cake.’ I had the characters and the storyline in place, but had trouble really putting the words together and not using too many words and trying to relate it to kids. There’s a lot that goes into writing a book that I didn’t know about.”
So Fehr worked with British-born children’s author Pamela Duncan Edwards, who has published over 40 picture books, on that process while Kate Komarnicki provided the illustrations.
When the finished product first became available in October 2014, Fehr wasn’t sure what the reception would be – especially amongst his then-Capitals teammates and the rest of the NHL.
“I thought I was going to take a lot of flak from people around the league just for being real soft or whatever,” he smiled. “But I think people understand it’s a pretty serious topic and one that needs to be discussed. I think this is a very fun way to bring it up. It was a lot of fun working on the project.”
In the year and a half since the book was published, Fehr has had a lot of fun himself reading it at home to his daughter Elle.
“She asks a lot of questions about it and stuff, and it’s great,” Fehr smiled. “I think it’s a good book for any age. If you’re younger, you can look at the pictures. The illustrations are probably my favorite part of the book. I think kids have really enjoyed the machines. If you’re older, you can understand the message a little bit more.”
Fehr’s hope at the beginning of this was that the book would provide an opening for parents and teachers to talk with kids about that message – which is how important it is for them to accept one another and treat their peers with respect, realizing all forms of bullying are unacceptable. And so far, it’s done exactly that.
“I’ve talked to a bunch of kids in schools and stuff and watching them discuss it in class and with the teachers, it’s priceless,” Fehr said. “That’s worth the time that I put into it. And talking to parents that have read it to their kids, it’s so awesome to hear their feedback and stuff. It definitely makes it worthwhile.”
“The Bulliest Dozer” is available for sale during home games at the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation’s silent auction stand outside of the First Niagara Club. It is signed by Fehr and costs just $20, with all proceeds going to charity. You can also purchase the book here.