The feel of dried leaves cracking under each step in the fall.

The taste of your first deer in the winter.

The smell of red dirt at the beginning of baseball season each spring.

The sound of a largemouth bass hitting that topwater lure in the summer.

All of these things are simple pleasures a true outdoorsman appreciates the most. These are the building blocks for boys to build on to become men.

These themes are also what South Alabama pastor and father of three boys, Jack Armstrong, hopes to convey in his new children’s books, available now.

As a child, Armstrong was drawn to the great outdoors. Whether hunting, fishing or playing baseball, he loved being outside.

“It was like I was just always drawn to the outdoors,” Armstrong said. “I like being out there and I love experiencing the creation and seeing the sunrise and things like that. God tells us that we are to have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air and the beasts of the fields and so, it is sort of just in our DNA. It’s who we are.”

After becoming a father, Armstrong realized a shortage in outdoorsy-type reading options that teach quality character traits with redemptive themes.

The books he did find that matched his lifestyle and the values he wanted to pass on were quickly devoured by his children, and they wanted more. But there was no more. So, Armstrong took matters into his own hands.

“I just started to tell them stories and eventually decided to write them,” he said. “The stories are all based off of my own experiences but I embellished the stories to make them more exciting.”

“Mystery in the Marsh” was published in April, and less than a year later, Armstrong published “Barracuda Bombshell” just this week. Both books are about Alabama boys who go on adventures, get themselves into trouble and must find a way out.

“Mystery in the Marsh” is set in southeast Louisiana and has tales of duck hunting, fishing and football. The lesson learned is all about forgiveness.

“Barracuda Bombshell” is set in Haiti and takes the reader on an adventure of fishing and baseball. The lesson is about seeing others as human beings and putting yourself second to others.

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Armstrong said along with character building from the inside, kids will also be driven to adventure on the outside.

“I think it just builds anticipation to experience a little bit of what they’re hearing so this will get them excited to get outside and enjoy God’s creation,” Armstrong said. “It gets kids away from the TV or iPad screen. They can use their imagination and maybe want to go build forts and be outside.”

“A lot of kids don’t do that anymore,” he continued. “I think that just shows the way our culture has drifted. Nobody thinks for themselves anymore, they just do whatever they’re told and I think that’s because we’ve raised a generation sitting in front of an iPad. Kids don’t have an imagination to think for themselves.”

Armstrong said reading with kids is also important for brain development, enhanced logic skills and even better sleep at night. For his own children, he is tackling tough issues unique to their generation.

“I want them to be different,” he said. “I don’t want them to not know how it used to be. I don’t want them to think the new normal is normal. Just because society tells them one way that doesn’t mean that’s how it’s supposed to be or that’s how it has to be.”

“I want to raise boys that are willing to go against the grain,” he added. “Our way of life is being attacked, whether it be Biblical or outdoors, people want to end that type of stuff.”

All ages, even parents, have told them they have enjoyed reading the books.

“You’ve got books going in the libraries talking about ridiculous stuff so this is an incredible blessing to have books parents can read with their kids and at the same time teach values with a redemptive theme.”

“Mystery in the Marsh” and “Barracuda Bombshell” are available on Amazon.

To connect with the author of this story or to comment, email [email protected].

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