"It literally was me looking at Alena smiling and thinking, ‘God that is the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,’ " says Anderson, recalling the day he got the idea for the book.
Before Alena was born in 2006, Anderson filled her library with his favorite children’s books but says even many of those cast dads as either bumbling or God-like. "I looked at a lot of the books. A lot of them were daddy’s hugs and mommy’s kisses and sweet and they served their purpose. I wanted to find something that specifically was fathers and daughters. ... I just wanted something that spoke to a father actually having a real relationship with their child."
Together with illustrator Jakub Kuzma, who lives in Poznan, Poland, the Oak Park dad created his own book.
"I wanted to try to do something that was funny but also in the end, had some sentiment. It seems like a lot of books are either one way or the other. ... I wanted to try to combine the two."
He thought it would be fun for a dad on a rainy, boring day to take his little girl on a treasure hunt for his lost favorite thing—ultimately, the little girl’s smile.
His favorite part of the story comes when Alena asks, "When was I a princess, Poppa?" and Poppa answers, "The very moment you were born, my love."
Impatient with waiting for traditional book publishers to decide if enough dads would buy the book, Anderson published it on his own through lulu.com and is offering it free for downloading at www.alenabooks.com/Alena.pdf.
Anderson says he is halfway through a second book in what he hopes becomes a series.