South Country fifth-grader Christopher Ford started developing ideas for his protagonist years ago.
“Back when I was little,” he says.
The sketches were a bit raw; Christopher was about 5 or 6 at the time.
“I was drawing these little pictures of this guy called Mustache Man, and he was a stick figure,” the now 10-year-old explained. “He had two legs, a giant mustache and two antennae with eyes.
“Then I started wanting to write a book.”
And so he did, eventually, and with some help from his parents, Jim and Elisa Ford of Medford.
“I always know Christopher is serious about something if he’s willing to pull money out of the bank,” his dad said. “He’s been saving a long time for a Camero.”
For this project, he was willing to rip through a chunk of his future car savings.
That money, which was matched by his dad, helped Christopher realize his long-held dream of publishing a book — complete with illustrations by an artist in India — in June 2015.
(Why India for illustrations? It’s much cheaper, he and his dad were quick to learn.)
Christopher, who began reading at age 3, has since been making the rounds in the South Country schools, reading “Mr. Mustache Goes to the Circus,” a children’s book, to younger students in the district.
The book’s getting popular locally; they say there’s often a waiting list for the hardcopy at Brookhaven Free Library.
Last month, Christopher spoke at an author’s night held at Frank P. Long Intermediate School in Bellport. He’ll be honored by the South Country school board this coming Wednesday.
Christopher published the book through Archway Publishing, a self-publishing arm of Simon & Schuster. The artist he settled on — after tryouts — was credited as Shalini of Castudios.
“He interviewed a bunch of illustrators to find the one he thought was best fit,” Jim Ford said.
Despite what some might think, Christopher isn’t looking forward to the day he gets to sport a comically oversized mustache like his main character.
“Not really,” he said. “I guess mustaches were just intriguing and funny back then, back when I was little. And I know that mustaches are still intriguing to little kids. They always laugh when they see a mustache.”
He’ll still giggle, too.
“I never lose my sense of humor,” he said.
Christopher had been reading since he was 3 years old, his parents explained, with Elisa showing off a photo of the day they found him in the square recycling bin, reading through pages of Newsday.
She’s been asked what it was the parents did to instill his intense love of learning and ability to meet a challenge, be it through school, sports, or music.
“Born that way,” she responds.
“They told me he wasn’t going to make it full term,” Elisa Ford noted during interviews this week at the family’s kitchen table. “And he did; he surpassed the odds. He’s been a fighter from Day 1. They told me I wasn’t having kids; they were wrong.
“That’s why I think he’s wonderful. We were blessed. We had one really good one.”
The moral of Christopher’s story about Mr. Mustache has everything to do with instilling confidence in one’s own abilities.
“Mr. Mustache loves the circus, and the circus came to town for a limited amount of time,” he explained. “He wanted to be like everything in the circus. He wanted to be in the circus. First he wanted to be like the clowns. Then he wanted to be like the lion tamer.
“And then he realized you’re best off being yourself, and not the lion tamer.”
Clearly the motivation behind the book is that Christopher is to help people. Not long ago, he told his dad he wanted to help everyone in the world. His dad responded that he couldn’t possibly.
Never to back down from a challenge, Christopher responded as such:
“Then I’ll help everyone that I can.”
Photo: Christopher Ford with his “Mr. Mustache Goes to the Circus” book at his Medford home.