Summer is normally a time for students to decompress and prepare for the upcoming school year. While some are staying up until the crack of dawn and sleeping in until one in the afternoon, others are grabbing their future by the horns.
Ronnie Kariuki, a Leesville senior, spent a majority of his summer in his homeland of Kenya. Between the visits with his family and exploring different towns, Ronnie was doing something that may seem foreign to many teenagers: releasing his first book.
Ronnie’s book, Jungle Momma, is a children’s book about a young lioness in the African Savannah that takes in stranded and orphaned animals. What makes this plot even more interesting is that it’s based on a true story. After 9 years of perseverance and dedication, Ronnie and his father’s masterpiece was finally released.
“My dad inspired me to start writing it when I was six,” said Ronnie when asked why he decided to write the book. As a kid, Ronnie’s dad would tell him the story of the saint-like lioness. Hearing this story over and over, he thought he should write a book about the lioness to share the story with the rest of the world. Ronnie and his father eventually collaborated on the book.
While Ronnie’s dad handled the “tough stuff” that comes with the publication of a book, Ronnie was still able to experience what it’s like to write a book without it consuming his life. Later on in the process, Ronnie got the opportunity to lead various publicity events and conferences before the launch.
“[The overall experience of writing a book] was very humbling,” said Ronnie. “Before the launch no one really knew who I was, but after a couple of public events, people actually started to recognize me … it was a very weird experience to have people want my autograph.”
Ronnie’s family, and their book,became an instant sensation in Kenya. While the online version was available back in 2011, there were no physical copies. The hardcopy book launch, which was even held in The Kenya National Museum, was a widely attended event. Even local bands came up to Ronnie to listen to them and spread the word about their music. At only 16, Ronnie is a celebrity.
But through this stardom Ronnie’s book did plenty of good for the community. Ronnie got the opportunity to partner with different wildlife organizations, and Jungle Momma became an instant advocate for wildlife conservation and will hopefully inspire children to care for the world around them. Jungle Momma, is now available as a hard copy solely for avid readers in the Kenyan area. The Kindle version of Jungle Momma is available for purchase in the United States through Amazon.
Today, this adolescent author roams the halls of Leesville. Whether if it’s for his previous roles in the theatre department, his upcoming role as Felix in The Odd Couple, his involvement in AP English or just his overall good sense of humor;everyone knows Ronnie. While he continues to live the life of a normal teenager here in America, those who live in Kenya will know him as a conservation icon.