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In the summer of 1950, the Koning family immigrated to Canada from Freisland in the northern part of the Netherlands. Like many other immigrant families, they came with little more than hope for a better future. Six years later, the couple and their three daughters welcomed a baby brother into this world. They called him John - the only member of the family with an English name.

When John was three years old his mother was diagnosed with cancer. She died shortly thereafter, leaving the young family to pick up the pieces. In the early years, John was raised by his sisters and his father. At nine years old, John’s father remarried. During the trying years that followed, John's self-worth and grades slipped steadily.

John left home at seventeen and worked as a carpenter for seven years. During that time John met and married Patricia Mantel. In 1980 John joined the Peterborough Fire Department. With a new, more positive attitude toward life, he completed another opportunity for post-secondary education with the Ontario Fire College while the couple raised two children. John served as the Muscular Dystrophy Fundraising Chairperson and Chief Training Officer with the Peterborough Fire Department. After a stint of a few years, he left the training position and returned to the trucks in order to spend more time with his young family.

 
 

In 1998, the Koning family moved to Melbourne, Australia, where they lived for a year on a professional work exchange. While living in Australia, John wrote ten stories for children. Upon their return to Canada, the searched began for an illustrator. In late 1999, he met Sarah White who was then a seventeen year old high school student. She would illustrate John's first four stories. John and Pat founded a publishing company called FISH Books - an acronym for Friendship, Integrity, Self-worth, and Happiness. It is still the vehicle they use to promote those four principles.

FISH Books published their first title, The Bully, in March of 2000 to great reviews. The company's second title, Rule Number One, was published in May of that same year. Buoyed by the warm reception for their first two titles, FISH Books published "Honestly Eric" in September of 2001. The story is about a young boy and his single mother who share a special bond. A few weeks later, following the September 11 terrorist attacks, John wrote a tribute to the firefighters of New York City who died in the line of duty. The tribute was recorded onto a CD by Mike Melnik, the voice of radio in Peterborough. In early 2002, with the help of many generous people, FISH Books sent copies of the Tribute and "Honestly Eric" to each family of the fallen fire fighters. A year later the company released “I Can’t”, a father’s autobiographical bedtime story.

 

Today John Koning continues to write stories. He and Pat tour widely in Canada and the United States. They visit any place where John can remind children of their amazing value, the awesome power of love and grace and their responsibilities to themselves and our world. John and Pat primarily visit elementary schools in the public, separate and private sectors. They offer a variety of choices for educators who want to reinforce good character values in their classrooms. His presentations are boisterous and interactive. Often, Sgt. Major “O” Currence, a highly caffeinated literacy guerrilla will make an appearance to crank things up another notch. After all, as John’s says, “If it’s not memorable I’m wasting everyone’s time.”

           
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