Monday, August 13, 2018

Book Nook: Be Prepared! The Frankie MacDonald Guide to Life, the Weather, and Everything

Frankie is an autistic man who’s spent his life learning everything there is to know about his passion: the weather. With the unique set of skills that autism has blessed him with, a digital camera, and YouTube, Frankie has become an excellent amateur weatherman with 99% accuracy in his predictions. He's become so popular that his videos have received more than 10 million views on YouTube to date and he's racked up hundreds of thousands of subscribers who eagerly await each new video.

I had a chance to read a book written with Sarah Sawler - BE PREPARED! The Frankie MacDonald Guide to Life, the Weather, and Everything. The book is also part autobiography, part field-guide, part life lessons. Not only does it provide some background and include easy-to-understand weather information, it also includes advice about how to rise above the challenges of bullies, skeptics, and the everyday world around us.

If I had one complaint about the book, it's that it almost tries to do too much, and sometimes can feel a little bit overambitious in how much it's trying to pack into a small volume. However, it also means it'll appeal to those who are interested in the weather, those who are interested in reading the story of how one man turned the challenges of autism into success, and those who are struggling and want some inspiring nuggets of advice from someone who has struggled.

I had a chance to interview both Sarah and Frankie to learn more.

What is your favorite thing about making your Youtube videos?
I like doing a ton of Weather Reports to Help out the People all over the whole world for intense weather and extreme storms such as blizzards, hurricanes, severe weather and heatwaves and i do lots of comedy videos like Guy Tries to eat 50 Hot Dogs at once and Major Storm to Hit South Dakota on Friday October 4, 2013.

What do you hope people will remember most from the book?
The People will learn from my book the most is Weather Facts, Coldest Temperature and Hottest Temperature recorded on Earth and Hottest and Coldest Places in the World and Bullies and Ignore Negative Comments and my Childhood Pictures of Me when I was a little boy and my School Days.

Why did you decide to write this book? When I was brought onto the project, Nimbus Publishing and Frankie MacDonald (of YouTube's dogsandwolves channel) were already discussing the possibility of a book. Since Frankie's specialties are technology and meteorology, not writing, they needed a writer to work on the project (although Frankie had submitted a 1000-word essay with bullet-points highlighting major life events, and this served as a great resource throughout the whole project). 

My publisher called me in to chat about the project, and I enthusiastically accepted, for a couple of reasons. First, the timing was perfect. Just a couple of weeks before, I was talking to a friend whose son is autistic, and she was saying that she wished there were more books about autistic kids for his age group. She wanted him to read about other kids with similar experiences, and to see himself represented in some of the books he read. So when Nimbus reached out to me about Be Prepared: The Frankie MacDonald Guide to Life, the Weather, and Everything, one of the main topics of the book was already on my mind. It felt right.

The other reason I jumped on the project is simple: Frankie MacDonald is an incredible person, and I wanted a chance to work with him! Anyone who watches his videos should be able to tell that he's an incredibly happy, positive person with a great sense of humour, and frankly, I think we could all use a little more of that in our lives.

What intrigues you the most about Frankie's story?
That's a tricky one--I've been thinking about and working on the book for so long that at this point, I feel like I know it too well to be intrigued! But I can definitely say I've been inspired by Frankie's story. He was mostly non-verbal until about seven years old, so it's really incredible to see him sharing weather reports, preparedness tips, and funny skits online. But I think, for me, the most inspiring part was learning about all the steps Frankie took in-between. He really worked hard, and his intense focus on the topics he loves most, especially meteorology, played a big role in helping him get to where he is today--with more than 175,000 YouTube subscribers, and recognition in the Canadian House of Commons! 

There is one thing that other people find intriguing though, and that's the fact that Frankie actually predicts the weather by reading the weather models and comparing what he sees with other sources. Sometimes he agrees with other sources, and sometimes he doesn't. Most people think he simply reads pre-existing weather reports on his YouTube channel, but that's not the case. 

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