Mom’s Choice Awards is excited to announce another post in our interview series where we chat with the inventors, designers, publishers, and others behind some of our favorite family-friendly products.
Hello, Mom’s Choice readers! A very warm welcome to our Mom’s Choice readers! Today we have the opportunity to talk to first-time author Jeffrey Morgan, whose book Funky Monkey: Adventures in Kindness would be an ideal addition to many a child’s library. For preschoolers through second graders, it sparks meaningful conversations, inspires creativity, and leaves a lasting impact on young minds. Whether shared as a bedtime story, used in classroom discussions, or enjoyed during interactive learning sessions, the book instills valuable life lessons that children can carry with them throughout their lives.
MCA: It’s always exciting to meet new authors who have winning tales to tell—and garner a Mom’s Choice Award, as well! Tell us about yourself.
I’ve always had a passion for working with kids and their unique perspectives on the world. As a father to four wonderful children: Ace (8), Roxie (6), Lou Lou (4), and Canon (2), my life is filled with laughter, curiosity, and plenty of adventure. My wife Caitlin, an inspiring high school varsity-level coach, shares my passion for coaching and educating young kids.
I’ve spent most of my career working with kids, initially in strength and conditioning, where I was lucky enough to help them train for sports, pushing their physical and mental boundaries, and ultimately aiding them in achieving their goals. This experience provided invaluable insight into children’s resilience, their drive to succeed, and their ability to confront challenges with courage and determination.
Now, I’ve shifted my focus to coaching local youth sports in Garnet Valley, Pennsylvania, where I continue to apply and expand my skills, all the while encouraging young athletes to strive for their personal best. When I’m not coaching, I love spending time with my family, exploring the outdoors, going to the beach, and dreaming up new stories to share with children everywhere. As someone who values physical health and mental strength, I aim to incorporate these principles into my writing to inspire and empower my young readers.
MCA: What was your path to becoming a writer like? What inspired you?
During my time working with young athletes, I was fortunate to witness their growth, both in terms of their sporting achievements and their personal development. However, when I became a parent to my own children, I saw a troubling trend. In today’s fast-paced world, with so many external influences shaping young minds, it became clear that some fundamental character traits, essential for success in life, were being overshadowed.
This observation hit close to home and resonated deeply within me. Observing both my own children and the kids I coached, I felt a pressing need to address this concern. Fortunately, I was not alone in this mission. My wife, a high school varsity coach herself, shares the same passion for training young kids and instilling good values on and off the field. I’m sure you’ve heard the quote by John Wooden: “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.”
Inspired by this quote and the desire to impact children’s lives positively, I decided to use storytelling as a tool. I saw the potential to convey essential life lessons to children in a manner that was engaging, entertaining, and memorable. I wanted to develop a character who embodied these core values—values such as perseverance, respect, empathy, and courage—and used them to navigate the adventures of life.
This idea served as my beacon, guiding me from the being a coach on the field, to the world of children’s literature. They evolved into the written narratives of Bungo the Funky Monkey: Adventures in Kindness and its upcoming sequel, Jungle Olympics. As a children’s author, my goal goes beyond mere entertainment. I aim to inspire young readers, instilling in them the fundamental values that will guide them to become successful, empathetic, and resilient individuals.
MCA: What was your inspiration for writing Bungo the Funky Monkey: Adventures in Kindness?
The creation of Bungo the Funky Monkey was fueled by a heartfelt mission and influenced by the most meaningful parts of my life. In the wake of my experiences as a father and a youth sports coach, I perceived an urgent need for positive influences that would teach children core life values. With the shifting tide of influences and societal norms, I felt that the essential traits of kindness, respect, and empathy weren’t being emphasized enough.
My four wonderful children—Ace, Roxie, Lou Lou, and Canon—were my true inspiration and also the source of the book’s characters. It was important to me that they see their own reflections in the story, so each of them became a character in Bungo’s adventures. Ace took form as a brave and strong tiger, Roxie embodied a clever and quick-witted fox, Lou Lou became a fun-loving, social zebra, and Canon inspired a powerful but cuddly, warm-hearted bear.
Seeing my wife instill these core values in her high school athletes inspired me to create Bungo’s world. Bungo, the Funky Monkey, is a blend of all the positive traits I’ve seen in my children and the children I’ve coached. He’s adventurous, fun, and above all, kind.
The adventures that Bungo and his friends embark upon are more than just entertaining tales. They are carefully crafted narratives meant to teach about kindness and other essential values in an engaging way. With each story, my hope is that the readers, like Bungo and his friends, learn about the transformative power of kindness and its positive impact on the world.
MCA: What are some of the key lessons found in the book?
Bungo the Funky Monkey: Adventures in Kindness is not just a delightful children’s tale, it’s a vehicle to instill vital values in young minds. As I’ve said, each character in the book is based on my children—Ace, Roxie, Lou Lou, and Canon—and they all impart unique lessons to the story.
Ace, the tiger, embodies courage and self-confidence, teaching readers that it’s okay to face their fears and conquer their challenges.
Roxie, the fox, underscores the power of wit and cleverness. Her character shows that problems often require thoughtful solutions and not just physical strength.
Lou Lou, the zebra, offers lessons about the importance of friendships and cooperation. Through her adventures, children learn about the significance of being a good friend and the strength of working as a team.
Canon, the bear, epitomizes love and the power of leading by example. His actions demonstrate the impact of leadership, compassion and understanding toward others.
At the heart of the story is Bungo, the funky monkey, who is the embodiment of kindness. He helps readers understand that kindness isn’t a weakness, but a powerful force that can create positive change. We want to teach kids that you can be a strong and kind person at the same time
These characters and their narratives emphasize that it’s not just the individual traits we possess, but how we use them to help others, that shapes our character.
MCA: If you could ensure readers of your book walk away with one main lesson, what would it be?
While the book imparts several valuable lessons, if I were to distill it down to one essential takeaway, it would be this: the power and impact of kindness in our lives.
Throughout the story, each character offers lessons about courage, intelligence, friendship, love, and more, but at the core of it all is kindness. Kindness is a universal language that bridges gaps, heals wounds, and fosters connections. It’s a strength that transforms not just individual lives, but communities and the world at large.
My hope is that young readers will learn from Bungo’s adventures and understand that kindness isn’t just an action, but a lifestyle. No matter the challenges children face, the victories they enjoy, or the losses they endure—as we’ll explore in the forthcoming sequel on sportsmanship— responding with kindness will always be the winning choice. I want children to walk away with the understanding that they have the power to make a positive impact in their world through acts of kindness, no matter how big or small.
MCA: What kind of response from readers have you received?
The response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive. Parents and teachers have shared how the book has sparked meaningful conversations about core values at home and in classrooms. They’ve reported that children are not just entertained by the adventures of Bungo and his friends, but are actively engaging with the lessons embedded within the story.
Children have been particularly drawn to the relatable characters and their exciting adventures. They’ve shared their own stories of how they’ve applied Bungo’s lessons of kindness in their lives, which is immensely gratifying. Seeing them connect with the characters and internalize the values being taught has been truly heartwarming.
Perhaps the most rewarding feedback has been hearing about children referring to the book when they’ve encountered challenges or dilemmas. Parents have told me that, in various situations, their kids often ask themselves, “What would Bungo do?” Knowing that Bungo and his friends are influencing young minds to act with kindness and courage is the best response I could have hoped for as an author.
MCA: You mentioned an upcoming sequel on sportsmanship. Can you tell us a bit about that and any other books we might expect to see?
Absolutely, the story of Bungo and his friends continues to unfold. I am excited to share that I am currently working on a sequel titled Jungle Olympics.
This new book will delve into the world of sportsmanship, exploring the highs and lows of winning and losing. As a coach and a parent, I’ve witnessed the emotional rollercoaster that competitive sports can trigger in young hearts. I believe these experiences are rich with invaluable life lessons that children can greatly benefit from, prompting me to focus on this theme in the sequel.
In Jungle Olympics, our beloved characters will engage in a series of exciting competitive events. Through these adventures, readers will see Bungo, Ace, Roxie, Lou Lou, and Canon exemplify sportsmanship and fair play, teaching that true victory lies not just in winning, but also in how we handle defeat and respect our opponents.
My intention is to build on the universe that young readers have come to love, presenting relatable situations that mirror their own experiences. Through this, I hope that children will internalize the lessons of sportsmanship and understand that in life, much as in sports, it’s not just about the outcome but also the way we play the game.
MCA: Jeffrey, it has been a real pleasure hearing from you. You obviously have wonderful lessons to share with young readers about wholesome attitudes, teamwork, and respecting others. We look forward to reading your upcoming books and wish you all the best!
You can learn more about Jeffrey Morgan and her award-winning book, Funky Monkey: Adventures in Kindness by visiting her MCA Shop pages.