Who I Met & What I Bought at #UtopYA2015: Little Big Benny Review

For the first time I was introduced to Katie Cook and her creation Benny. I knew right away that I had to take Benny home to my son. My son is twelve years old and has autism. There are not many books out there that can grab my son’s attention or keep it for that matter. I knew that Benny’s story and the vivid illustrations would be a winner at our house! Read more below about author Katie Cook, her Benny, and how you can bring Benny home to your “universe”.

This is the story of a boy who didn’t know he was the universe. Benny Armstrong Jr. is very curious about the world around him, but what he doesn’t realize is that he plays host to an incredible world that exists within him. It’s a world full of colorful characters like The Floofs of Lintopolis, The Beats of Hipville, the Joymen of Lightville, The Buds of TasteTown, and the Zuzus of Jamaland. They are no more aware of him than he is of them, but they have a profound effect on one another.

His every move is monitored by aliens called Zetas that like to wreak havoc in Little Benny’s world. Between the school bully, Leo, and the girl of Little Benny’s dreams, Lora Lee, The Zetas never run out of scenarios to cause upheaval in Little Benny’s world. Nothing is quite what it seems!

Benny Armstrong Jr., is still hoping to make a move on his crush, Lora Lee, but the next door neighbor and school bully, Leo, is as determined as ever to get in the way. Will Leo’s jealousy get him sent away to Castle Hill, and are the boys fighting over a girl that isn’t even interested in either one of them? The alien Zetas are still up to no good as they turn Leo and Little Benny against one another, but their antics threaten to expose their existance to the human race. All these ups and downs are taking their toll on the microscopic worlds within Little Benny, including the Floofs of Lintopolis, the Beats of Hipville, and the Zuzus of Jamaland. Will they turn on one another?

Benny Armstrong Jr. has had enough of Leo Grainger’s bullying. Luckily, his best friend, Harmony, proves what a great friend he is and has Little Benny’s back throughout the ups and downs. The alien Zetas are causing as much trouble as usual in their desperate attempt to be sent home. Lora Lee is finally ready to admit how she feels about Little Benny, but a massive misunderstanding threatens to derail it all. The Zuzus of Jamaland are hunting down the great Floof explorer, Fuzzpoleon, who is hiding out in Hipville with the Beats. Lightville is experiencing eratic ups and downs with the great Lord JoyRah’s emotions, and it threatens to keep the Blood Brothers of Coronary Heights at home. Pooshy’s computer, Chipper, is retiring, and Commander Nando and his troops face the biggest challenge of their lives, thanks to a tiny feathery fairy that is causing a wicked itch.

Katie Cook adds another string to her bow. Musician, CMT/MTV television host, circus performer, mother, and now author.

Before her television career started in 2001, her band Reno released an album with Curb Records. Promoting the album took her on the road for long stretches of time. These often boring road trips mixed with Katie’s wild imagination was Little Big Benny’s genesis. It started with the idea that while we may be small in the grand cosmic scheme of things, we also have a universe within as well, which makes us absolutely giant at the same time. Katie dreamed of creating a character that could explore ideas like this while maintaining a sense humor, like the children’s entertainment she grew up with offered. When Katie became a mother herself, she knew it was time to take this half baked idea and develop into a full fledged children’s book series. Like Big Benny always tells his son, “Gotta shoot for the stars!” While Katie interviews the stars for her job as host of CMT Hot 20 Countdown, she is also shooting for the stars with her Little Big Benny book series. She hopes one day to see it animated.

SOURCE: Hope To Read

Photos from the 2014 CMT Awards

Hosted by Kristen Bell, the 2014 CMT Music Awards took place June 4 at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena. Katie handled red carpet and backstage interviews from the event.

Interview with Katie Cook: 'Little Big Benny: The Wicked Itch'

Katie Cook is best-known as the media personality from Country Music Television (CMT), but what people may not know about her is that she is also a published children’s author, who has penned the “Little Big Benny” books.

Her third book in the “Little Big Benny series” is entitled “The Wicked Itch.” “Just like the first two books, we follow Little Benny’s daily life and the lives of all the many characters that live within him on a microscopic level. Benny still has strong feelings for Lora Lee, and by the third book, it is firmly established that she feels the same way; however, young love is never easy. Benny’s neighbor, who happens to be the class bully, is Leo Grainger. Leo and Benny are still at odds over Lora Lee, but in this book, we start to see Leo pay for some of his actions. They say what goes around comes around, and in Leo’s case it is coming like a freight train,” Katie shared.

She continued, “There has been a great deal of drama in the worlds within Benny too. He continues to have a great effect on them, and vise versa, but as before they are all still completely unaware of each other’s existence. The growing tension has them ready to turn on one another, but we start to see that there has been many a misunderstanding. We can’t judge a book by its cover, and this theme reveals itself more and more by the end of The Wicked Itch.”

On the evolution of the character of Benny throughout the series, Katie remarked, “Little Benny has had many challenges from day one between dodging Leo to admitting his feelings to Lora Lee. While he has set-backs along the way, we are seeing him develop into a more confident boy by the end of ‘The Wicked Itch.’ He is often his own worst enemy and still has many lessons to learn, but with his parent’s guidance and the incredible loyalty shown by his best friend, Harmony, he is on track to grow into a fine young man. The other characters that live within Little Benny develop along the way too. Even Pooshy and Tufty, the Floof brother and sister in Lintopolis who can find anything to argue about, are learning more about each other and coming to a place of compassion and understanding. We find out by the third book, the Zuzus from Jamaland have been greatly misunderstood and that even the Waxmen aren’t as bad as they seem. There might not be much hope for the Zetas, Zoogle and Zagne, though. These aliens sent to Earth to monitor Benny are still up to no good, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon.” 

Although it is extremely difficult for Katie to select a favorite book from the series since they are all her “babies,” she does love the first book “The Boy Who Didn’t Know He Was the Universe,” since it introduces all the characters and how they are all linked to one another. “It was a huge challenge to write and it was very satisfying to see it come together. ‘The Wicked Itch’ might be my favorite because of the plot twists and turns. It's nice to see Leo get a taste of his own medicine, but I won't say too much for anyone who hasn't read it yet. My hope is that all the books stand alone as good stories in their own right, but as a whole make one great ride.”

On her future plans for “Little Big Benny,” she shared, “I am currently in talks with a literary agent and would like to pursue a publishing deal that can help me get ‘Little Big Benny’ into larger markets. I have had so much fun putting the books out myself, but it would be wonderful to see it in the hands of even more kids. Ultimately, my goal is to see ‘Little Big Benny’ animated and on the big screen. It’s a very visual story to me, and I would love to see these characters really come to life that way.” 

Particularly impressive about Katie Cook is that she created a Twitter account for “Little Big Benny” where the animated literary character can interact with his fans and reading audience. “Benny enjoys chatting to people and sharing his astronomical musings. There is a rumor going around though that Leo is thinking of getting a Twitter account just to mess with Benny. This could get very interesting,” she said.

“I really enjoy getting feedback from readers,” Katie concluded. “If they enjoy the books, I hope they will consider recommending them to a friend. ‘Benny’ and I would both appreciate it.”

SOURCE: Digital Journal

Reno "Whole World" Curb Records 1999

This video is almost 15 years old, hard to believe! This is my old band Reno with Tony Wade on guitar and my brother Jason Cook on drums. We were signed to Curb Records and this was our first single. It stars lots of our friends and some of Nashville's finest artists. This is obviously before my CMT days. I don't think CMT would dig the yellow hair, blue eyeshadow, and nose ring, ha ha. I kinda miss my crazy old look though. Hope you enjoy!