WHALE OF A TALE

Written By: Robert Cocuzzo

A quick chat with children’s book author, Robert Cameron.

N MAGAZINE: How did you discover Nantucket?

CAMERON: My wife, Margi, had been coming to Nantucket during her college summers in the 1960s. After we got married in 1974, we came back many times on visits and vacations. In 1990, we bought a summer home on Nantucket and have been coming each summer since then.

N MAGAZINE: Before you became a children’s book author, you used to work on the high seas?

CAMERON: Since I was a child, I lived near the ocean. I loved fishing, boating, surfing, swimming and everything about the ocean. When it came time for college, I received a congressional appointment to the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York. After graduation, I went to work for a shipping company transporting oil in the global trade. I rose through the ranks from third officer to ship’s captain fairly quickly and commanded five of the company’s ships.

N MAGAZINE: Were these big ships?

CAMERON: These ships were almost three football fields in length, with speeds of 16.5 knots, carrying almost 15 million gallons, fitted with satellite navigation, collision avoidance systems and a crew complement of around thirty. In addition to the duties and responsibilities of commanding a ship, there were perks, too. One of them was [that] during many of the voyages I got to see beautiful, magnificent whales swimming around those waters.

N MAGAZINE: Obviously a whale became the central figure in your Tuckey books. What inspired you to write a children’s book series?

CAMERON: First, I wanted to do this for my grandkids Jakob and Nathan. Second, I am losing my short-term memory due to a rare neurological condition. I wanted to keep my mind active and thought writing children’s books would help me.

N MAGAZINE: Can you tell us about your neurological condition?

CAMERON: It is called superficial siderosis and was diagnosed in 2005. I have a meningocele (a tumor the size of my fist) in the middle of my back where it bleeds into my spinal fluid. This contaminated spinal fluid travels to my brain where the blood hardens. This hardened blood in and around the brain causes the nervous system to shut down. This adversely affects my hearing, short-term memory, stability and balance, and a range of other bodily functions. My condition continues to worsen. I am being cared for at the Mayo Clinic by the head of Neurology.

N MAGAZINE: How have you enjoyed your experience with the Nantucket Book Festival in years past?

CAMERON: The Nantucket Book Festival is a super event! For me, the highlight of the event is reading to the kids, parents and grandparents on the Athenaeum lawn. The book festival and weekend is a great opportunity to meet with so many people and share the stories behind each of the Tuckey books. This year, I was looking forward to introducing my new book, Flag Football with Tuckey the Nantucket Whale.

N MAGAZINE: What’s the story behind the flag football book?

CAMERON: When I started to write about flag football for my fifth Tuckey book, I reached out to Bill Belichick. I wrote him a letter about wanting to write him into the story about flag football for kids. A short time later, his personal secretary emailed me and said Coach Belichick got my letter and gave his permission to write him into the story. You can imagine how super excited I was. I wanted to tell everyone!

N MAGAZINE: What’s a story that you hold dear about the response your readers have had to Tuckey?

CAMERON: There are so many touching stories. I love when readers write to me saying they read the Tuckey book to their children or grandchildren and now they want to come to Nantucket. And I love getting the thank you notes from children in elementary school and teachers on Nantucket; in Bismarck, Missouri; Naples, Florida; and even overseas in Singapore and Jakarta, where they have incorporated the Tuckey books into their school curriculum. My main goal is to bring happiness and fun to all the kids, parents and grandparents through Tuckey’s adventures.

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