Creating ‘Cedar Creek Critters,’ Ingleside brothers land book deal

One brother writes, the other illustrates story about small town whose residents are animals

INGLESIDE – To cheer their grandmother up during the COVID-19 pandemic, brothers Jonathan and Joshua Masterson of Ingleside wrote a book.

It worked, and then some.

The duo landed a publishing deal and a fan base. Their grandmother, Lorraine Gentile, who lives in Arizona, earned top honors as their biggest fan.

“She’s also our biggest saleswoman,” 24-year-old Jonathan Masterson said. “I think she’s sold over 100 copies personally, just going and talking to people.”

Jonathan and his brother, 18-year-old Joshua, created the children’s book “Cedar Creek Critters: From A-Z.” Written by Jonathan and illustrated by Joshua, the book is the first in a planned series about a small town tucked away in a forest, where the citizens of Cedar Creek are every critter imaginable.

“The alphabet is all over town,” the book reads. “Look around – let’s see what can be found!”

Published by Mascot Books, the book is available online and with retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Books-a-Million and Mascot Books.

It’s described as a classic-style children’s book, reminiscent of books the Mastersons read together as children.

Among Joshua’s influences is Beatrix Potter, known for “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.”

“It has a nice homey feel to it,” Joshua said of “Cedar Creek Critters: From A-Z.” “It’s different from the more cartoony books you have these days. It has some realistic elements to it.”

The Masterson brothers grew up in a family of 10 children. Home-schooled, Joshua graduated from high school this year. Jonathan attends Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut. Considering a master’s degree in philosophy, Jonathan studies English and humanities.

Both brothers work part time together at a nearby grocery store.

They each would like to pursue their crafts in the future. The pair wrote and illustrated another children’s book awhile back about a family of mice. Although that book didn’t get published, they kept at it, partly thanks to their mother, Mary Masterson.

“She pushed us along,” said Jonathan, who found his inspiration in “Cedar Creek Critters” from small stories he wrote in high school about animals.

“It wasn’t necessarily meant to go anywhere. It was just a pastime,” he said. “And then my mom suggested that my brother and I team up and try to build a whole world for these animals to exist in. It started off as little stories inspired by what my siblings would do.”

The brothers said they aimed to give readers the sense of magic they felt as children when reading books with their parents and grandparents.

Joshua has loved to draw since childhood. Along with illustrations, he creates cartoons. To him, the publication of “Cedar Creek Critters” means opportunity.

“I would love more than anything to make a living off art,” he said. “That’s what I want. I’m going to keep pushing at that until I get it. … This is a really great feeling to be able to accomplish something like this.”

The brothers already are working on their next book in the series, a counting book featuring the Cedar Creek critters.

Their success has brought plenty of family pride.

“It’s the proudest feeling just to see my book out there, seeing it sell, seeing people like it,” Jonathan said. “To me, the happiest thing I can hear is someone coming back to me after they purchase it to say, ‘Oh, my gosh, I love it. My kids love it.’ "