How would you like to read a book called The Boy Who Cried Eggplant? Or how about Grandma Whiskers and Lady Chicken Squeezer? Or Tweedledee, Tweedledum, and Tweedledumber?
These are three of the many homemade books written and illustrated by Dexter and Quinlan Mann (10 and 8) of Winnipeg, Manitoba. All the books are funny, wise, and wildly creative—like the boys who wrote them.
Although Dexter and Quinlan share a whimsical sense of humor, they have different personalities. “Dexter jumps into things and is very outspoken,” Dad explains. “Quinlan is very thoughtful and philosophical.”
Dexter likes helping his mom bake—especially cookies. He also collects rocks, runs cross-country, and plays soccer at recess—even when the playground snow is deep. Quinlan, on the other hand, spent many recesses creating a play for his third-grade classmates to perform. Still, the brothers prefer doing things together. One snowy winter they built a huge snow fort in the front yard. It had several rooms and snow benches for resting.
These funny boys are serious about choosing the right and serving others. When their grandpa had cancer, they not only prayed for his recovery but also rolled up their sleeves and took care of his garden. They grew corn, cucumbers, broccoli, chili peppers, onions, peas, tomatoes, beets, some odd-looking carrots, and three pumpkins destined to become jack-o’-lanterns. The eggplants died, but nobody minded much, because Grandpa lived.
He has promised the boys that as each of them receives his mission call, he will buy them a 10-foot submarine sandwich to share. Now they can’t see a pickle or a slice of bologna without thinking of missionary work. They are already earning money for their missions by delivering flyers. By the time Dexter and Quinlan leave, their younger brothers, Heath (1) and Bailey (3 months) will be old enough to take over the flyer deliveries.
Looking ahead, Dexter announced one day that by the time Heath was old enough to be baptized, he, Dexter, would be a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood and could baptize his little brother. At this point, Quinlan jumped in and said, “Wait a minute. That means that when Bailey is eight, I’ll be old enough to baptize him!”
Mom laughs. “So Daddy has been bumped from the baptismal schedule.” But then she adds seriously, “I love the fact that at the ages of ten and eight they are already planning to be worthy priesthood holders.”
Quinlan and Dexter are the only Latter-day Saints in their school, but that doesn’t keep them from making good friends there. “They both know how to be loyal friends,” their mom says. Both boys are enthusiastic Scouts too. Dexter is a six-star Cub, and Quinlan has already earned four of his six stars. They have both earned their Religion in Life badges.
The Manns live disciplined lives. Quinlan and Dexter do most of their playing and book writing on Friday night and Saturday because weekdays are carefully scheduled. Homework starts right after dinner and is followed by chores. These include emptying the garbage, helping to tend Heath and Bailey, helping Mom with the laundry, and cleaning their rooms.
The boys attend a French-immersion school in which 75 percent of their class work is in French. French and English are the official languages of Canada, and speaking both will help them get good jobs someday.
Although the Mann family are serious about education and the gospel, they are not overly solemn. They are a laughing, game-playing, camping-out family. North of Winnipeg there are huge lakes and vast forests where they often set up their tent. They celebrate major holidays and family milestones at big dinners with their extended families and others who have been generously “adopted.” On Canada Day (July 1), the children bash away at a piñata filled with candy.
What are the boys most thankful for? They give the same answer: their family. “I feel 100 percent good about them all,” Dexter says. He stops and reconsiders. “Sometimes 99 percent,” he admits. He is an honest boy.
In Canada people often take off their shoes when they enter a home because there is so much wet weather outside. But it could also be a reminder that the home is a sacred place where love and laughter make a refuge from the world, a place where a child might feel equally comfortable reading scriptures or writing funny stories. The Mann home is that kind of place.