Most people in the Kansas City area are familiar with Gary Lezak, KSHB TV’s meteorologist, from his nightly weathercasts. From time to time, he is joined by his two dogs, Sunny and Breezy, for broadcasts and public appearances.
Now the Overland Park resident has parlayed his passion for his pups into a new endeavor as a children’s book author.
Lezak first children’s book, “It’s A Sunny Life: An Adventure Fit for Rain or Shine,” was published by Olathe-based Ascend Books. With colorful illustrations by Rob Peters, the book sells for about $18.95 and is available on various websites, including Amazon.com, as well as local bookstores and pet shops. Book sponsors include Wayside Waifs and the Human Society of Greater Kansas City.
“It’s A Sunny Life” tells the tale of Sunny joining Lezak’s canine crew.
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“The story is really about adopting a dog and the bonding experience to form a pack and family,” Lezak said. “I had these weather dogs and they aren’t sure about this new dog. I get the idea to go to the Rocky Mountains to bond.”
The 48-page book is more than just Sunny’s acclimation to the Lezak family. It includes several pages called Sunny’s Weather Academy, with weather terms and cloud descriptions.
“Sunny’s Weather Academy was a bonus to the book and a great educational tool,” Lezak said. “It has the basics of meteorology, including clouds. Clouds are one of my favorite things.”
The story even has some mystery to it when Jamie, one of the dogs, disappears.
“We wanted to leave it the interpretation to the parents and the kids as to what happens to Jamie,” Lezak said.
The idea to write a book came from an encounter Lezak had with Ascend publisher Bob Snodgrass a year ago.
“He handed me a card and asked me if I was interested in doing a book,” Lezak said. “I contacted him about six months later and asked what he had in mind and he suggested a children’s book…. I thought about it overnight and called him back with an idea.”
It took Lezak about a month to write the story, and then it was off to the publisher for about a dozen edits. During the process Lezak talked with the illustrator to collaborate on the dogs’ drawings.
“I sent Rob Peters 500 to 1,000 pictures of my dogs so he could capture what these dogs were like and their personalities, and he pretty much did it,” Lezak said.
“I was blown away by the black and write illustrations he first sent me,” Lezak said. “But we had to work on me a little,” he said with a laugh.
While the book has only been available for a few weeks it has been selling well.
He said the book has already gone to its second 4,000-copy printing.
Lezak has had dogsfor most of his life.
“Jamie was the first weather dog I ever had,” Lezak said. “Jamie was a Sheltie that I got when I was nine years old…. When my mom and dad got divorced they both wanted to keep Jamie (but) I took Jamie to college at the University of Oklahoma.”
Jamie was not a rescue dog, but all of Lezak’s subsequent dogs have been acquired through rescues. The first rescue dog was Windy, who appeared on the “Oprah” show with the weatherman. Then came Stormy, who died a year ago, followed by Breezy, who is now 10 years old, and Sunny, who is 1-year-old.
“I have always taken my dogs to appearances including going to schools with me,” Lezak said. “Sunny is becoming my little superstar — she likes to catch Frisbees and do tricks. She will be at all the book signings.”
Will there be more books in Lezak’s future?
“I think that there will be,” Lezak said. “We haven’t sat down to do that yet … but there are so many possible story lines and teaching new concepts. There are lots of ideas.”
In the meantime, Lezak continues to lead KSHB's five-member weather team. He also works on Weather 2020 LLC, a long range forecasting company he started nine years ago.