by Len Lear
If you have been in the Chestnut Hill Coffee Shop in the past two years, you may have noticed or spoken to a charming, bright coffee roaster named Ray Pine but most likely did not know that there is a lot more to Ray than just coffee. In fact, Ray is the author of the just-published book, “A Boy and his Dada,” a poignant reflection on relationships with fathers and future sons, illustrated with delightful, whimsical drawings in crayon, watercolor and pencil by Anca Bostina.
Pine, 38, grew up in Northeast Philadelphia, although he has lived in upper Roxborough for the last four years. A graduate of Archbishop Ryan High School and Holy Family University with a literature degree in 2003, Pine previously worked in technical support for a proprietary software company for 12 years.
How, then, did Pine morph into a children’s book author?
“I vividly recall this book happening in my mind,” he told us last week. “I was at the gym on a rainy night. I stopped in the middle of my workout and just sat on the bench writing the entire idea in my head, and before it could fade, I ran home as quickly as possible to write it all down. I had every image and progression in my head. It was one of those moments where everything just made sense.”
Unlike many children’s books, this one by Pine, the father of a 5-year-old son, shows not just happy times but also sad ones in a child’s life.
“The message of my book,” Pine said, “is to show the normalcy and transience of our emotional states. That we will be happy. We will be sad. That it’s OK to be depressed sometimes.
“Happiness isn’t a guarantee and that even when we’re surrounded by the ones we love, we can still be unhappy. It’s OK to want to be alone, and it’s OK to take your time and work things out on your own. There are no happy families or sad families. Just families.
“My main hope for the book is that people will relate to it, that the words resonate with parents as they sit with their child and that kids enjoy the illustrations and repetition of the words.The book is written as a forever book or keepsake.”
Pine is currently working on two other books. He is selling “A Boy and his Dada” on his website, and has been speaking to several local bookstores about carrying it. Doylestown Bookshop and Lahaska Bookshop currently stock it.
What was the hardest thing Pine ever had to do?
‘“Our family was very recently forced to let go of our longtime best friend, Drake. I sat with him as he passed. I thought at that time and still do that it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
What is the best advice Pine has ever received?
“I don’t really hold onto advice as much as I hold onto the actions people have taken on my behalf. I am surrounded by the most amazing support group a person could wish for and am grateful to them as I’ve transitioned into an entirely different career.”
Which talent that Pine does not have would he most like to have?
“This is going to sound really hokey, but I’m perfectly satisfied with the talents I have.”
If Pine could live anywhere on earth, where would it be?
“Anywhere I would live would always include Philadelphia as a second home. Philadelphia is my love.”
What is Pine’s most impressive characteristic?
“It’s interesting to try and identify things that are impressive about yourself. My ability to pivot my career, to change my entire trajectory over the course of a few years has been pretty impressive. I went from four years of working in a Hot Topic to 12 years of working in software support to currently being an author and coffee roaster.”
If Pine could meet and spend time with anyone on earth, who would it be?
“I’m good with the people I have in my life right now. I’d just ask for a little extra time with my family and friends so they know how much they mean to me.”
Pine will read from his book on Wednesday, June 12 at 6 p.m. at the Chestnut Hill Library, 8711 Germantown Ave. For more information, call 215-685-9290.