Highlighting: “The Crimson Protector” by Jeffrey Kranzler. Independently published. 2020. Paperback. English. 190 pages. ISBN-13: 979-8666294192.
Teaneck-based readers of “The Crimson Protector,” a new middle-grade superhero novel, might notice some similarities between their hometown and the fictional one seen in the text: Cedar Creek’s local school is called Benjamin Jefferson Middle School, there’s a street called King George Street—a subtle nod to Queen Anne Road—and it’s even in New Jersey, too. The reason is that the author, Dr. Jeffrey Kranzler, is originally from Teaneck himself, and he decided to model the fictional town after it.
“The Crimson Protector” is Dr. Kranzler’s debut novel, and the story follows James Gatz, a twelve-year-old boy who is tired of the many injustices he sees around his town. Deciding to take action, he dons the mantle of kid-superhero. But there’s more to the story than just the surface level plot: As a child therapist, Dr. Kranzler uses the book as a way to teach readers to build confidence, overcome social anxiety and handle bullying.
“I teach skills to children for a living,” Dr. Kranzler shared with The Jewish Link. “One day I thought to myself: I love communicating these skills, but the power of fiction is tremendous in terms of getting ideas across. My book has no lists for readers to memorize; the teaching occurs in the course of the book. In fiction, you don’t just read the story, you live it, too. And so, when kids connect to this book, they’re actually living the skill building James is doing: They’re seeing what works for him and what doesn’t in a way that’s organic and doesn’t feel like learning, but is. It’s more powerful than just telling them how to react in certain situations. Here they get to live it firsthand.”
Dr. Kranzler describes himself as a lifelong comic book enthusiast. Growing up, he would spend hours reading about the adventures of Spider Man, The Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Daredevil and more. He maintained that love into adulthood, always wanting to write a story about his own superhero. As he explains, his “lightbulb moment” came when he realized he could combine that passion with his career.
“Superheros are great avenues to talk with kids about these skills,” Dr. Kranzler shared. “Becoming a superhero is creating yourself, it’s becoming the person you want to be rather than the person that you are. When it comes to middle schoolers, they spend those early years trying to figure out the person they’re becoming. And so a superhero is the perfect metaphor for taking control and saying ‘This is the person I’m choosing to be.’ I think that’s an important message to share.”
The book has been a project of Dr. Kranzler since 2008, spanning multiple drafts. Over the years, he says the book grew with him as he developed as a therapist and as a writer. Now that it’s been published, he is excited for readers to meet James Gatz and go on his adventure alongside his best friend, Gizmo Jones. As for the message he wants readers to take from his book, he says it’s learning to be proactive and reach out for growth themselves rather than wait for adults to swoop in.
“James sees a lot of bullying going on, and he wants to do something about it,” Dr. Kranzler went on to say. “But the important thing about James is that he also makes mistakes, he makes decisions that aren’t always the best. But he also sees that they are mistakes, and learns from them. I think it’s really important for kids to see the wrong way to do things first, that way they can see how to correct it next time. James isn’t a perfect character, just as no person is perfect. We have problems, we make mistakes, but accepting that we did something wrong isn’t bad, it’s actually a really good thing. It gives you an opportunity to learn, and that’s what I hope readers will see and internalize.”
“The Crimson Protector” is available for purchase in print and e-book from Amazon. If you would like to learn more about the book, you can do so at https://www.thecrimsonprotector.com. To learn more about Dr. Kranzler, you can visit his websites, https://www.drjeffkranzler.com and www.LeafMentoring.com.
Adam Samuel is a journalist from Teaneck. He blogs at www.adamssoapbox.com.