Inspired by news story, resident pens children’s book

By Jason A. Smith
Times Correspondent

For retired chiropractor, Dr. Gene Crumbley of McDonough, putting smiles on children’s faces with the printed word has become a way of life.

“God gave me the ability to rhyme words very easily,” said Crumbley, 88.

Crumbley recently used his penchant for poetry to write his latest children’s book, Inky’s Great Escape!

Dr. Gene Crumbley holds a copy of his new book, Inky’s Great Escape. Photo by Nick Vassy

He decided to write the book after reading a recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, about an octopus named Inky who escaped from an aquarium in New Zealand.

“He was about the size of a soccer ball,” said Crumbley. “He escaped from a hole in his tank that was about three inches in diameter. He went through a six-inch pipe, 164 feet long. Somebody apparently left the cover off the tank and left the grate off the floor.”

The article originally appeared in the New York Times in April of this year. Inky’s story, noted Crumbley, made headlines worldwide in print media and online around the world.

He said it didn’t take long after that for the book concept to develop.

“I first read the story in May,” he recalled. “After reading the article to my lady friend, she took the article and began reading it again out loud. As I listened, rhymes about the little octopus began to form in my mind, and I later wrote them down and thought, ‘Wow! This would make a great children’s book.’ They say Inky can escape through a hole as small as a quarter because the only hard part of his body is his mouth, which is a beak like a crow. Otherwise he is all sponge.”

Crumbley added that he researched online to learn more about octopuses like Inky, and used that information to create illustrations for the book.

“I also added a page of facts at the end that are very informative and educational,” he said.

Crumbley retired in 1998 after 40 years of practice. He has four children, 12 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, plus two on the way. He said a love of children has helped him pass the time along the way as well.

“I played the part of a train conductor for the pre-school children at First Baptist Atlanta for about a year and a half each Sunday -- conductor’s hat, black suit with vest and tie, and a real train whistle that I blew often,” said Crumbley.

In addition to writing poetry, his hobbies include photography, woodworking, playing golf and making note cards with bird pictures and other images he’s taken. His past works include a children’s book about his youngest grandson’s love of trains, published in 2005, and a pair of faith-based books -- Bible Stories In Rhyme and A Rhyme a Day: Helps Keep the Devil at Bay.

He said his writing took a different turn upon losing his wife of 58 years, Norma.

“After my dear, sweet wife died, I had so many children, grandchildren and friends wanting her recipes, I put together a cookbook which I published, and it sold over 1,500 copies,” said Crumbley. “Many were bought by older women who don’t cook that much anymore, but got it just for the love stories and jokes I added.”

Crumbley noted that he is also looking forward to expanding his literary catalog in the near future.

“I am currently trying to finish a bird book for children, in which I took the pictures and write an eight-line poem about each one,” said Crumbley. “I put the name of the bird upside down at the bottom so they’ll need to guess the name.”

While the tale of Inky is based on actual events, Crumbley admitted to employing a bit of creative license for the benefit of his young readers.

“The story is, of course, about a real, live octopus and is mostly true, except for maybe one scene where I could not call it really true, because I have Inky turn and raise one arm to wave goodbye to the aquarium workers,” he said. “You’ll have to read the book to understand why I put that in.”

Crumbley said the reaction has been positive thus far from readers of Inky’s Great Escape! He hopes to continue that trend in the coming months.

“People who have seen it just love it,” said Crumbley.

The book is available at Moye’s Pharmacy in McDonough, online at,,, or by e-mailing Crumbley at

“Any copies bought on my website and at Moye’s Pharmacy will be signed by me,” said Crumbley.