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Dreamers inspire us to never give up

Updated: January 7, 2013 7:16AM

Meet Bobby the Bluebird, Anthony the Alligator, Isaac the Iguana and Paul the Purple Panda.

If they don’t steal your child’s heart or lead them down a memorable, tongue-twisting path of alphabetic fun, then Ulysses the Unicorn or Veronica the Vulture will.

These are among the creations of Lonzell Cross, 37, a man with a dream.

His characters, 26 in all, are colorful, some of them hip, shades-wearing animals who walk upright. They emerge in a recently released book titled, “Another Alphabet Book Daddy?” with illustrations by LaMar Greer Jr., 30. (Available at )

Writing a children’s book wasn’t exactly in Cross’ career plans, which he says mostly included jobs in telecommunications and real estate sales. But penning his first book seemed a natural fit, born out of hours of reading to his young daughter.

“It just clicked on one day: ‘Hey, I can write a better book than this,” said Cross, who lives in University Park.

So he began research into writing children’s books and publishing. Cross also tapped his friend Greer to help bring the characters to life, handing him a manuscript filled with alliteration, rhyme and fun tongue twisters. (“Walter the Walrus lived in the water, but he knew a Warthog, a Weasel and a Woodpecker named Jim.”)

Cross, married with three children, grew up on the South Side and also in the south suburbs of Dolton and South Holland, where he discovered his first love: music.

He recalls growing up hearing his mother’s favorite Motown sounds drifting through their home. His love of music evolved.

“I fell in love with hip-hop music as a teenager and how hip-hop artists would tell stories in music,” said Cross, who dreamed once of becoming a star music artist.

In a perfect world, where dreams come true, Cross might be performing to sellout crowds on world tour, a household name by now.

But life is what happens when we make other plans. And while the pursuit of dreams or any other lofty visions from childhood may fuel something inside us, dreams won’t necessarily feed families and pay the bills.

It is something that Cross and his friend Greer have come to accept, even as they aspire to leave a legacy for their children.

“I feel like we all are alive because we’re breathing,” Greer told me. “But that doesn’t mean you have to live. You’re not living to the fullest extent unless you’re chasing those dreams that other people say are irrational.”

And herein lies the death of far too many dreamers.

I have borne witness to dreams deferred, to dreams defeated, to the way the suffocating realities of life can choke dreams to eternal sleep.

And this is what impressed me most about Cross — and Greer — whom I met at a suburban coffee shop. That like so many of us, who at times, may have been down — almost out — or have ever suffered the amnesia of hopes and aspirations: They refuse to stop dreaming.

For they understand that to ever stop dreaming is to die.

“If you can conceive it and believe it, you can achieve it,” Cross says.

So he’s off to local libraries, schools, and even shopping malls and the local swap-o-rama with copies of his glossy new alphabet book in tow. He’s even laying plans for a second book with hopes someday of an animated series, starring who else but Anthony the Alligator, Bobby the Bluebird and even Olivia the Octopus.

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