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Love of storytelling, professional world blend together for children’s book

August 21, 2012
By MELISSA TANJI - Staff Writer ( , The Maui News

Longtime Maui pediatrician John Briley has finally introduced Seafoam the sperm whale to the world - in his first published children's book, which he began writing more than 30 years ago.

As a pediatrician on Maui in the late 1970s, Briley, also known as "Doc Briley," started to pen tales about the sperm whale along with dragons and other fictional creatures. Writing children's stories was a perfect way for Briley to blend together his professional world and personal love of storytelling.

"I loved telling stories and, of course, I love kids," said the 71-year-old Briley, who retired 12 years ago after caring for thousands of Maui youngsters. "I like telling stories. It wasn't too hard coming up with scenarios."

Article Photos

John “Doc” Briley, has shared his numerous fictional stories with his grandchildren. Pictured with him are Moani Briley (from left), 6, Kekia‘i Hett, 8, and Kealaula Hett, 10. Briley is promoting his first published children’s book, “Seafoam Wavefollower and the Mysterious Ghost.”
Briley family photo

Over the years, Briley reworked and edited his stories over and over again.

But Briley said he couldn't devote all of his time to writing as he was a full-time pediatrician working in Wailuku and Lahaina.

"I just never got around to publishing."

Some 30 years later, after he let his imagination run wild with Seafoam, the Wailuku resident is now publicizing his book about the sperm whale that features illustrations by Lahaina resident Angel Bode, one of Briley's former patients.

The 160-page paperback "Seafoam Wavefollower and the Mysterious Ghost" is published by BookLocker. It is not available in stores, but is sold on the publisher's website along with the websites of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. An electronic version is also available for $2.99.

Briley said he'll have a book-signing event at Barnes & Noble in Lahaina soon. He hopes the book will be carried in the Lahaina store as well as in Costco.

So far, adults who have read the book have liked it, Briley said. He is still trying to find a way to see how youngsters will accept the tales of Seafoam, a young, curious sperm whale who lets his curiosity get him into trouble.

In the book, Seafoam meets with a child ghost and has to learn how to cooperate with the ghost in order to free himself from a dangerous underwater cave and reunite with his pod.

Briley said that he drew inspiration for his character while sitting on a Maui beach and observing sperm whales.

His imagination then ran wild with the tales he could tell about the creatures.

Briley said that he attended many Maui Writers Conferences to learn about the trade.

He said he was accepted by BookLocker, which only publishes a small percentage of its submissions.

Briley said that he had to use his own funds to get his book published but overall had a good time working on the book.

The book is for children ages 7 to 12, but it could also be a good book for parents or adults to read to children under 7 years old.

Briley practiced medicine on Maui from 1970 to 2000. He moved to Maui in July 1970 after training in Boston.

He has also battled the aftereffects of polio, which has him using different types of apparatuses depending on the situation, including a cane, a power chair and a power scooter.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at



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