Heidi Henneman

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Kathleen Ernst's newest tale of historic fiction follows teenage Chigger O'Malley as he courageously faces everyday challenges in the war-torn town of Williamsport, Maryland, during the American Civil War. Ernst realistically shows us the sorrow, hatred, agony and confusion that the War Between the States caused not only to the soldiers in battle, but to those who remained behind. Chigger, too young and small to become a soldier, has been left to mind the family land and keep a watchful eye on his mother while his pa and older brothers are off fighting for the Union forces in the Irish Brigade. One of the many emotionally-charged turns in the story comes when his father and all of his brothers are killed in battle. Chigger, a mere teenager, realizes he is now the man of the family. Torn between his desire to fight for his country and his responsibility to shelter his mother, Chigger is angry, frightened and constantly hoping that the war will just end. Chigger's hatred for the "cursed Rebels," as he calls them, becomes almost uncontrollable when he and his mother are forced to care for a severely injured officer. This hatred and his desire to avenge the deaths of his father and brothers drive Chigger to plot to kill the soldier, even though he knows he could be killed himself. True to Ernst's strength in writing about internal and external conflict, it is the officer's continued kindness that teaches Chigger not everyone in a Confederate coat is his enemy.

Even until the last page, Chigger grapples with his emotions and beliefs until he summons up his courage to rely on his own intuition and compassion, thus, truly becoming the man of the family.

Heidi Henneman has written for various consumer magazines, including the popular teen title Twist. She lives in New York City and is a member of the DAR.

Kathleen Ernst's newest tale of historic fiction follows teenage Chigger O'Malley as he courageously faces everyday challenges in the war-torn town of Williamsport, Maryland, during the American Civil War. Ernst realistically shows us the sorrow, hatred, agony and confusion that the War Between the States caused not only to the soldiers in battle, but to […]
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They say home is where the heart is, but when your heart has been torn apart by death, divorce, betrayal and abandonment, where does that leave you? In Dana Reinhardt's new book for young adults, How to Build a House, we find out.

The story follows a teen volunteer, Harper, as she builds a house for a needy family and learns along the way that a home is much more than the sum of its four walls and a family does not necessarily include blood relatives. Reinhardt's smart, funny and poignant writing style strikes a chord of compassion and self-awareness as we follow this Los Angeles teen struggling to understand the complex relationships in her life: a loyal but faulty father, a loving but betrayed stepmother, an angry best friend/stepsister, a cheating boyfriend and a host of strangers she meets at a volunteer camp in a small Tennessee town. Harper, who is also a keen environmental activist, has chosen to spend her summer building houses in Bailey, a town that has been decimated by a killer tornado. Like the town of Bailey, Harper feels significantly affected by events beyond her control—and Reinhardt leads us bravely down this path of destruction and rebuilding.

The initial inspiration for the story came from a simple walk in her neighborhood, Reinhardt says from her home in Los Angeles. "A ton of new houses were going up in the area, and I was literally living with the sound of hammering all the time," she recalls. "It started me thinking about the permanency and the impermanency of home." Reinhardt, whose parents split when she was very young, has dealt with her own complex family relationships. "Family gets redefined across the course of one's life," she says, and sometimes it's hard to know exactly how to deal with the changing landscape. Although she grew up in the Los Angeles area, she spent much of her formative years in boarding school in Connecticut and then on to college at Vassar, followed by a short stint at New York University Law School before returning to her native California. There, she finally discovered her own definition of home: "I now have a husband and two children, and ultimately, I don't care where I live, as long as I'm with them," she writes on her website (danareinhardt.net).

Reinhardt turned to writing young adult novels after a varied series of pursuits that included working in the foster care system, being a fact-checker for a movie magazine and doing research for documentary films. Her first book for teens, A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life (2006), won considerable acclaim and was followed by Harmless, the story of three teens trapped in their own web of lies, in 2007. Until she started writing How to Build a House, Reinhardt had been to Tennessee only once. "I had driven through, and I fell in love with the area," she says, but she had never spent any significant time there. "So much attention was being paid to post-Katrina New Orleans at the time I was starting the book, but it didn't feel quite right to me to have this take place in New Orleans," Reinhardt says. So she concentrated on the lesser-known disaster areas where a teen like Harper might find solace in volunteering. That's when she rediscovered Tennessee. For an author—and the L.A. teen she created—who has spent most of her life on either coast, the middle-America community of Bailey, Tennessee, was the perfect setting for this coming-of-age story. "The middle of the country is as foreign as any part of the world I can imagine," Reinhardt admits. The town itself was a creation of Reinhardt's imagination, but when she started researching the area, something strange happened. "I got to a place in my writing where I realized I needed to go back to Tennessee to get all of the details right, and as I was driving about an hour outside of Memphis, I realized there actually was a town just like I was writing about—except the people had all packed up and left." It was an eye-opening experience that convinced her she was definitely on the right track in terms of her setting.

As for volunteer work, Reinhardt sees it as something that benefits the participants as much as the recipients. "I think especially now, as kids are growing up in these pressure cookers, so focused on perfect grades, extracurricular activities and SAT scores, it's really important for them to step away and see what others are doing," she says. "There's something amazing about being far away from your comfort zone with your peers in the process of making the world better." Reinhardt's own theory of "home" will soon be put to the test again as she and her husband pack up their things and move from L.A. to San Francisco this summer. But if the saying—and Reinhardt's theory—is true, and home truly is where the heart is, she shouldn't have any problems finding her footing.

Heidi Henneman makes her home in New York City.

They say home is where the heart is, but when your heart has been torn apart by death, divorce, betrayal and abandonment, where does that leave you? In Dana Reinhardt's new book for young adults, How to Build a House, we find out. The story follows a teen volunteer, Harper, as she builds a house […]
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Navigating the halls of high school is a hard enough challenge for a teenager. Add to that a parental breakup, a move from a distant location and a school where the rules of normality are thrown out the window and you’ve got the makings of The Rise and Fall of a 10th-Grade Social Climber, a new novel for teens by Lauren Mechling and Laura Moser.

The co-authors, who met while sharing acne medication in a company ladies’ room, share an eye-opening glimpse into the life of Mimi Schulman, a 15-year-old Texas transplant who finds herself in the heart of New York City’s eclectic scene. Shortly after her arrival, Mimi is goaded into making a bet with a childhood friend in which she pledges to become friends with the Coolies, the most popular and seemingly shallowest girls in her class. Though initiated as a joke, the wager soon becomes the bane of Mimi’s existence. As she grows closer and closer to the Coolies, Mimi learns that although the Coolies seem egotistical and uncaring, they are actually a closely knit group of sympathetic friends. Their perceived egotism comes not from feeling better than those around them, but from a desire to protect each other from the various traumas of their lives. Once she is let in on each of the girls’ secrets a battle with drug addiction, a habit of shoplifting, a mother on the verge of a nervous breakdown, an inability to make the grade Mimi struggles to admit her own little secret: that her friendship with them is based on lies and deceit. But before she can come clean to her newfound friends, Mimi’s ill-conceived scheme is exposed. The Coolies turn on her and she is left to sort out who she is on her own. The authors present a no-holds-barred look at the realities of being an adolescent in today’s society: parental breakups, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol and sex. And though not every teenager will be confronted with these issues, it is clear from this glimpse into the adolescent world that the challenges of being a teenager today are more complex than most of us realize.

Navigating the halls of high school is a hard enough challenge for a teenager. Add to that a parental breakup, a move from a distant location and a school where the rules of normality are thrown out the window and you’ve got the makings of The Rise and Fall of a 10th-Grade Social Climber, a […]
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Ann Brashares does it again. In her third book chronicling four adolescent girls and one pair of lucky pants they all share, Brashares taps into the teenage girl psyche with remarkable insight.

Brashares launched the Sisterhood phenomenon in 2001 with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a coming-of-age story that featured four girls and a favorite pair of thrift-store jeans. The book became a bestseller that spawned a sequel (The Second Summer of the Sisterhood) and a movie to be released this summer by Warner Bros.

In her newest title, Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood, Brashares again takes us into the hearts and minds of four teenage girlfriends, Tibby, Carmen, Lena and Bridget, whose mothers met at a prenatal aerobics class. This year, we find the girls facing what might be their last summer together as they prepare to head off to college. With love, sex and the fear of change on their minds, the four best friends share laughter, tears and life-changing moments as they help each other deal with the issues at hand. Whereas in Brashares’ two previous books, a pair of “traveling pants” played a major role in the stories, here Brashares focuses on the role of the sisterhood in helping the girls overcome their challenges.

Brashares’ easy writing style helps the reader understand the familiar problems each girl encounters. From experiencing true love for the first time, to accepting things beyond one’s control, to creating a new role in one’s own family, the girls deal with obstacles beyond their initial comprehension. And although they are fearful during the process, each of the “sisters” teaches us that as long as we are true to ourselves, whatever we decide will somehow work out perhaps not the way we have planned it, but it will work out nonetheless. With such candid treatment of important coming-of-age issues, it’s no wonder that Brashares’ books are so popular among the teen and pre-teen crowds. Where else can a girl find not one, but four best friends who truly understand her point of view? Heidi Henneman writes from New York City.

Ann Brashares does it again. In her third book chronicling four adolescent girls and one pair of lucky pants they all share, Brashares taps into the teenage girl psyche with remarkable insight. Brashares launched the Sisterhood phenomenon in 2001 with The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a coming-of-age story that featured four girls and a […]
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What would happen if you accidentally fell into your favorite fairy tale? In Lauren Child's latest story, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book?, a young boy does just that and learns a valuable lesson. Drifting off to sleep after reading a book of fairy tales, young Herb awakens in one of the Three Bears' beds. He realizes his predicament when the shrill voice of a very annoyed Goldilocks shrieks, "How dare you be on this page? I am the star and I say you are not allowed in this story!" Herb quickly runs to the next fairy tale, where he encounters Hansel and Gretel eating pieces of the Gingerbread House. But meeting characters like the Wicked Stepmother and the Fairy Godmother is not Herb's only eye-opening experience. As he ventures through the pages of the book, Herb realizes that all is not quite right in fairy-tale land: the queen wears a pen mustache, telephones adorn every room, some of the stories are upside-down, and Prince Charming is missing. All the while, young Herb has a sinking suspicion that he might be the perpetrator of this chaos. His scribbling (of mustaches and telephones) in the book, his cutting (holes and Prince Charming!) of the pages and crumb-spilling (all over Cinderella's kitchen) have changed the course of events in the stories.

By portraying her young protagonist in such an imaginative and creative way, award-winning author and illustrator Lauren Child brings a wonderfully original tale to life, and in doing so teaches a time-honored lesson. Returning to his bedroom, Herb works diligently to right the wrongs he has done: he rubs out the mustaches, turns the wicked stepmother's room right-side up and cleans out the crumbs. With her trademark humor, creative illustrations and wonderful use of collage, Child has created another whimsical, one-of-a-kind story for readers of all ages.

Heidi Henneman writes from New York City.

What would happen if you accidentally fell into your favorite fairy tale? In Lauren Child's latest story, Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Book?, a young boy does just that and learns a valuable lesson. Drifting off to sleep after reading a book of fairy tales, young Herb awakens in one of the Three Bears' […]
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Wouldn't it be great if you could always find the perfect parking spot? Or if every time you went shopping, all the most amazing clothes looked perfect on you and were on sale? Or what if you had the ability to stay out of trouble? Or to have a perfect hair day, every single day? The characters in Justine Larbalestier's new book for teens, How to Ditch Your Fairy, might have any one of these abilities—as long as they have the right fairy!

How to Ditch Your Fairy is set in the fictional city of New Avalon in the not-so-distant future. It's an Australia-meets- America kind of place, with quirky teen slang, an East Coast – West Coast rivalry, and lots and lots of sports. Larbalestier, a native of Sydney, Australia, splits her time between her hometown and frequent visits to the U.S.—most often New York City—so a mix of the two locations seemed like the perfect setting for her tale. Although the characters in her novel have troubles much like teens the world over – boyfriend dramas, clothing disasters, it-girl cliques—one thing stands out in this brave new world: everyone has a personal fairy. Whether they like their fairies, however, is quite another matter.

Our story follows 14-year-old Charlie, a freshman at a sports-focused private school, who has been blessed with having, of all things, a parking fairy. Unfortunately, Charlie doesn't appreciate this would-be good luck charm. Not only is she too young to drive, her relatives, friends and neighbors enlist her to help solve their parking crises. Larbalestier got the idea for the book while on vacation in Australia after seeing firsthand how helpful a parking fairy could be. "I was on holiday in Queensland, and one of our friends kept finding great parking spots at the busiest beach resorts," the author says by phone during one of her recent stays in the U.S. When she was asked to write a short story for a series an editor-friend was publishing, an idea came to her: "What if there was such a thing as a parking fairy, but you were too young for it to be useful?"

The idea stuck. Once she started writing, however, the story grew too long for the assignment. So instead of using it as a short story, Larbalestier turned it into a novel. It became her fourth published work of fiction, after the acclaimed Magic or Madness trilogy (Magic or Madness, Magic Lessons, Magic's Child). The award-winning author has been writing since she was a child; to support her writing habit through early adulthood, Larbalestier took a few less creative jobs: she worked as a receptionist, a waitress, in tech support and as an academic. At one point, she even trained to be a massage therapist. Her writing efforts finally paid off in 2003, when her trilogy was picked up by Penguin Razorbill. These days, she writes full-time with no need for moonlighting money. However, she does one additional job for free: she serves as the personal editor for fellow YA/fantasy writer Scott Westerfeld, who happens to be her husband.

"It's great actually," Larbalestier says. "We both have an editor on tap, and we've gotten into the habit of reading each other's chapters out loud—so we can tell if either of us is getting bored or getting a laugh out of it."Like several characters in Fairy, Larbalestier is a major sports fan. "I am completely obsessed with women's basketball," she says, "especially the New York Liberty." For the book, she was intent on showing what it would be like if everyone was truly into sports—and how that might affect them in various ways.

"There didn't seem to be many YA books for girls about sport, and I know there are just as many really popular female athletes as male athletes," she says. The main character, Charlie, is an avid basketball player and other characters in the book excel in everything from track, to lacrosse, to luge. Growing up, Larbalestier dabbled in fencing, tennis and swimming, and during the Beijing Olympics, she kept a blog tallying each country's medals – and providing her own commentary about which country she thought had won overall.

While the author doesn't believe that fairies actually exist, she wouldn't mind having one occasionally. "I think some people have an extraordinary amount of luck in certain areas that are inexplicable," Larbalestier says. The clothes-shopping thing, for instance: she has a friend like that. "I know a few people who have the opposite, too," she claims, "like a 'getting-ignored-at -restaurants' fairy." Larbalestier wouldn't mind having the clothes-shopping fairy for herself, or she readily admits, a "not-to-procrastinate" fairy. But her greatest wish seems to be a little more time- and space- oriented: "I would really like one that makes the flight from New York to Sydney much shorter," the frequent traveler says. Now that would be a lucky fairy indeed.

Heidi Henneman is searching for her personal fairy in New York City.

Wouldn't it be great if you could always find the perfect parking spot? Or if every time you went shopping, all the most amazing clothes looked perfect on you and were on sale? Or what if you had the ability to stay out of trouble? Or to have a perfect hair day, every single day? […]
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How does an author go from writing about a little French girl in the city to telling tales about young lambs in the country? According to John Bemelmans Marciano, author of the new children’s book Delilah, the stretch from skyscrapers to cornfields isn’t that far.

Marciano, as it turns out, knows about both worlds. His art studio, a converted 100-year-old country department store in Three Bridges, New Jersey, sits across the street from the horse farm where he grew up. Three Bridges is a town, the author points out, where every road is named after the farmer who lived there. Yet less than an hour away bustles the big city of Manhattan.

While the city in this case, Paris provided a backdrop for one of Marciano’s previous titles (Madeline Says Merci: The Always-Be-Polite Book), it wasn’t the inspiration for it. Marciano just happens to be the grandson of the beloved children’s author Ludwig Bemelmans, creator of the adorable character Madeline. In launching his own career as a children’s book author, Marciano paid homage to the grandfather he never knew with the acclaimed tribute Bemelmans: The Life and Art of Madeline’s Creator.

“My grandmother’s living room was devoted to my grandfather’s work,” says Marciano. “The idea [of his first book] was to have a vehicle for all of his works.” Not only was the elder Bemelmans a children’s book author, he also wrote novels and screenplays and was a very successful painter. While rummaging through his grandfather’s things, Marciano came across a full manuscript for a Madeline story with sketches of what the drawings were supposed to look like. Using this unfinished text, he illustrated Madeline Says Merci, a worthy addition to the series his grandfather began.

An accomplished artist in his own right, Marciano started drawing comics at the age of five. Later, as an art history major in college, he wanted to be a painter but also enjoyed writing. “I realized that children’s books are the perfect marriage of art and text,” says Marciano, “and for me it seemed like such a natural thing to do.” So where did the idea for his new character, Delilah the lamb, come from? The headlines, of all places. An article in a news magazine about Dolly, the sheep who had been cloned, got Marciano thinking. “The original idea was centered around what a clone might think,” says Marciano. “What if you’re an individual and everyone else is the same?” In the book, Delilah is the only lamb who doesn’t grow up in a factory farm environment. Instead, as a baby she is placed on a farm with Red, a farmer who treats young Delilah as if she is human. She eats at the table, sleeps inside the house and helps Red do his chores. And she is very happy that is, until the other sheep arrive.

Because she isn’t like them, the other sheep don’t accept Delilah. They eat grass, sleep outdoors and lie around all day. Although Delilah tries to do the things that they do, she is miserable. So, too, is Red the farmer. He can no longer tell Delilah apart from the rest of the sheep. It is not until Delilah regains her individuality that both she and Red can again be content. “I wanted to express the idea that love and friendship can make you happy,” says Marciano. “But just as important, you need to be yourself.” Delilah may be Marciano’s first original character, but don’t expect her to be his last. For his next project, he is heading back to the city and hopes to create an interesting storyline for his new characters. “As with Delilah, I want the story to be thought-provoking for not only the kids, but also for the parents as they read along,” he explains. With the many ideas he has for future books, it shouldn’t be difficult for him to reach that goal. Heidi Henneman writes from New York City.

How does an author go from writing about a little French girl in the city to telling tales about young lambs in the country? According to John Bemelmans Marciano, author of the new children’s book Delilah, the stretch from skyscrapers to cornfields isn’t that far. Marciano, as it turns out, knows about both worlds. His […]
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For most students, playing hookie is a sure-fire way to get in trouble with grown-ups, but the situation was just the opposite for Giselle Potter when she was a kid. The first-time author and veteran illustrator spent much of her childhood traveling throughout the world and skipping school with her parents' permission. In The Year I Didn't Go to School, she shares some of her childhood memories and the lessons she learned outside the schoolhouse walls.

From the time she was a tot, Potter performed alongside her parents in their traveling puppeteer act. She and her younger sister dressed up in costumes and masks that their parents created and were often the hit of the show. The family troupe traveled for several years through such amazing places as Switzerland, Italy and France. "We camped in a truck and performed all over Europe," Potter recalls, "but I just thought everybody did that." It wasn't until much later that she realized what she had experienced and how different her childhood had been from that of most kids.

While some children grow up with memories of going to McDonald's with their parents, Potter recalls tasting the amazing chocolates in all the countries she traveled through. And while some kids fondly remember going to the zoo, Potter recalls people-watching in the town squares of numerous European villages. But even though she had a much more bohemian lifestyle than most kids her age, she was much like other children. She and her sister played with paper dolls and built houses out of whatever boxes and blankets they could find although all this took place in the back of the family troupe's traveling truck. Plus, Potter spent many hours drawing and writing in her journal.

In fact, it was in this journal that she first began illustrating. "My parents were always encouraging me to draw," says Potter, whose grandparents were both painters. "It was a normal thing in my family, and something I always did, but nothing I thought of as a career."

Potter honed her skills at the Rhode Island School of Design, did independent study in Italy and spent time researching miniature drawings in Indonesia before moving to New York City, where she was hired almost immediately by The New Yorker. "I thought The New Yorker was going to be the hardest magazine to get published in," she recalls, "but they were surprisingly supportive and published my work every few months." From there, the going was fairly easy, and Potter fell into illustrating children's books. Her illustrations have appeared in several books for young people, including The Brave Little Seamstress and Kate and the Beanstalk, both by Mary Pope Osborne, The Honest-to-Goodness Truth by Patricia C. McKissack, and Gabriella's Song by Candace Fleming.

But branching into the actual writing of a book was a new thing for the artist. "It was important to me that I still had my childhood journal to look at," says Potter. This journal—started when she was 7 years old—is the basis for The Year I Didn't Go to School. In the book, she incorporates several original drawings from her diary as well as some of her own handwriting. And, of course, because she kept such a complete diary, Potter was more easily able to recall many of the things she experienced during her traveling days. "It's great to look at my childhood from this perspective," she says, and "it's so nice to work with material that I created myself way back then."

In addition to the various cultures and people she experienced, Potter spent every evening doing school lessons in the back of the family truck. "I missed a lot of school off and on during those years," she admits, "but the private school I went to was pretty understanding about it."

But perhaps the biggest lesson Potter learned during her travels was this: Whether you're in a suburban schoolroom or in the back of a traveling puppeteer truck, people are pretty much the same everywhere. And, they like to be entertained something Potter does well in this wonderfully written and humorously illustrated book.

 

Heidi Henneman is a writer living in San Francisco.

For most students, playing hookie is a sure-fire way to get in trouble with grown-ups, but the situation was just the opposite for Giselle Potter when she was a kid. The first-time author and veteran illustrator spent much of her childhood traveling throughout the world and skipping school with her parents' permission. In The Year […]
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Get ready for more adventures with Hoeye's mouse hero.

Take 14 letters from the alphabet, arrange them into an unrecognizable word in 60 seconds, and what have you got? Hermux Tantamoq, the main character of two and soon to be three hit children's books: Time Stops for No Mouse and The Sands of Time.

Author Michael Hoeye, who had taught seminars on creativity but had never written an actual book before, unwittingly discovered the world of Hermux Tantamoq and friends one summer morning at a breakfast cafe in Portland, Oregon. Hoeye and his wife Martha had just picked up an old board game called Anagrams—similar to Scrabble—at a garage sale. While waiting for their food, they drew letters and challenged each other to make up names. Hoeye had just drawn X and Q—two difficult letters to work with—when the idea of Hermux Tantamoq popped into his head. Hoeye saw Hermux as an ordinary but likable mouse who was a watchmaker.

"It was a wonderful moment," recalls Hoeye. "I thought someday, I'd like to write about this character." That someday presented itself two years later when Hoeye's wife, an art and textile buyer, left for Southeast Asia on a two-month business trip. "I wanted to e-mail her every day," says Hoeye, "but after the first day, I realized that just telling her about the weather or what was going on at home was going to be really boring." So Hoeye revived his old friend Hermux and started writing email messages about the tiny watchmaker's life and adventures, creating an entire world around him. Within a week, Hoeye had written nearly 10 chapters, each sent off to his wife as an email.

Meanwhile in Southeast Asia, Martha was reading the stories and sharing them with people in her hotel. "Everyone wanted to know what was going to happen next," remembers Hoeye, "and suddenly I realized I was writing a serial."

By the time Martha had returned from Asia, Time Stops for No Mouse was nearly a third of the way finished, and Hoeye was already scheduled to do a bookstore reading. "I had compiled some of the chapters and passed them around to friends and family," says Hoeye. "One of my friends just happened to work in a bookstore and invited me to come in."

Soon, his originally spiral-bound book was being distributed across the country in paperback, and Hoeye knew it was time to explore more about Hermux. "For the second book, I wanted to focus on history," says Hoeye, "specifically on the concept of how we continually pose answers religiously, scientifically, philosophically yet no one ever agrees."

In The Sands of Time, Hermux's adventures lead him to explore the origins of language, technology and history. In the book, Hermux sets off on an adventure to find a hidden temple that once was ruled by a fabled animal called a cat. The mission is cloaked in scandal and intrigue, because in Hermux's world, cats are myths and terrible, scary ones at that. But don't mistake Hoeye's sojourn into thought-provoking ideas as a lecture on archaeology; this book is every bit as exciting, entertaining and entangled as the first.

And Hoeye's characters continue to engage, delight and surprise throughout their many adventures as well. In fact, according to Hoeye, all of their personalities and idiosyncrasies are inspired by ordinary people. "The bad aspects are taken from people I know, and the good from people I'd like to know," claims Hoeye. "I think it's important to love your villains," he adds, "because without them, you have no story."

Now that Time Stops for No Mouse has been published in 22 languages around the world and The Sands of Time is set to follow suit, it's time for Hoeye to invent more escapades for his wee watchmaker. "I am not sure how many books about Hermux I'll write," admits Hoeye, who is in the midst of writing his third book. "I guess it'll just depend on how many good stories I can imagine for him."

But if Hoeye's adeptness at creating characters from Anagram tiles is any proof of the depth of his imagination, we are sure to be reading about Hermux for a long time to come.

 

Heidi Henneman writes from San Francisco.

Get ready for more adventures with Hoeye's mouse hero. Take 14 letters from the alphabet, arrange them into an unrecognizable word in 60 seconds, and what have you got? Hermux Tantamoq, the main character of two and soon to be three hit children's books: Time Stops for No Mouse and The Sands of Time. Author […]
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Author and independent publisher Steve Tiller claims it all started with his daughter's messy hair. When someone commented that his daughter's uncombed locks looked like they had been attacked by "the tangle fairies," Tiller's first book, Tangle Fairies was born. "An image popped into my head of what a tangle fairy might look like, and it just stuck," says the author. Tiller, who daylights as a real estate developer in Atlanta, hadn't written anything in years when he sat down to compose Tangle Fairies.

"I used to write when I was a child and throughout high school and college, but then I went into business and put the writing behind me," says Tiller.

When the inspiration for Tangle Fairies took root, Tiller realized he had many other tales to share as well. While Tiller was looking for a publisher for Tangle Fairies, he continued to write more stories. And within a short time, Henry Hump 'Born to Fly', Connected at the Heart and Rainbow's Landing were all ready to be published. The publishing process, however, wasn't quite as easy as the writing had been.

Being new to the industry, Tiller thought his best bet would be to attend a book expo and find out what his options were. One publisher he talked to told him that presses may look at upwards of 6,000 books and produce only 10. Those odds didn't sound very good to Tiller, so he decided he might as well do it himself.

"By the time I figured out that the book business didn't really work that way, I had already become a publisher by default," says Tiller. Three years and 16 books later, the gamble seems to have paid off for him. His company, Michael's Mind, a partnership between Tiller and artist Robert Cremeans, has flourished, and Tangle Fairies was a recent BookSense pick.

While his stories are intended for young readers, Tiller has found that parents and older readers take an interest in them as well. The illustrations, created by Cremeans, also tend to keep parents interested. With intricately detailed, incredibly colorful drawings, readers can find something new in the artwork every time they look at the pages.

Although his new and successful publishing business is exciting, it's not what thrills Tiller the most. "I love giving back to kids," says Tiller. The father of three has found that he is happiest when he is sharing inspirational stories and his belief in something larger than himself. "I think it's important for children to understand that they can affect change around them and create joy in their everyday lives," he says. And his books get that point across in fun, creative ways.

Each of Tiller's books highlights a unique, often spiritual message, and follows characters inspired by Tiller's friends and family. For instance, Henry Hump 'Born to Fly' centers on a caterpillar, Henry, who is about to change into a butterfly. "I wanted to focus on how we can adapt to change in a positive way, instead of being fearful about it," says Tiller.

Boat & Wind affirms the idea that we have the ability to communicate with the world around us in more profound ways than we tend to imagine. The soon-to-be published Peach Tree explores the connection between time and patience. And Rainbow's Landing serves as a reminder that we can all make our dreams come true, regardless of how impossible they may seem.

And what about Tiller's personal dreams? "I'm living my dream," he says. "It's not often that you are put in exactly the right place for you as a human being." But Tiller has been, and he has been enjoying every minute of it. Among his list of things to do: Translate his current books into Spanish, share more stories with his fans, and, if the tangle fairies will let him, comb his daughter's hair.

 

Heidi Henneman writes from San Francisco.

Author and independent publisher Steve Tiller claims it all started with his daughter's messy hair. When someone commented that his daughter's uncombed locks looked like they had been attacked by "the tangle fairies," Tiller's first book, Tangle Fairies was born. "An image popped into my head of what a tangle fairy might look like, and […]
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"Call me Uncle Brian," says best-selling author Brian Jacques. Indeed, thanks to the familiarity and ease he exudes during a call to his home in England, it’s hard not to think of him as family—a favorite uncle telling tall tales over Sunday dinner. Jacques’ salty, strong Liverpool accent lends an added effect. He could easily be mistaken for a buccaneer or one of the many seadogs in his adventure books.

Though he isn’t a buccaneer (at the moment anyway), the best-selling author of the Redwall stories and Castaways of the Flying Dutchman, knows much about the high seas. He shares that knowledge in his latest thrilling adventure, The Angel’s Command.

The second book in his Castaways saga, The Angel’s Command follows the eternally youthful Ben and his dog Ned as they travel the world—at an angel’s command—in search of those who need their help. In the first book, Ben and Ned were saved from a cursed pirate ship by the same angel. The Angel’s Command finds the dynamic duo sailing the high seas years later, befriending buccaneers, fighting pirates and narrowly escaping monsters of the deep.

But The Angel’s Command is not just a high-seas adventure. The second half of the book, and perhaps the most intriguing and thrilling portion of the tale, finds Ben and Ned in the mountains of Spain, where they become entangled with a gypsy girl and a murderous tribe of mountain dwellers. Ben and Ned prove that good always wins out over evil as they traverse the hills and vales of the Pyrenees on a quest to save the kidnapped grandson of a Spanish nobleman. Through imprisonment in a dank dungeon, several avalanches, and a face-to-face meeting with evil, the young boy and his dog prove themselves again and again.

Jacques himself is no stranger to adventure. The Liverpool native has experienced more in his lifetime than most of us dream of. "I’ve been around the block a few times," he admits, "but there’s no place like home at the finish." From merchant marine to poet to comedian to folk singer, this author has seen it all—and he has plenty of stories to share.

Jacques’ days as a longshoreman on the quays of Liverpool gave him the inspiration for the Castaways saga. "I have always had a love for the sea," says the author, who grew up hearing ships’ foghorns in the night as they passed in the harbor. "Living away from the sea would drive me crackers."

Jacques is currently working on several books, including a collection of ghost stories entitled Liver Jack and Other Curious Laughs. Although he’s become an international celebrity, fame does not seem to have affected him. During a stop in Boston on a recent book tour, he came across an 11-year-old boy being fitted for a suit in a formalwear shop. The salesman was prodding and poking him. "He looked like he was about to throw up," recalls Jacques.

The ever-thoughtful author went up to the boy, winked at him and said, "That suit looks really smart on you, mate." The boy immediately blushed. A bit later, as Jacques was leaving the store, the boy ran up to him and said, "You look like my favorite author, Brian Jackways." It turned out the boy was a big fan and was planning to attend Jacques’ book-signing the next day. As a special treat, the author suggested that when the boy arrived at the bookstore, he shout out, "Hey Uncle Brian," so that Jacques would recognize him, and he wouldn’t have to wait in line for the author’s autograph.

Uncle Brian suggested the same for me. And I might just take him up on that offer.

Heidi Henneman writes from San Francisco.

Author photo by David Jacques, M.A.

"Call me Uncle Brian," says best-selling author Brian Jacques. Indeed, thanks to the familiarity and ease he exudes during a call to his home in England, it’s hard not to think of him as family—a favorite uncle telling tall tales over Sunday dinner. Jacques’ salty, strong Liverpool accent lends an added effect. He could easily […]

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