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How Do We Live With Our Mortality?

Author Interview William Loizeaux

Into the Wind follows a young boy who, while fixing up a sailboat, befriends his elderly neighbor. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

When I was a boy, I had a feisty, independent, widowed and elderly aunt who was an artist and loved sailing.  As she aged, she didn’t seem to mellow or retire or relax, but seemed to come even more alive, to throw herself with increasing energy at what she loved, even as that became more difficult.  She painted with a trembling, arthritic hand.  Some weeks before she died, she managed—in a wheelchair!—to get herself into a small boat and, with the help of someone who held the rudder, sail through some rough weather.  That was the germ of Into the Wind

Was there anything from your own life that you incorporated into Rusty’s and Hazel’s relationship?

Yes.  There is a certain amount of my relationship with my aunt in Rusty’s relationship with Hazel.  Like Hazel, my aunt was odd and demanding—you might even say cantankerous.  We rubbed each other the wrong way.  But she took an interest in me, and slowly I took an interest in her and came to appreciate her quirky sense of humor, the challenges she faced and the wisdom she had as an aging woman who mostly got around in a wheelchair.  We became unlikely friends.

What were some themes that were important for you to explore in this book?

The main theme was intergeneration friendship.  How could that happen between a boy with his life ahead of him and a woman near the end of hers?   What might connect them?  What might each of them gain from that connection?  

Our mortality is another theme, something that children from eight to twelve are beginning to grapple with.  By then they may have lost a loved pet or, worse, a relative.  How do we think about that?  How do we live with our mortality?  Maybe Hazel shows Rusty a way.  Sadly, life comes to an end, but it can be filled, like Hazel’s, with curiosity, fun, humor, generosity, growth, energy, friendship, love, wonder, and meaning—all of which might be passed from one generation to another.  I hope that’s what readers feel and understand when they finish Into the Wind.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I write books for children and adults, and I’m usually working one or the other, or sometimes both.  At the moment, I have an adult nonfiction draft on my screen and parts of a children’s story in a folder on the side of my desk.  When might they be available?  I don’t know, as I haven’t finished them yet.  Sometime soon.  Fingers crossed.  Information about my previous books is available on my website.

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A character-driven novel about the unlikely friendship between a 10-year-old boy and an elderly woman. The old woman badgers the boy into taking her sailing, but when the weather turns bad, it becomes a wild sail. It becomes the last trip before she goes into the hospital where she dies: but not before the two of them share memories of their last sail together. Hazel helps build the boy’s confidence during a tough time in his home life. Both moving and joyful, Into the Wind is a poignant story about loss and love in a boy’s life, and the surprising and sustaining bonds that can grow between the old and young.

A Calf Named Brian Higgins

A Calf Named Brian Higgins, written by Kristen Ball, is a child-friendly story that addresses serious and interesting topics, including poverty, different cultures, friendship, mourning death, and personal development. The story follows Hannah Higgins, a typical grumpy teenager from suburban New York who is dragged to the plains of rural Kenya to visit her Uncle, Brian Higgins, while he is there doing charity work. Leaving behind her comfortable American lifestyle for one that is drastically less comfortable poses many challenges that Hannah needs to overcome, such as limited access to fresh water. By spending time with the local people and being immersed in the culture, she slowly understands why her Uncle loves Sauri so much.

This story answers a couple of important questions. How would a typical white teenager react to going into rural Africa? And what does it take for that teenager to change their perspective on their life? Ball tackles both of these questions in a way that is simple enough for children to understand but sophisticated enough for all ages to appreciate. This is a story of personal growth. Hannah goes from a naive and unworldly teenager to an individual who begins to value her life, others around her, and opportunities wholeheartedly.

Ball’s debut novel was written based on her experiences of being the first westerner to live in Sauri, the Kenyan village where her story is set. Therefore the book touches on many of her first-hand experiences, enabling her to paint a far more vivid and authentic landscape of an environment many Westerners (especially children) are likely not to be familiar with. Ball’s spin on the story’s events helps to give the story a more genuine and sincere feel. The reader is not being presented with a shallow story from someone with limited knowledge of these complex topics. Still, they’re experiencing the insight of someone who lived under these circumstances.

A Calf Named Brian Higgins is a fantastic novel to introduce children to heavy and challenging topics, such as poverty or entitlement, in a simple and engaging way. It’s essential for children to be exposed to several cultures and walks of life, and reading this novel with them and discussing it would be a great starting point.

Pages: 272 | ASIN : B07DNKC7G4

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Into the Wind

Into the Wind by William Loizeaux is a children’s story about how an unlikely friendship develops between a young boy and an older woman in a wheelchair. It takes place during a difficult summer for both on the island where they live. After Rusty’s mother is admitted to an inpatient treatment facility on the mainland for depression, Rusty’s neighbor gives him an old sailboat that he works on repairing and learning how to sail. Hazel is a widow whose family lives far away on the west coast, and she hires Rusty to do odd jobs around the house for her to earn a bit of money. As they spend time together, the two find that they share an unexpected connection. 

The author has an engaging writing style that will draw readers into the story. The main character is relatable and believable, with a sometimes humorous point of view. This heartwarming story takes place on an island, and the author’s descriptions of the boats and water paint a vivid picture of the quaint tourist town where Rusty and his family lived. I could easily imagine the smell of the sea and the sound of the seagulls as they flew over the boats tied to the dock as though I was experiencing what Rusty did in the story.

I learned a lot of interesting things about sailing while reading this book, and I liked that various sailing terms were explained organically throughout the story for readers who are not familiar with sailboats. The author also includes a glossary of nautical terms at the end of the book. Watching the friendship between Rusty and Hazel is magical. Two people so different, in different stages of life, can find common ground and connect on a deep emotional level. They are both going through some challenging moments in their lives, and spending time with each other helped them cope.

This memorable book includes illustrations by Laura Jacobsen. They are done in shades of gray, like pencil drawings. They really add to the story as they are sparsely used and added to key moments in the story. My favorite was the image of Rusty pushing Hazel through the park with cards clipped to her wheelchair wheels. The innocence and simplicity of the scene remind readers to hold onto the small moments in life.

Into the Wind is a middle grades level chapter book. This emotional story deals with friendship, compassion, death, and grief. It is a wonderful story to help kids learn about love and loss and about the importance of treasuring the moments you have with people.

Pages: 138 | ASIN : B08PDGZRXS

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THE HEART OF A LION: AND THE BODY OF A CAT

When a young lion cub is often sick, it is hard to stay in on the days when he feels better. One day, the young cub was feeling ok and decided to run out and play. The next day he was sick. It took a long time for him to get better again, but he ran back out to play as soon as he was able to. The cub’s parents have warned him to stay inside when the weather is terrible, but he would not listen. He just knew he had to run and play as hard as he could while he felt good. The next day the cub was sick again. This time it took longer for the cub to get better. Will the little cub, learn how to play safely so he does not keep getting sick?

The Heart of a Lion: and the Body of a Cat is written by Shani Night and illustrated by Reggie Howard. Together they tell the story of a cub that is battling an illness. While the cub’s illness is never stated, the story is inspired by the author and illustrator’s own little girl that has Sickle Cell Anemia Disease. This book is written for all the children that must fight a debilitating disease each day. Knowing the background for this amazing story made it even more emotional to read.

This picture book is filled with images that range from cartoonish to fine line drawings that look like the lions could jump off the page. However, the contrast of illustrations is appealing, and children will find the bold color of the characters accompanying the story to really draw them into the narrative.

The Heart of a Lion: and the Body of a Cat is a heartwarming picture book for children in preschool through elementary school age. It is a fantastic way to open up discussions on disabilities that are not something you can see on the outside. It is an inspirational children’s book that will help kids fighting diseases like Sickle Cell Anemia to know they are not alone and are seen.

Pages: 79 | ASIN : B09R6T6K13

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Erift’s Journeys: Secrets of The Sealed Forest 

Joseph and Eric can’t wait to start their summer vacation filled with video games and pizza ’til sunrise. But when the two best friends receive an unexpected invitation to try out the most anticipated game of the year at an exclusive tropical island resort, they jump at the opportunity. However, once they arrive, they are thrown into a fantastical adventure where nothing is what it seems. Friends and foes must be sorted, puzzles deciphered, and their own hidden abilities discovered. They will have to fight with all they have because life is not a video game, and there’s no respawning.

In Erift’s Journeys: Secrets of the Sealed Forest, author J.T. Tenera gives us a “finding one’s true self” adventure filled with action and video game references. The main characters go through various settings trying to stop an evil force from being released into the world. There are moments of calm in the book while the main characters enjoy a tropical vacation and meet new friends, followed by fast-paced danger when they encounter enemies much stronger than they are. The heroes are never guaranteed a win in their fights and end up seriously hurt at times. Characters “level up” throughout the book, just as video game characters would. In fact, the book is filled with references to video games – “tutorials” where they learn about hidden abilities and magic spells, new weapons and items found during quests, and a band of characters with specialized skills.

Younger readers may also connect to game streaming references, with one of the main characters trying to build a subscriber base. I felt at times there were many cryptic messages and long-winded explanations that didn’t add much to the storyline. Young readers will find characters they can identify and relate to, such as the arrogant, wealthy classmate with a posse and a slightly crazy scientist/professor with exploding inventions.

Erift’s Journeys: Secrets of The Sealed Forest ends with many questions unanswered. This is the perfect lead-in to the next book in the series. This coming-of-age novel for young adults will entertain them with action and adventure on a topic they love, video games.

Pages: 297 | ASIN : B09DMFR44V

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Leaving My Comfort Zone

A.G. Flitcher Author Interview

Boone and Jacque: The Brothers’ Odyssey follows three teenage friends as they try to find their way back home; along the way, they must search for and find their lost companion while facing unknown dangers. What was the inspiration for the setup to your story?

I do a month or two of reading, ground work and research for every book I write. For this installment of the series, I researched autism because I wanted to make sure the character, Flint, wasn’t Hollywoodized in terms of the symptoms of Autism. I watched VR simulations of what it’s like to have autism. Mini documentaries and TED talks showing the continuing and evolving study of this neurological disorder. They say there is no definitive answer to where the disorder came from. And no cure. But there is Applied Behavior Analysis. Which is exemplified in extensive research, therapy and even television. I also watched the show Atypical. A Netflix series focusing on a teen character named Sam who has autism. Throughout the series, his symptoms become more focused in terms of where he is on the spectrum.

Outside of research, I incorporated memories from family vacations. These are quite rich in detail, so if anyone would like to hear about them, I am working on a Youtube series called Stories with AG Flitcher. Where I tell stories about my life that inspired scenes and elements of relationships in this ever evolving series. Nevertheless, I will share two things. The different types of environment came from my experiences being at the Mediterranean Sea, Red Sea and the miles and miles of desert in between Cairo (the capital) and whichever destination my family and I arrived at.

One story that I didn’t film that inspired a long walk in the Dolov desert, was the time my family and I were stuck in the middle of a desert for 9 hours. The car had a flat tire and finding a tire repair shop was hard to find. It was 45 degrees Celsius, no shade, dry and the backseats had no seat belts.

Lastly, the characters being casted away from the town, is a mirror symbolic moment of me leaving my comfort zone to find my truth as a writer and human being. Leaving the comfort of routine, familiarity, safety nets and doubt was necessary because it meant I had to find what scares me and face it head on.

What character did you enjoy writing for? Was there one that was more challenging to write for?

I would say I enjoyed writing for Flint the most because I’ve worked with people who have autism, heard stories from friends who work primarily with children with autism, and interviewed parents with children who have autism. Hearing and seeing the community of autism helped me to see what it was like to be wired differently than the neurotypical person.

However, the most challenging character to write for was Boone. Because Jacque is far more wise, and therefore his journey is different in terms of growth. Shammy is Boone’s guiding light to growing up. I didn’t want Boone to be exactly like me or grow up like me. My readers, who know me personally, say he is similar to me. So in book 3 and 4, I have him grow to be someone far more courageous yet lost than I am. In addition, he doesn’t develop the same personality as me when he becomes my age.

When you first sat down to write this story, did you know where you were going, or did the twists come as you were writing?

I’m unconventional when it comes to developing plot points. I come up with a rough storyline and then start writing. In fact, for book 4, I stopped writing a rough storyline because I didn’t know whether or not there was going to be a book 5. Which there will be.

For this book though, book 2, I did structure it a little more but not the plot twist. These books take me typically 6 to 8 months to write while I work a full time day job as a maintenance worker at a zoo. So while I’m working, I daydream about plot twists. Therefore giving me the same surprise as the reader. When I revise I’ll add details and tweak plot twists to my liking, but not knowing what they are ahead of time keeps it fresh.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I’m working on book 4 of the series, Cytrus Moonlight. It will be out late 2022. I also wrote what I call “writing doodles” on the keynotes app on my phone for book 5. In which it will take place on a fantasy island that has creatures and trees representing the main characters regrets and fears. The only way they can escape is if they confront them and see fear as an important emotion that helps us do better in life. The tentative title for book 5 is Grotto Island.

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Boone, Jacque and Shammy have been casted away to a wasteland under King Reeve’s control. In which they must find Flint on their journey back home. Even though the repercussions could be disastrous and heartbreaking. What is much worse, and far more unpredictable, is the kind of home they could be coming to.

Dear Daughter

Dedrick Moone and his daughter, Haelee, have conquered many things in their life together. From the separation and divorce of Dedrick and Haelee’s mother to the car accident that almost ended his life, Dedrick and Haelee have managed to find strength in one another. Their relationship is a truly special one. From her birth to their ultimate move far from the only home they both have ever known, the pair battle everything life throws their way with grace, dignity, and incredible resilience. Dedrick’s love for his daughter and his determination to keep her safe and supported is unmatched.

Dear Daughter, by Dedrick L. Moone, is a poignant personal story of the author’s relationship with his young daughter. This beautifully constructed children’s book/memoir details every joy Moone experienced from finding out he would soon be a father to winning a hard-fought custody battle which allowed him to give Haelee the life she so wanted. In addition, Moone includes each of the challenges he and his daughter faced. He sugarcoats nothing, and his honesty is appreciated. Moone’s work will touch the lives of more families than he will ever realize.

Moone grew up without a father and was determined to not fall into the stereotype of an absentee father that plagues the African American culture when it comes to divorce. His goal was to be present for all the important moments in his daughter’s life and this collection of letters shows that devotion. The letters are not all joyful and positive memories, instead, they show the real challenges he faced including going to jail. The darker memories are still told in an age-appropriate way that is not scary for children, rather factual and honest.

Dear Daughter: A Love Story, will show readers the intense love and admiration Moone feels for his daughter. It can be felt on every page of this heartwarming account of their lives. This heartwarming picture book is highly recommended to any parent who has faced overwhelming challenges in raising their children. Moone and his daughter give readers something that is difficult to find in today’s world–they give us hope.

Pages: 57 | ASIN : B09QZG1YFV

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Andi’s Valentine Tree

Andi loves to dance; all they can think about is ballet and dance class. Going to school is not fun; their classmates pick on them. Andi has two friends that they count on to make them smile, their squirrel named Lou and a unique tree that they name Gloriana. This tree comes alive for Andi, watching them dance each day. One day the school bullies follow Andi and try to hurt them. Gloriana moves her branches and protects Andi. The bullies yell that if Andi loves the tree so much, the tree can be their Valentine. When Valentines Day comes, Gloriana has a special surprise for Andi and their classmates.

Once Upon a Dance is a mother-daughter team that has created the Dance-It-Out series. This unique children’s book is more than just a cute story. It is choreographed with dance movements that children can do as they read through the story. There are beautiful photographs of each pose, and the story explains the movement’s name and how to do it as part of the narrative. The dance lessons are integrated right into the story. Even beginner dance students can pick up the basics by following along in this magical story. Emilia Rumińska breathtaking illustrations will draw readers in, while the photographs of Ballerina Kornora make the poses look easy.

Aside from the dance movement, this story tackles challenging topics like bullying, inclusion, and self-worth for younger children. Written for three to nine-year-olds, the topics are covered in a gentle manner that younger kids can understand. The authors did a great job explaining how Andi felt at school, and what they could do to feel better when they are lonely and anxious.

Andi’s Valentine Tree: A Dance-It-Out Creative Movement Story for Young Movers is an inspiring story put together in a uniquely creative way. The dance lessons and heartwarming story will make this children’s book appealing to a wide variety of readers.

Pages: 44 | ASIN : B09QS9QVT4

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