Thursday, May 26, 2016

Summer of the Wild Horses: Chapter 1

One of my mother's favorite things to do was to give us a "taste" of a new food. She said she was "developing our palate". Here is the first chapter in my new book, Summer of the Wild Horses. Take a few moments to read it. If you like this book, it is available for purchase on Enjoy!


Kayla adored horses. They were her life. She dreamed about them, read about them, drew pictures of them and thought about them all of the time.
“One day, I’m going to have a horse of my own,” she told her friends. However, inside, she knew her dream was only a fantasy. Where could she keep a horse? After all, her family lived in an apartment. They did not even have a backyard.
In school, some of the girls told her about a summer camp just outside of the city limits.
“They have lots and lots of horses,” her best friend Caron said. “Campers get to ride every single day.”
Kayla imagined herself going to summer camp and riding every day. She decided to ask her parents.
“We’ll see, dear,” Mother said when Kayla told her about the camp.
“It’s too early to plan your summer vacation,” Dad said. “Why, it’s not even Christmas yet!”
Halloween came and went, followed by Thanksgiving. When Kayla’s grandmother asked everyone at the dinner table to tell one thing they were thankful for, Kayla beamed.
“I’m thankful for the Double D Summer Camp, ‘cause they have lots of horses and let their campers ride every day,” she said.
Grandma just smiled and said, “That’s nice dear. Now Jimmy, it’s your turn. What are you thankful for?”
“Turkey legs!” her brother blurted out. That was the end of the discussion.

Making a Memorable Memorial Day!

Summer is just around the corner. For many, school is out, or it is nearing the end. Memorial Day is the holiday that usually signals the beginning of summer vacation. It was one of my family's favorite holidays. We usually got up early and headed downtown to get a good spot to watch the parade. Since we lived in a military town, the Memorial Day Parade was a very big deal. There were lots of floats, marching bands and military units. My brother even marched in it a couple of times with the Boys' Clubs of America (This was before it became the "Boys and Girls Club"). We were so proud of him. I was five years younger than Jim, so my dad would lift me up on his shoulders and hold me high so I could see my brother march by, holding the Boys' Club flag. It was a very special occasion.

After the parade, we would either go to the city park for a Memorial Day picnic with our church group or we would have a family cookout in our backyard. The menu was always the same: hot dogs, potato chips and watermelon for dessert. My dad always invited some of the sailors who were stationed in Norfolk and who didn't have families in town or homes, other than on board their ships. It was always interesting to visit with them and learn about where they were from and some of their holiday traditions.

Most of our family lived in North Carolina or Florida, but for a few years my Uncle Bob was the pastor of a church near us. It was always a special occasion when they would join us. Uncle Bob, Aunt Retha and their children, Carol, Bobby, Buddy and David were full of fun and energy. My parents would entertain my aunt and uncle and Jim and I would take care of the cousins. We would play outside all day, ending the evening with a rousing game of "Hide and Seek" and finally capturing lightning bugs and putting them in jars with the lids poked full of holes. It was indescribable fun. My parents, brother, uncle, aunt and two of my cousins are no longer with us, but Buddy and David and I try to get together on occasion, or at least stay in touch, even though we now live hundreds of miles apart.

Making memories is one of the most important things we can do as parents and teachers. In thinking about this post, I researched books about Memorial Day. Although there are books on the shelves that take on this topic, I did not find anything that I was thrilled about, which leaves an opening for a children's book author to pen a really good piece to fill this somewhat empty hole. Instead, I decided to concentrate on books for the summer.

As a child, one of the things I looked forward to in the summer was having the time to read to my heart's content. There are books that still touch my heart when I see their titles, simply because they helped fill my summer days with joy. I loved books about Spin and Marty and anything Disney. The day the Book Mobile arrived was a red-letter day. I was in total heaven! That is the euphoria I wanted my children to feel when they entered the library. Today, I want my grandchildren to experience that same feeling. Books are not just entertainment--they become personal friends, friends we will have for a lifetime.

So as you get ready to celebrate this upcoming holiday, make plans with your children to get library cards and schedule a regular date with the library. Your summer vacation will be enriched and your children will grow as a result.

If you should have a child who likes horses and is reading chapter books now, take a look at my latest book, Summer of the Wild Horses. Set on the Outer Banks, this story tells about one family's summer vacation and how an injured wild horse changed their lives forever. I do hope you will get it (available on and read it together.

I also hope you will do some research and share the story of Memorial Day with your kiddos so they will come to appreciate it's importance to our society. Plan a special day--have a picnic, go to a parade, have a pet parade (if you don't have any local parades to attend), but do something special to make a memory. Find some veterans and make "thank you" cards to take to them. If there is a military cemetery in your local, check with the caretakers to see if you can help place miniature American flags on the tombstones to celebrate the day. If you investigate this holiday, I'm sure you will find a very special way for your family to celebrate--something that can become a family tradition, and a memory that will last a life time.

Have a Happy Memorial Day!

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Ode to a Bunny

Life Lessons:

Writing is hard work. I know, some of you are snickering and saying to yourself, "Sure it is, ha...ha!" But it is true. At the end of a day of writing, not only is my brain fried, but my body feels like I have been run over by a truck.

At the same time, writing is incredibly rewarding. Seeing your work in print is like having a sugar and adrenaline rush--it is addictive! That's one of the reasons writers, like myself, spend so many hours pounding away at the keyboard, or daydreaming in the porch swing. We love the process, from the first inspirational idea, to the tedious struggle with editing--it can be so rewarding.

I love to write for children. That is my passion, although I have tinkered with the idea of writing a couple of books for grown ups. Some of my friends think that writing for children is the easiest kind of writing. But, once more, they are wrong. Writing a compelling and heart warming story for kids is probably the hardest type of writing ever. So when an author gets it right, they should be praised.

That's what I want to do in this blog--give kudos to those authors who choose to write for our little ones, even though they may never be selected for the New York Times Best Seller List, or bring in the big bucks. This week I was inspired to choose my feature book by a painful incident in our home.
About a month ago, when coming home from work late one night, my son was greeted in our front yard by a little brown bunny. You guessed it--by midnight, we had a new pet. We did attempt to find its owner, but finally decided that Bunny had been turned loose by someone who had tired of taking care of it.
Thumper was a true Velveteen Rabbit.
Chris named it Thumper. Yes, literature has played a strong role in our household. Thumper hopped into our hearts with her sweet personality. Even my husband was enamored by this little fur ball. The only household member not impressed was our cat Rocket, who saw Thumper as her next meal.
Life for Thumper was good in the Hurst household. When Chris went on vacation, I took on the responsibility to care for our little Velveteen Rabbit. That was a big mistake.

To make a long story short, the day after Chris returned from his vacation, Thumper was taken ill. I offered to take her to the vet, who promptly informed me that Thumper was a "he" and not a "she"!
In spite of our vet's encouraging words, Thumper died that night. The entire house was heartbroken.

The next day, I bought a replacement bunny, who proceeded to disappear from his cage. We named him Houdini. He is skin and bones beneath a heavy fluff of soft brown fur. His future is unknown, other than we are happy to have him.

Houdini is a little ball of fluff!


This story brings me to my book recommendation for the week. Thumper, whose coat was a cocoa brown velvet, reminded us of one of our favorite children's books, The Velveteen Rabbit, by Margery Williams. This tender story tells about a little boy's love for his stuffed toy. It is truly a classic tale that is a must read aloud. In the same theme, Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt, and, of course, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter cannot be forgotten. Then, we must not forget Margaret Wise Brown's book, The Runaway Bunny. The list goes on and on. Many authors have taken these characters and written new adventures for youngsters to enjoy.

Not to leave out the chapter book readers, we must include one of my favorite novels, Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery, by Deborah and James Howe. After reading this tale, Halloween will never be the same. 


Today, while taking a break from my keyboard and pile of dirty dishes in the sink, I sat down in front of the television. I had been thinking about recipes that could accompany books whose main characters were rabbits. Carrot cake immediately came to mind, but I decided that might be too complicated for some parents, let alone children--and their teachers! Then I thought about a simple veggie platter featuring carrots, radishes, and the kinds of foods mentioned in Beatrix Potter's stories. Ranch dressing makes them taste oh, so good, I was sure that children would love to eat them. About that time, a commercial came on and I knew I had hit the jackpot. Bluebunny Ice Cream! It was so simple--there are all kinds, from Popsicles to MooseTracks. The best part was all of the things that could come from eating this product!


Can't you see it now? "Bluebunny Meets The Velveteen Rabbit" or "The Runaway Bluebunny." What kid could resist writing a story about this character? The options are endless--and the ideas abundant with all of the examples of bunny tales in your local libraries. I would love to see the end results! For inspiration, check out this web site: 

Make a book! Trace a bunny shape on a piece of tagboard and cut out covers and pages to make shape books for these stories. Children will learn the Five Steps of the Writing Process by creating their own Bluebunny books. Display the finished books on your library shelves next to their kindred stories. This will do wonders toward helping your children fall in love with both reading and writing!

Plant a Bunny Garden: Research foods that rabbits love and plant a container garden. Children can enjoy both planting and caring for their garden. Older ones might enjoy keeping a garden diary where they record of how long it takes from the initial planting until they can eat the produce and other important information. Learning to garden is a science all its own. Linking it to literature makes it even more fun!


The ideas are infinitesimal! Beginning with sock puppets, kids could create their characters and retell their stories using these adorable homemade puppets. Here is a URL you might want to check out:

Piece de Resistance:

Lastly, since you have come this far with the bunny theme, why not check with your local animal shelter and see if there is a sweet ball of fur available for adoption. Kids in your classroom will do anything to get a chance to hold your live "Bluebunny" and read it a story--or better yet, read bunny THEIR own story! Bunnys are easy keepers--they don't need vacinations and are docile pets. They do require a bit of cage clean up on a daily basis, but kids learn a lot about life and responsibility from taking care of a pet. Many children do not have pets at home. Worse, many have never been taught how to care for a pet. It provides life lessons that you cannot find in a state curriculum. Those of you who are involved with Common Core--talk about "deep reading"-- have the kids research how to care for their pet. Motivation is key to learning--and Bluebunny activities offer enormous incentives for kids to engage in learning. It's a win-win opportunity!


If you do decide to take up the challenge, whether it is only to read these classic tales and write stories, please take a moment to share some of your experiences with me and the other followers of my posts. We are hoppin' to hear from you!