Notable children’s author Brian Heinz will read some of his children’s books at the Au Sable Forks Free Library on Tuesday, Aug. 12 at 11 a.m.
“Brian Heinz is a well-known national speaker and presenter, [and] he’s a teacher who offers educational workshops and gives author visits in schools,” said Alison Follos, library director for the Au Sable Forks Free Library. “Parents, children, teachers and people who enjoy children’s literature will enjoy this event.
“We are fortunate to host him.”
For the book reading, Heinz plans on reading “Red Fox At McCloskey’s Farm” and “The Monsters’ Test,” for the children, and “Mocha Dick: The Legend and Fury,” if there’s a good balance of children and adults.
“Red Fox at McCloskey’s Farm” displays a classic conflict between a wildly fox, a sleepy farmer, a grumpy watchdog and a coop full of nervous chickens, which all adds up to a ruckus of ruffled feathers in a rhyming storyline.
“It’s a humorous nighttime chicken raid by a cute, but wildly, fox at Mr. McCloskey’s Farm,” Heinz said. “There’s a lot of mayhem and a lot of humor.”
With the humor, colorful imagery and lively rhythms of Heinz’s poetry, the book comes to life along with its large fold-out pages with oversized illustrations done by Chris Sheban.
Sheban’s illustrations show the sly playfulness of the fox, the frenzied clumsiness of the farmer and the hound and the understandable unease of the chickens, making each page a different experience.
“The Monsters’ Test,” which was named a Children’s Choice by the IRA/CBC, contains humorous and imaginative watercolors made by Sal Murdocca, supporting the comic text in verse and creating a better read for the story lurking inside.
The story takes place at a party at a haunted mansion, where a wild assortment of creepy beasts and ghoulies gather for a night of spooky shenanigans.
As the party got started, so did an argument over who was the scariest, eventually creating an out-scaring contest to determine the winner.
“Each one fails dismally and humorously,” Heinz said.
After discovering that the bumbling monsters aren’t as horrific as they thought, they’re eventually scared by trick-or-treaters, where the story then concludes with a twist by an interactive surprise ending that will be revealed during the reading at the library.
Heinz’s newest title, “Mocha Dick: the Legend and Fury” is a narrative non-fiction picture book that involves the true story of the whale behind the inspiration for Herman Melville’s book “Moby Dick.”
“When Herman Melville was alive, he was hearing stories from sailors coming back ashore about this incredibly large, intelligent sperm whale that was wrecking havoc and sinking ships,” Heinz said. “Basically, he was the hunter, not the hunted, and that’s what set him apart.”
Mocha Dick, a ghostly-pale whale with an eight-foot scar across his forehead, was one of the largest sperm whales that had ever lived. He survived for almost five decades before he was taken by a Swedish whaler.
When he died, they found 19 rusting harpoon heads in his body from all the attacks against him. He was blinded in one eye and had six broken teeth, a story that is shared in different aspect in Heinz’s version.
“The story is riveting and harrowing, a page turner, [and]the book’s illustrations are exciting and intricate,” Follos said. “It will not surprise me if this book is a contender for this year’s Caldecott Medal.”
Since he could read at the age of three and half, Heinz became drawn to the natural world and grew an interest of every bug, spider, snake or furry creature he could find, whether it be in person or in a picture book.
By third grade, Heinz gave up on children’s books and began to read books such as “White Fang,” “Call of the Wild” and all of the Lassie books.
“I’ve been a voracious reader all my life,” Heinz said.
As an adult, he taught science for 28 years in a classroom because of his love of nature and wanting to bring that love to his students, which he eventually left to pursue other things he wanted to do.
However, he’s still teaching classes such as a two-week intensive writing course at Hofstra University in Uniondale on Long Island, along with, during the school year, presenting author assemblies, student writing workshops and staff development programs at schools, libraries and professional conferences in a number of states.
“I have a lot of hobbies and a lot of interests,” Heinz said. “I keep myself amused.”
Even though Heinz enjoys teaching and reading, Heinz’s other two passions, writing and traveling, combines and establishes into his books.
Most of Heinz’s books contain wild animals, sometimes endangered species, and their abilities to survive in harsh and unforgiving environments in tales of adventure and survival.
Heinz often travels to the environments he writes about to see animals in their natural habitat to experience his settings in order to provide rich sensory details to the readers.
“I enjoy my travels,” Heinz said. “To be in a wild element and see animals in the wild, not in a zoo, makes it very rewarding for me.”
His research trips have taken him north on dogsled trips in sub-zero temperatures, alligator nests deep in the Okefenokee Swamp of Southern Georgia, rain forests of Puerto Rico and more.
“I go to meet the people, to see the land,” Heinz said. “I very heavily immerse myself into detail, the feel, the smell, the textures and the languages.
“How can I write effectively about what it’s like to be on a hunting sled with eight racing huskies if I haven’t done it?”
For next year, Heinz’s two new books, “Adirondack Lullaby” and “The Great North Woods,” will be released.
“Adirondack Library” contains a poetic allegory that likens to the music of an orchestra to all the nature’s sounds in the Adirondacks, like the rush of Ausable’s water, thunderclaps, rattle of woodpeckers and trill of the loons.
“The Great North Woods” is to be a lavishly illustrated picture book written in five sets of six rhyming couplets, each that looks at the dawn, waters, forests and life of the Great North Woods, which stretches from northern Minnesota through the province of Quebec.
Also, Heinz is currently working on a middle grade horror/adventure novel, which has yet to be determined when it will be released.
Jo-Jo and Otis, adventurous honor students at Pendrake Middle School, stumble into trouble while fishing on Peabody Pond. They attempt to aid a geneticist, Dr. Lambert, who had been attempting to flee his pursuers with vials of an experimental universal grown hormone that later on had been accidently released into the pond water.
“The incident unleashes not only horrific changes in the simple aquatic life, but opens the doors to a summer vacation fraught with mischief, mystery, mayhem and death and for more adventure than either boy could have dreamed,” Heinz said. “It may sound rather heavy, but the book is infused with a great deal of humor to balance the ‘darker’ moments.”
If anyone would like to buy copies of his already released books, he will be selling, along with signing them for free, some of them during the reading at a discounted price.
For more information on the upcoming book reading, contact the Au Sable Forks Free Library at 518-647-5596 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Heinz’s books, visit his website at brianheinz.com.
“I know they’re kids out there today just like me,” Heinz said. “Being a teacher and a lover of literature, I want them to be exposed to the best language possible.