CSAA Member Re-Launches Award Winning Series
with New Illustrations
by Pattie HartNaus
I’m proud to announce the relaunch in 2024 of the multi-award winning Belden Boy, an anti-bullying series for children that was tied to the discovery of a deserted one-room schoolhouse in the driftless area many years ago.
Why a relaunch? Well, let me begin by saying that this was a passion journey for me, beginning with the reading of the Laura Ingalls Wilder stories from my childhood. The books were given to me in the 1960s as a gift by my grandma, stories that made me long for living in a log cabin in the woods and going to a one-room school in the 1800s. My love for all things that resembled a rustic and simpler life helped to shape the person I would become.
When I was completing my Masters Class in Education in 2003, I was asked ironically to help save the old 1859 Belden School as my last assignment. I couldn’t have dreamed of a more perfect project than to restore a one-room school. I was given two old journals of Belden from 1871 and 1923, that were retrieved from the garbage by a local farmer. I was also given the names of a few elderly students who happened to be part of the class that closed the school in 1943 to consolidation. I spoke with these folks who happened to have stories of going to school in the day; stories that could make you smile, laugh, and even bring a tear to your eye. I recorded those stories and made the Belden students a promise that I would save and record everything that I scribed. I did just that.
This was the beginning of a journey in writing the Belden Boy Series. I came to know my characters as if they were friends:
“Peter McDugal is a boy who is shy, quiet and does what he knows is right. His pal, Franky, is very much the opposite. He comes from a family who is down and out, only child to a sick mother and a failed famer who just doesn’t care. Franky runs through the woods each day, doing what he pleases, and goes to school only if he feels like it. He bullies anyone and everyone, especially his pal Peter. Miss Bishop is a kind and caring teacher who tries her best to talk to the boys about their friendship. But as time moves on, so does she. A new schoolmaster comes to the community. He butts heads with Franky as he is a bully, as well. Then comes Annie. A young girl who travels down from Minnesota with her Pa to the Belden community to live with her Grandpa who is ‘soft in the head’, as they say. She and her pa help the old man until his dying day, but during those days, Franky comes to call. It’s true that Annie suffers from a disability, but that doesn’t keep her down. Her character is strong and intends to do what she can to help the boys. Annie introduces Grandpa to Franky, who intrigues the boy, and teaches him a thing or two about life during the ‘War Between the States’, serving alongside Ulysses S. Grant. Franky and Peter are in awe of the old man and his stories, and smitten with their new friend Annie.”
Each of the four books in the Belden Boy series is told in first person from a different character: victim Peter McDugal in the first two books, Franky, the bully, in the third book, and the girl bystander, Annie, in the fourth book. Series is tied to Common Core State Standards for perspective and figurative language.
So, it’s time to relaunch my old friends in the series Belden Boy, giving them new life with a new look. For me, the stories are a celebration of all the things I loved as a child especially, one-room schools. Let the relaunch begin January 2024!
~P. J. HarteNaus
Whistleslick Press LLC
NOTE: Pattie HartNaus has been a regular contributor at our annual CSA Country School Conferences and has presented a number of topics including the restoration of the Belden School featured in her series. She has also offered a program on how to hold a successful Summer Writing Camp for children in your country school. . Pattie has received two Scholarship and Artistry Awards from CSAA for her fine work covering social issues, but set in a one-room country school. The same issues will resonate today with our young readers.
Access her website below for more information!