1. Memories of Daddy

Memories of Daddy

 

 

 

Leland Victor “Bob” Hicks         

1894 – 1986

 

 

Today I am beginning a new series of memories from my childhood, and the man who helped shape who I am — my father.  He was an amazing role model.  He saved my life.  He was a wounded war hero from World War I.  My sister Jan wanted me to write a biography of Daddy for family members, so he would not be forgotten.

For it is written in Psalm 103:  As for man, his days are as grass, as a flower of the field, so he flourishes.  For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.

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The last time I saw Daddy was 1984 when he was 90 years old.

We were sitting on the porch after dinner, watching the sun slowly go down behind the chicken coop, with the golden rays shimmering through the leaves of the willow tree.  It was completely quiet, not a breath of wind, and a peaceful time we both cherished.

Suddenly Daddy said, “Well, Robbie, I guess we’ve had our day,” then fell silent again.  I was stunned, Daddy rarely said anything personal, and I was so dumbfounded I couldn’t think of anything to say.  The moment passed, and the mosquitos got our attention, and we went back inside.

Recalling Daddy’s declaration, I wish I had replied, “Yes, and what a day it has been!”

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DADDY’S EARLY DAYS

Daddy’s “day” began July 8, 1894, with the announcement:  Leland Victor Hicks was born to John and Gazella Hicks of 558 Union Street, Ionia, Michigan.  Leland has an older brother, Ernest Lee, age two. 

For perspective, in 1903, when Leland Hicks was nine years old, he may have heard the men laughing about those crazy Wright brothers flying a machine at Kitty Hawk, and hearing that the Ford motor company had rolled out the first production automobile.

Danny the Dragon Book Release Celebration

Danny the Dragon Book Release Celebration

Sept 29, 2018 marked the day of the Danny the Dragon Book Release Celebration  at the Elfers CARES Center here in New Port Richey.  There were about 30 attendees, including Rob Marlow, the Mayor of New Port Richey.

Mike, the baker and proprietor of That Little Bakery, the in-house lunch room, baked Dragon Cookies for the occasion and donated half of the money from the sale of the cookies to buy books for Toys for Tots.

Ashley Otis, our artist who illustrated “Danny the Dragon”, came up from Sarasota with her fiancé, Brandon, and her parents.  Ashley shared with the group how she develops an illustration on her touch-screen monitor.  Fascinating to see the progress of a sketch as details are added, then color and shading.

I first shared how I got started writing children’s stories.  It might have been in 2002 when I watched as Betty tried to catch a green toad with a paper cup to put it outside.  That triggered in my memory the bugs and things on the farm when I was a kid, and I wrote a poem about bugs.  Our friend Louise, (in attendance) told me it was good, and I should write more and publish them.    There followed a flood of rhyming stories as I recalled my childhood experiences.

Louise’s encouragement has come to fruition with the publication of the e-book, “Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On the Farm”, available on Amazon, and wherever e-books are sold.

I discovered research documenting that rhyme helped children make the ear-brain connection of sounds to increase phonemic awareness for reading.  I explained to the group that phonemes were the smallest units of sound that have meaning in our language.

I felt that God had given me a purpose, a vision, to use my gift of rhyme to help children learn to read.  This year, 2018, I discovered that 15-20% of children have some degree of dyslexia, a brain malfunction that disrupts the mapping of shapes of letters to the sounds of the letters (phonemes).

That same information led me to the American Dyslexia Association, ADA,  a nonprofit that provides help, and conducts research of dyslexia. I learned that books formatted with open fonts, (like Arial) and no right justification, and no “breaks” or hyphens at the edge, helped children read easier.

After submitting my books to the ADA for their evaluation – Danny the Dragon, Mouse in the Manger, and Tommie Turtle’s Secret, have all been endorsed by the ADA  as being “reader friendly” for children with reading challenges.  The endorsement by the ADA was A HUGE CONFIRMATION that my vision to help children with my stories was real!

I read part of “The Ladybug Known as Lil” to share what the next book will be.

We had lunch at That Little Bakery, where I enjoyed a meatless, crustless, spinach mushroom quiche.  

WHAT A FUN TIME!  We so appreciated all our friends who came to support us!

 

Press Release for Danny the Dragon

Official Press Release from Christian Faith Publishing!

September 18, 2018

Headline
Robert Z. Hicks’s new release “Danny the Dragon” is an exciting children’s story about a gentle dragon who is teased for his kindness—until he becomes an unlikely hero.

Summary of the release
“Danny the Dragon” by Robert Z. Hicks, from Christian Faith Publishing, is an inspiring children’s picture book told in rhyme about a dragon named Danny who isn’t like the other dragons because he doesn’t join in their flame-throwing pranks. When an evil army invades the kingdom, Danny stays to face them while the other dragons flee in fear.

Full release text
“Danny the Dragon” is a wonderful moral story of courage and gentleness. “Danny the Dragon” is the creation of published author Robert Z. Hicks, an award-winning children’s book writer and retired speech instructor from the University of Hawaii. Robert’s vision is to spark a lifelong love of reading in children.

Dramatic illustrations by professional artist Ashley Otis bring the story to life! A study guide is included. The book is endorsed by the American Dyslexia Association for easy- to-read text and formatting.

Hicks writes,
“There once was a gentle dragon.
Danny Dragon was his name.
He wasn’t like the other dragons.
He didn’t make a flame.

The other dragons laughed at Danny
And put him down to shame.
‘You can’t be a fiery dragon,’ they said,
‘When you can’t even make a flame!’

When the other dragons went to play,
But Danny didn’t think it fun at all
To frighten passing folk.

Danny liked to sit in the flowers
And hum with the bumblebees.
He’d sing along with his forest friends
And the birds up in the trees.

Then came an invading army
That was led by a wicked knight.
They surrounded the kingdom’s castle
And were a terrifying sight!

The other dragons ran away.
They were very much afraid.
Danny, the little dragon,
Was the only one who stayed.”

Published by Christian Faith Publishing,

Hicks’s new book is a beautiful lesson for children that shows gentleness and courage are not mutually exclusive.

View a synopsis of “Danny the Dragon” on YouTube.

Consumers can purchase “Danny the Dragon” at traditional brick & mortar bookstores, or online at Amazon.com, Apple iTunes store, or Barnes and Noble.

For additional information or inquiries about “Danny the Dragon”, contact the Christian Faith Publishing media department at 866-554-0919.
ChristianFaithPublishing.com

Danny the Dragon video preview

Danny the Dragon video preview

Click on the picture to start the video.

Christian Faith Publishers made a great video trailer for Danny the Dragon”. Take a look!

Not too early to start thinking of Christmas shopping. Get it done, and enjoy the holidays. A book with a lesson children can learn makes an excellent gift.

Danny the Dragon can be purchased online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon in paperback or hardcover.   

Just type in the search bar – “Danny the Dragon Robert Z Hicks”

IBPA Member Spotlight: Robert Z. Hicks

IBPA Member Spotlight: Robert Z. Hicks

Robert Z. Hicks’ Children’s Books Recognized as Reader-friendly for Kids With Dyslexia
Danny the Dragon art and cover image

Recently, the American Dyslexia Association deemed author and IBPA member Robert Z. Hicks’ children’s books reader-friendly for kids with dyslexia.

Robert went out of his way to seek this approval from the ADA, so it means a great deal to him. This process started when he read Are Authors Giving Up On 20% of Their Readers? by Dr. Theodore Cohen in the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators winter bulletin. In the article, Dr. Cohen shares writing and publishing methods that help children with language-based learning disabilities.

Author Robert Z. Hicks

That article inspired Robert to send an email to the American Dyslexia Association asking for suggestions that would make his books dyslexic-friendly. “A response from their Executive Director gave several suggestions and an offer to look at my books,” says Robert. “I was delighted to send my three books, and to subsequently learn that they had been tested on elementary children and were approved.”

Robert was elated because “it was evidence that my books could help early readers learn to read easier, and it also boosted the market potential for people looking for books to help their children who are having challenges with reading.”

This recognition perfectly coincides with Robert’s mission for writing children’s books in the first place. “My life purpose is to put books in the hands of children that will entertain, and teach a life lesson, and, hopefully, inspire kids to love and develop a life-long habit of reading. I was woefully ignorant about dyslexia, and after discovering how widespread it was, I thought making my books easier to read would help all children.”

Robert has authored three children’s book so far. He published Danny the Dragon through an independent publisher, and he published Tommie Turtle’s Secret and Mouse in the Manger on his own. He’s now working toward publishing his next book, The Ladybug Known as Lil, next year.


Three Questions with Author Robert Z. Hicks

IBPA: What are some helpful tips you can give other writers and publishers to make their books more reader-friendly for people with dyslexia?

Robert Hicks (RH): These are the basics for books aimed at the mass market:

Select a sans serif font, such as Arial

Chose a ragged edge rather than right justification.

Don’t put “breaks” or hyphenated words at the right margin.

Format with extra space between lines, and have enlarged letters.

Put text on a plain background to avoid “noise” and visual entanglement.

I would also suggest rhyming stories or rhyming poetry because rhyme helps [children with dyslexia] recognize the sound patterns of letters.

IBPA: What inspired you to write children’s books?

RH: Frankly, I had no intention of writing children’s books. I thought I was retired. Then I watched my wife chasing a little green tree toad, trying to catch it to put outside. That started me reminiscing about bugs and things on the farm. I was inspired to write a rhyming poem about times I would listen to the bugs when I hid in the grass under the apple tree.

A friend told me, “Mr. Bob, this is good, you should write more, and publish them.” There followed a flood of inspiration during which I wrote forty or more rhyming stories related to memories of critters and experiences I had as a youth on the farm. I published the best of those in an ebook, Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On the Farm.

When I discovered that rhyming helped children with reading, I felt God had given me a new purpose, and the gift of rhyme to achieve it.

IBPA: You published two of your books on your own, so as an author publisher, can you give three key lessons that you’ve learned that will help other author publishers along their journey?

RH: First, put your ego aside. Take what you write, or want to write, to other author groups to help you discern or confirm what is publishable. Most libraries have author groups, or join an organization where you can get unbiased critiques.

Second, understand that marketing a book is the hard part. Even before publishing, build a “platform”, so you have an audience waiting.

Third, build a team; don’t be a ‘lone ranger.’ Going the distance to the goal is more attainable if you have encouragement and help from others.

IBPA: Thank you for sharing your story with us!


Learn more about Robert Z. Hicks’ children’s books here.

123. End of Once I Was a Kid

123.  End of Once I Was A Kid

Last week was the Conclusion of Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On the Farm.  It was delightful and nostalgic to relive and share with you memories from my youth on the farm, especially with wild pets and animals.

My favorite and most successful wild pet was Bandit, the raccoon, and of course Barney the crow.  Riding Smokey, my pony, was always an adventure.  There were several dreaming places, The Fantasy Forest at the back of the farm, and by The Pond at the west end, and the closest, just “disappearing” in the grass under an apple tree to listen to bugs perform their Springtime Symphony.

I wrote these memories because they inspired rhyming stories that capture the imagination of the experience.  These are published as an ebook, Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On the Farm.

You can get the ebook to download to your cell phone, computer or tablet for $0.99 on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.  Go to their website and type in the search bar – “Once I Was A Kid Robert Z Hicks” – to bring up the book.

OR  use the link below to all the ebook digital stores where Once I Was A Kid is available.  Click on the digital store of your choice.  Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook),  Apple (iBooks) etc.

https://www.books2read.com/RobertZHicks

I received feedback expressing regret that the memories were ending, that they had enjoyed sharing my memories.  The good news is that this book was only the memories that had a poem attached, and there is ANOTHER book of memories, not published, that I can share. 

Memories of Daddy are my memories, and my Dad’s life, seen through my eyes, is a journey of an amazing man who lived through a time of incredible changes. 

Daddy, Leland Hicks, was born in 1894, saw combat in WW1, watched a man step on the moon, raised two kids,  (myself and my sister Jan) and lived to age 92 living on the farm near Ionia Michigan.

Next time, we’ll start the story.  

122. Wild Things – Born Free

122.  Wild Things –Born Free

Looking back on what I learned from Mom as I experienced adventures with the wild things while growing up on Grandpa’s farm, I remember that Mom always wanted God’s wild creatures to be free, and to imagine how you would feel, if you were in their place.

 

BORN TO BE FREE

The grasshopper fiddling;
Fiddling with glee;
Created by God,
And born to be free.

Frogs in the pond;
The owl in the tree;
Created by God,
And born to be free.

Bunnies in the garden;
Their tracks that I see;
Created by God,
And born to be free.

Barney the crow;
Walking with me;
Created by God,
And born to be free.

Skunks in the forest;
A big bumblebee;
Created by God,
And born to be free.

All of God’s creatures;
Born to be free.
I’m God’s creation;
How about me?

CONCLUSION

My journey with imagination and empathy is not over.  Using my imagination to better understand people and have empathy for what they are feeling has helped me over the years.  It has helped me have better relationships with family and friends, and improved my teaching by enhancing my understanding of my students.

It has been a lifetime of years since I lifted my foot to stomp on the ants.  I cherish the memories of happy times during my childhood on Grandpa’s farm.

I continue to use my imagination to enjoy God’s wild creatures, and to practice the presence of God in my life.

This concludes my book, “Once I Was A Kid, With the Wild Things On the Farm”.  Next I’ll share memories that are NOT in the book.

The whole book is available as an e-book and can be purchased for $0.99 that you can download to your computer or cell phone.

Use the link below to all the ebook digital stores where “Once I Was A Kid” is available:
Amazon (Kindle), Barnes & Noble (Nook), Apple (iBooks)

https://www.books2read.com/RobertZHicks

Click on the digital store of your choice to get to the book.

121. Fantasy Forest – A Place to Imagine

121.  Fantasy Forest – A Place to Imagine

Across the highway, way in the back of the farm in the extreme northeast corner, some trees had been left standing.  Bushes had grown up around the outside of the trees blocking any view of inside.  When I slipped inside the bushes, it was like stepping into an enclosed room roughly fifty feet long full of poles.  Low branches had been trimmed, and high branches arched across like a green cathedral ceiling with many leaves blocking out the sky.

A thick mat of dry brown leaves covered the floor of the tiny forest, and that covering, along with limited sunlight, probably accounted for almost nothing growing under the trees.  It was so quiet I could hear the hum of insects.  I would lie on my back on the mattress of dry leaves and stare up at the green ceiling and trace the golden rays of sunlight that occasionally snuck through a hole in the leaves to spotlight something on the floor.  I would dream of being in the jungles of Africa, or paddling a canoe up the Amazon, or sailing a boat in the South Pacific.

This was a perfect hideout for a young boy.  A secure, secluded green-leaf cathedral hidden from the real adult world, where fantasy could become the reality of the future.  It was a place of dreams where imagination could be set totally free; truly a tiny fantasy forest!  

I wish I had gone there more often!

 IMAGINE THAT! 

Let’s take a peek at God’s creation,
Through the window of imagination.
Close your eyes. What do you see?
You can be anywhere you want to be.

Imagine you’re an eagle way up high,
Soaring in the African sky.
Hear elephants trumpet and lions roar;
See crocodiles basking on the shore.

A tall giraffe looks really neat.
His ears are a long way from his feet.
But imagine what an awful note,
To be a giraffe with a bad sore throat!

Imagine a polka dot hippopotamus.
Now that is just preposterous!
He’s a big gray tank that’s always clean;
He swims underwater like a submarine.

Speaking of something quite preposterous,
Imagine a red and white striped rhinoceros.
Thundering over the African plain,
His red and white horn like a candy cane.

Imagination is the golden key,
To anything you want to see:
A blue and white zebra wearing a hat,
Monkeys in the jungle, or a big black cat.

Can you imagine that?  

Danny Goes to the American Library Assoc. Conference

Danny Goes to the American Library Association Conference

Danny the Dragon made his first major public appearance last month at the American Library Association’s annual conference displayed at the Independent Book Publishers booth!

As a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), I was able to send them a copy of Danny the Dragon to be included in their vendor booth at the conference.

The following is IBPA’s summary of the event.

More than 12,400 librarians attended the American Library Association’s annual conference in New Orleans from June 21 to 25, 20018.  This was in addition to the more than 5,100 exhibitors.

IBPA’s cooperative booth had an impressive footprint on the show floor (40’ x 10’), and the professional signage and shelving made a proud showroom for the more than 200 books from IBPA’s publisher members.

IBPA’s built-out booth with professional signage – and members’ books – looked polished and well-presented.  

Danny the Dragon was front and center, cover facing out, with the other children’s picture books.  (Look for Danny in the picture on the left.)

We are hoping that when librarians review the catalogue that lists all the books on the IBPA display, – we’ll get orders.  Our wish is that children all over the United States and Canada will find Danny the Dragon in their libraries, and enjoy his story.              

The Trail of the Dragon

The Trail of the Dragon

What follows is one of the articles I wrote for the American Dyslexia Association detailing how I discovered them, and received their endorsement.

In the process, I learned more ways to help children, especially those with language-based challenges, to learn to read.

My children’s rhyming story picture book, Danny the Dragon, was at the Page Design department of my publisher when I picked up the SCBWI winter Bulletin. An article by Dr. Theodore Cohen PhD, “Are Authors Giving Up On 20% of Their Readers?” caught my attention.

Dr. Cohen discussed things that helped children with language-based learning disabilities, especially those with dyslexia.

Some of the things that Dr. Cohen mentioned, like a font that keeps space between letters, (sans serif) spacing out lines of text, and enlarging the text, I had already implemented in my previous books. These readability elements help any child, not just those struggling to read. Prompted by his article, I informed our publisher we wanted Arial font which is sans serif, and no right justification which can create irregular spacing between words.

An email to the American Dyslexic Association asking for suggestions for making my book “dyslexic friendly,” resulted in a response confirming our choice of font, and giving a suggestion to avoid “noise” behind letters, such as text over artwork.  I was pleased that the American Dyslexia Association offered to look at my books.

I was delighted to receive a message from the American Dyslexia Association with the information that they had “tested” my books on school children.  One girl said “she was delighted.” In fact, the girl asked for two of the books to be read again! My books, especially Danny the Dragon, are now approved by the American Dyslexic Association.

A serendipity occurred when I went online to see the Open Dyslexic font that Dr. Cohen mentioned. I found an article by dyslexia expert Dr. Guinevere Eden, a professor at Georgetown University, and director of its Center for the Study of Learning. In the context of discussing the lack of research validating “dyslexic friendly” fonts, Dr. Eden stated: “The fundamental problem of dyslexia is in mapping the shapes of letters to the right sound units or phonemes.”

The ”right sound units or phonemes” jumped out at me, because I had already learned that rhyming helps children make the connection for phonemic awareness! And, my books are stories in rhyme!

Another search of rhyming and dyslexia uncovered research by Usha Goswami, Professor of Cognitive Developmental Neuroscience at Cambridge. Dr. Goswami asserts: “Children who are dyslexic struggle with speech rhythm.” She suggests that children can overcome dyslexia by learning nursery rhymes, dancing, and singing, because the condition is caused by lack of rhythm patterns in the brain.

Rhyming with rhythm is what I do!

Robert Z. Hicks, aka “Mr. Bob”, is author and publisher of rhyming-story picture books, including “Danny the Dragon,” and the award winning “Tommie Turtle’s Secret,” winner of Best Children’s Book and Book of the Year in the Florida Writer’s Association’s Royal Palm Literary Awards competition.

Mr. Bob’s vision is to help children learn to read, and develop a life-long habit of reading. You can view his work at: www.robertzhicks.com

Link to the blog of the American Dyslexia Association.

The Trail of the Dragon by Robert Z. Hicks

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There are simple things that you can look for when shopping for children to find books that are easier to read.

Rhyme or not, you can:

Look for letters that are separate, not run together. Enlarged letters are better.
Chose books without right justification, which causes irregular spacing between words.
No “breaks” or hyphenated words at the right margin.
Extra space between lines is desirable.
Text is on a plain background, and not superimposed on artwork.