Welcome to Mr Bob’s Blog!

BOBWelcome to Mr Bob’s Blog!

Welcome to Mr Bob’s Blog!  This is an adventure in interacting with YOU, so we can get acquainted, share experiences, and have fun together. Hit the “Reply” button and share your experience or comment on what I’ve written.

The Blog idea started with a question posed at my 80th birthday party. “80 years old?  Really?  How did you get to be 80?”

I answered the question by sharing how God has protected, provided for, and “pushed” me through the years to prepare me for His purpose to be a children’s author.  I sensed a feeling of purpose when I discovered that my gift for rhyming can help children learn to read.

I’ll add some unique experiences that most people wouldn’t know about that gave my life extra adventure and additional value.  And I’d like to hear what adventures and experiences have added value to YOUR life!

Let’s throw in fun things along the way – to build a “community”, or “family” of people who love the Lord and are enjoying life.

“Reply” and let’s enjoy the journey!

5. Memories of Daddy – Souvenirs

5.  Memories of Daddy – Souvenirs

 Daddy brought an amazing number of souvenirs from Germany, along with the vase from France I mentioned last time. I wanted to share with you the interesting stories behind some of them.

The “churchwarden” or in German, the ”Lesepfeife” or “reading pipe,” was a tobacco pipe with a long stem. Obviously, the longer distance the smoke had to travel made for a cooler smoke, and kept the smoker or reader away from the smoke and heat from the combustion.

 The metal in the middle with the stripes at the top may have had something to do with Daddy’s rank of Corporal, and his grade of “Musician”.

The medal on the leather strap was the Michigan National Guard. The medal with the bars attached had a name of a battle on each bar, such as “Meuse – Argonne” the major decisive battle I mentioned in Blog # 3. 

The Purple Heart is recognized by most people, and was awarded because Daddy was wounded by the arial bomb. 

When I found these German marks showing 100,000, I thought maybe we were rich. Wow!

Checking, I found out they were of no value, because wartime currency was out of date.

4. Memories of Daddy – Home from the War

 4.  Memories of Daddy — Home from the War

WW1 ended in November of 1918, and Daddy was shipped home the following February.  He mentioned “liking” the Germans, so must have been in Germany after the Armistice was signed.  

Daddy was discharged from the army May 23, 1919, at Camp Custer, near Battle Creek Michigan.

Pictures of Daddy’s unit and the army band were on the wall of the large bedroom downstairs.  When and where the pictures were taken is not known.

Daddy came home with an amazing number of souvenirs, so I’m guessing he had many in his tuba case. 

In our possession is a small very colorful Millefiori vase.  Millefiori means “Thousands of Flowers.”  The vase contained a small rolled up paper with the words, “Melli Feri France” written on it.  The paper and the vase are now 100 years old!  An amazing keepsake that Daddy brought home for Mom.

Whenever we had salmon, Daddy refused to eat it.  Mom told us that Daddy’s platoon was caught behind enemy lines, and found an abandoned German boxcar on an isolated side track. It was loaded with cans of salmon.  While they waited a week for American troops to break through, all they ate was salmon.  Daddy declared he would never eat salmon again.

When they returned home, Daddy and his buddies formed a “Last Man’s Club,” and agreed to meet once a year as long as they lasted. They met at the luxurious Pantlind Hotel (now the Amway Grand Plaza) in Grand Rapids, Michigan; brought in a keg of beer, and played poker until the beer was gone.  One of them came from Arizona.  Daddy always came home with $30 to $50 that he won at poker.  Daddy was the last man, surviving after the friend in Arizona could no longer make the trip, and there was no one left to play poker.

3. Memories of Daddy – Off to War: WW1

 3.   Memories of Daddy –  Off to War:  WW1

Leland/Bob/Daddy enlisted in the Army National Guard in Ionia, Michigan, February 7, 1916.  More than 9,000,000 men turned out to register for the draft and join the military, and often were met with bands and cheering crowds.  Going to war was “glamorous.”  Mom told me that if a young man did not volunteer, he might get yellow paint splashed on his front door and porch.

The picture at right is Daddy with Ferne Howe before he left for the Mexican border.  They were married in 1921, two years after his return from the war.  It must have been hard on Mom for him to be gone for three years, and she not knowing if he would return.

England and France had been at war with Germany since 1914 without America being involved.  Anticipating America’s entry in the war the National Guard was sent to the Mexican border on the pretense of catching Pancho Villa, a notorious Mexican bandit.

Daddy said it was to get them ready for combat.  Villa killed more than 30 Americans in a pair of attacks in 1916.  That drew the deployment of a US military expedition into Mexico, but Villa eluded capture during the 11-month manhunt.

Daddy’s only story from that time was when they put a giant Bull Snake in a guy’s sleeping bag because the guy was afraid of snakes.

Daddy was shipped to Brest, France, and was assigned to the 126th Infantry, Headquarters Co. as a medic, and playing tuba in the band.  

He first was in combat at Alsace France, and was in the final and biggest battle of the war at Meuse-Argonne. (Meuse is a river, Argonne a forest)   At Argonne, the allied forces attacked through rough, hilly, heavily forested terrain with 260,000 men on a 30 mile line.  They were opposed by 40 German divisions, estimated to be a total of 600,00 men.  In six weeks, the American forces lost 26,277 men killed, and 95,786 wounded

Daddy was discharged from the army May 23, 1919, at Camp Custer, near Battle Creek Michigan.

Even after age 90, Daddy could rattle off the names of places in Germany where they went.  He told the story of a German biplane flying over with the man in the back throwing grenades down.  Shrapnel hit Daddy’s leg; he would show us the big scar.  He was awarded the Purple Heart.

 

2. Memories of Daddy – the Early Days

 2.   Memories of Daddy – The Early Days

Mom told me Daddy was an all-around athlete in high school, and was captain of the football, basketball, and track teams.  He broke the school record for pole vault at a track meet.  Opposing football teams and fans learned “Leland” and “Ernest,” and began heckling them. Daddy and Ernest took the nicknames of Bob and Steve to confuse them. The names caught on, and they kept using them.

In the basketball team picture, Daddy is center left in the grey shirt. In the football team picture, he is lower left.  I am guessing that he was wearing a different shirt than the others because he was the captain.

 

After high school Daddy and Steve played baseball for the Ionia team, with Steve as pitcher, and Daddy as catcher.  Because Mom was so laudatory of Daddy’s playing baseball, I thought he played for the Detroit Tigers. 

Daddy and I played “catch” in the driveway.  I had an old glove so thin that it hurt my hand when I caught the ball, so Daddy let my use his old catcher’s mitt, which was probably two inches thick, and as big around as Mom’s apple pie.  But, to catch the ball, it had to hit the center hole in the middle of the glove.  Most of the time, the ball hit the glove outside the hole, and bounced away, so I had to go get it.

Leland’s (Bob) first job was Janitor at the Ionia State Savings Bank, where Steve was a bookkeeper. Then Steve went to school, and Bob moved up to bookkeeper.

1914-15, Daddy’s father John worked for the International Harvester Company, repairing farm equipment. The records show that John Hicks, acquired a farm south of Ionia in 1900, with 160 acres, and had 3 children, 6 horses, 20 cattle, and a Ford.  Nothing was ever said about Daddy and Steve having a sibling, so she/he must have died young.

Because Daddy had been so involved with sports in high school, I wanted to please him by playing sports.  I went out for everything.  In baseball, I didn’t know I needed glasses, so I couldn’t see the ball coming in time to hit it.  In football, I was too small, and I didn’t like getting hurt.  I was on the third team in basketball, but my arms didn’t seem strong enough to get the ball to the basket.  At last, I played all season on the tennis team, but we never won, so I didn’t get a letter.

My career in sports was embarrassing, but Daddy seemed proud that I did well in music, working my way to First Chair trumpet in the marching band.  After I was paralyzed, the band director put me in a tuba on a stand, so I could play in the concert band.  Daddy bought a stand, so I could practice at home with his big tuba.

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.

**************************

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!”

    ***

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.