Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Babe To Teens, Past
A YOuth Column
By Beverly Rowe

    Mike Kearby talks about his Old West books for Young Adults

    Inspiring your kids to read

    Your children's reading time definitely has competition, and especially this time of the year when they are deeply involved in school activities and sports. Their free time is taken up by friends, video games, television and electronic toys. So how do you get them to focus their interest on good books?

    • I know that your time is limited, too, but take time to read aloud. Kids love having someone read to them, and share the experience. Even older children enjoy sharing that time with you...take turns reading to each other, and then discuss the story.
    • Do you have a reading nook? A quiet corner furnished with a bookcase, some large pillows, stuffed animals, and a tape or digital e-book reader stocked with some recorded books might be just the thing for your family.
    • Take kids to the library on a regular basis, and let them pick out their own books. Each child should have their own library card. You might be surprised at their choices! Watch for special events in your library such as story hour, book clubs, and speakers to help capture a child’s interest in books.
    • Set a good example, and read books that you think your kids might like, then share special tidbits with them about the books that you read, and when they express an interest, offer to let them read it next.
    • Plan extra activities based on a book you are reading. Make hats that the characters might wear. Do extra research projects on the culture of the characters...Indians, pirates, pilgrims, the queens and kings...whatever sounds like fun. Let the kids help to cook food that goes along with the newest reading project.
    • How about a book reading slumber party for older kids? What fun to make up games that go along with the book of the evening.

    Share ideas with other parents and with teachers and may enjoy these projects as much as the kids do.

    Mike Kearby has always worked to promote excitement in reading. He has taken his interest in kids and Texas history to a new level in his trilogy about the role that African Americans played in the winning of the West. I asked Mike about his books and his commitment to good reading for is what he had to say:

    Bev: Could you tell us a bit about yourself...a mini biography?

    Mike: Sure. First, let me say thanks to you and MyShelf for this interview. I began my work career as a reading teacher in the Texas public school system. I taught school for ten years. After that time I worked in the "corporate" world for twenty some years. During my corporate world career, I received five patents for products related to landscape irrigation technology. I retired in 2005 to pursue a lifelong dream of writing.


    Bev: Tell us about your road to publication?

    Mike: I was very lucky with my first novel, The Road to a Hanging. I prepared myself for a long wait and many rejections, but four great things occurred along the way. First, a small press in Austin, Texas published the novel. Second, I was fortunate to meet my publicist, Stephanie Barko, also of Austin, through my editor. Third, Stephanie worked diligently to obtain a review of the book by a major entity, which immediately gave the book credibility. Finally, the review was read by an editor at Dorchester Publishing and I was offered a contract soon after.


    Bev: When I was a kid, there weren't many really exciting action/adventure books for kids, and since I wanted to be a "cowboy" when I grew up, I read everything I could get my hands on by Zane Grey and Max Brand. (Wow, did I ever date myself there!). Why did you choose to write for young adults, and why westerns?

    Mike: Being an ex-reading teacher, I still have many friends who are teachers. From discussions with my teacher friends, I came to understand that many kids were simply not reading for "fun" anymore. What I mean by that, is the kids read what the schools offer - from a list - for a grade. Prior to writing The Road to a Hanging, I met with school librarians and asked them what they wanted and needed in their school libraries. Their responses were very telling. The librarians wanted: (1) Books that appeal to boys-grades 7-12. (2) Books of diversity in regard to the protagonist. Being an avid Texas History buff, I decided to write a trilogy of books with an African-American protagonist. I don't consider my books to be Westerns; I consider them Texas History books.


    Bev: The role of African Americans in taming the west has been largely ignored by novelists. Tell us about developing the characters, Free Anderson and Parks Scott.

    Mike: You are right about the role of African-Americans as cowboys. One-third of all cowboys in the West, were African-American. One-third were Anglo and one- third were Hispanic / Native American. Developing the character, Free Anderson, was quite easy. Free is a mixture of two famous Black Texas cowboys and frontiersmen, Boze Ikard and Britt Johnson.


    Bev: How much research did you have to do in developing the plot lines for your novels?

    Mike: For each of the books in the trilogy, I spend about four months of research and two months of actual writing.


    Bev: I know that you do a lot of hands-on promotion of history and reading in speaking at schools and libraries. Tell us about the reaction of teachers and kids to your books.

    Mike: Teachers have told me that having an author talk to their students about reading, gives credibility to their message. Whenever, I speak at a school, I always ask the librarian and teachers, "What do you want me to reinforce from what you are currently studying?" I also make sure at each presentation; I show the kids books from their school library that pertain to the presentation subject matter. After I leave it is very simple to measure the success of my visit. I need only check back with the librarian a week or so later and see if kids are going to the library to check out the books shown to them.


    Bev:You were working to help fund a memorial to the soldiers of the 62nd and the 65th Colored Infantry. How is that project coming along?

    Mike: The Soldier's Memorial is complete. I have included a photo of the Memorial for you. It is truly fitting to honor the men of the 62nd and the 65th. They saw beyond their own hardships of living as freedmen in post Civil War America and recognized the need for an institution that would provide all ex-slaves with the necessary skills of reading and writing. I encourage everyone who travels to Missouri to visit the Memorial on the campus of Lincoln University.


    Bev: Will Free Anderson and Parks Scott be in any future novels?

    Mike: I have plans for one last novel with Free and Parks. I see the novel set in 1925. The men would be in their late seventies. I envision a beginning similar to the one presented in Little Big Man.


    Bev: What are you working on now?

    Mike: My latest novel is almost complete. And believe it or not, it is an Apocalyptic Sc-Fi thriller entitled, The 13th Baktun. I began the novel in May after speaking with middle school students about what they like to read.


    Bev: What advice do you have for kids who want to be writers?

    Mike: Read! Read! Read! When I speak to kids at the schools, I always begin by stressing the importance of reading. If you read regularly, you will learn how to write . . . and write well. After that, writing is like any other activity. The more you write, the better you get.


    Bev: Do you have any other thoughts you would like to share with your fans?

    Mike: Yes. For school kids, reading develops your imagination. And imagination is the fertile ground of invention. Who knows what you might envision because you read. Somewhere in one of our schools today may be the person who cures cancer through a pill, discovers the beginning of the universe, or brings about world peace. And all because you read!


    Bev: Thanks so much for sharing with us, Mike. Here is the photo of the memorial to the soldiers of the 62nd and the 65th Colored Infantry. It is on the campus of Lincoln University, which was started by these soldiers to help former slaves to be educated.

    The Road to a Hanging
    By Mike Kearby

    Trail's End -- Sept 22, 2006
    ISBN: 097884226X
    Trade Paperback
    Teen/Young Adult

    Buy a Copy

    Review by Beverly J. Rowe,

    George Anderson was born a slave, but with the advance of the Union Army, he saw his chance and ran away to join them. As a member of the 62nd United States Colored Infantry, First Regiment, George was known as "Free" Anderson. He became friends with Parks Scott, a white Lieutenant who had offered to teach any man from the 62nd to read and write.

    Now the Civil War was ending, and Anderson was at the Boca Chica in Texas. A confrontation makes an enemy of Corporal Jubal Thompson, who is a cowardly ruffian. They are destined to meet each other again, only this time Thompson is a rogue Sheriff carrying out his vow of vengeance against Free. Jubal and his cohorts frame Anderson for cattle theft, and Free is convicted of the trumped up charges, then thrown in jail to await hanging. Thompson hadn't counted on the young black woman, Clara, who was attracted to the prisoner, and brought him food. Then, along with Parks Scott, who is now a mustanger, Clara helped Free to escape. Jubal Thompson vows to re-capture Anderson and carry out his hanging sentence along with prosecution for anyone who helped him.

    Kearby's research is evident in the accuracy of the historical detail in this exciting saga. Wild Bill Hickok, George Armstrong Custer, Charlie Goodnight and other real-life characters join the fictional Free Anderson and Parks Scott as they contribute their legends to western lore. Mike Kearby is a master at characterization and plotting and keeps the suspense sharp right up to the satisfying ending.

    The Road to a Hanging is the first book in a trilogy that follows the last battle of the Civil War when ex-slaves realized that freedom was often an empty word, and a state that was hard to gain. Intended for a young adult audience, Kearby's saga of the winning of the west and the role that African-Americans played in that great adventure would be enjoyed by adults too.

    Ride the Desperate Trail
    Book 2 - Free Anderson/Parks Scott trilogy

    By Mike Kearby

    Trail's End Books-- March 2007
    ISBN: 0-9788422-7-8
    Trade Paperback
    Teen/Young Adult/Western

    Buy a Copy

    Review by Beverly J. Rowe,

    Ride the Desperate Trail continues the saga of Free Anderson and Parks Scott whose friendship began when they were in the Union Army. Free Anderson is an ex-slave, and Parks is a white mustanger. Free has married Clara and the two of them are establishing a Texas homestead.

    Free and Parks are on a rescue mission when a couple of rogue outlaws, bent on revenge, kidnap Free's wife and kill his mother, who also lives at the ranch. The action is non-stop and the suspense in high gear as the two follow the trail left by the outlaws. The pregnant Clara, putting up a fierce, innovative fight against the men, is taken through the Sand Hills of Texas to the Guadalupe Mountains. A band of Apaches are also after the outlaws, and manage to kill both men. Clara is then taken prisoner by the Indians, one of whom plans to make her his slave. They travel to an Apache winter camp in the Big Bend country, with Free and Parks in hot pursuit.

    Mike Kearby manages to give us great insight into the minds of the heroes, the outlaws and the Apaches in this exciting adventure of the Old West that is laced with accurate historical detail. The characters are compelling, and the multi-level plot keeps the action in high gear right up to the exciting climax.

    Mike includes a glossary in the back of the book with word, phrase, and name meanings in English slang, Comanche, Spanish, and Apache languages. There is also a page of discussion questions to help gain better understanding of the history and theme of the story.

    Ambush at Mustang Canyon
    Book 3 of the Free Anderson, Parks Scott trilogy

    By Mike Kearby

    Trail's End Books-- June 28, 2007
    ISBN: 0-9788422-0-0
    Trade Paperback
    Teen/Young Adult
    Buy a Copy

    Review by Beverly J. Rowe,

    This final book of the Free Anderson-Parks Scott trilogy finds the men caught up in conflict as the U. S. Army and the various Indian tribes battle over territorial rights. Ambush at Mustang Canyon tells the story of the struggle to settle the West and accurately shows the motivation and issues of all the players in the great historical drama. It's mainly the story of one man's struggle to live in peace and raise a family in post Civil War Texas, but also of the unique friendship between a black ex-slave and a white ex-soldier that rounds up and sells mustangs. Free now has a homestead, and he and his wife, Clara, have a small son, and another child on the way. That story is told within the conflict involving the U. S. Army, the buffalo hunters, the Mexican rustlers, and the Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne Indians, all of whom have different viewpoints of the desired outcome and the way it should be accomplished.

    Real characters from history join the two fictional characters in the skirmishes, and Kearby lets us see it from various viewpoints. Anderson and Scott don't always agree with the U. S. Army, but are committed to upholding the law of the land in trying to outwit the enemy in a way that results in the fewest casualties on both sides.

    Ambush at Mustang Canyon is an electrifying, fast action story that is historically accurate, written for young adults, but with enough excitement to interest adult western and history fans. From the first attack on the freighter, Britt Johnson, through the battles of Adobe Walls, Lost Valley and Buffalo Wallow, Free and Parks are caught up in the conflict and in frequent danger of losing their own lives.

    Mike includes a glossary in the back of the book with word, phrase, and name meanings in Kiowa, Cheyenne, Comanche, and Spanish languages. There is also a page with author's notes on history and a page of discussion questions to help gain better understanding of the history and theme of the story. Your reluctant reader would enjoy this exciting series.

    Some of my favorite Internet links:

    Do you have a computer for your children's use? Here is an exciting resource that I found on the Internet. This site has over 1,500 children's books available to read online, and it's free. The site is user friendly and password protected. Just click on this link to check it out and get started: International Children's Library

    If you love sports, you will love to read Matt Christopher books. Here is a fun All-Star Trivia Game that is great fun: Matt Christopher Official Website

    Here is a site to get exciting bookmarks, crafts, coloring pages and other activities to go along with some of your favorite children's books!

    Here are a couple of Curious George bookmarks that I found there...print them, cut them out and use them in your books. Share them with friends.Go to this site for a printable template:


2007 Past Columns

Mike Kearby

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