Letter to students, written for Scholastic:(1993)
Dear Girls and Boys:
So many of you have asked me to write more about 'Booky', and since 'Booky'
grew up and signed off in "As Ever Booky", I decided to write a book about her
little brother, Billy, instead.
Billy was only six-years-old at the conclusion of the "Booky"
series, so he never really became a character in his own right.
In "Hawk and Stretch" Billy is eleven-going-on-twelve. His nickname is
'Stretch' because he is always the tallest, skinniest kid in his class. "A
stiff wind would blow you over!" his older brother, Jakey, delights in taunting
him. Billy's best friend is Danny Thunder. His nickname is 'Hawk' because he
is one-quarter Mohawk Indian.
When I first began this story I decided to interview my 'little' brother,
Billy, and find out what he remembered about his childhood. Well, all
sorts of shenanigans came to light..some that would curl your hair..and
some too mischievous to mention.
The time period is during the war years (1943-1944) in contrast to the
depression era in which Booky grew up. But the setting is still the same,
Swansea, Ontario, and the Thomson
family still live on dead-end Veeny Street, and Mum and Dad are still Mum and Dad.
The story, however, is as much Hawk's story as it is Billy's.
The action moves between the two homes. The boys, coming from very
disparate backgrounds, gave me the opportunity to compare two completely
different families and lifestyles.
In fact, Danny and Billy (Hawk and Stretch) are such opposite personalities
that you would wonder how they became friends in the first place.
That's what the story is about..their unique friendship, with all its
problems, pitfalls, jealousies and even fights and how they resolve them in the
I hope you enjoy the adventures of "Hawk and Stretch"..two boys who, despite
their totally dissimilar natures and backgrounds, forge a bond so strong it
lasts a lifetime.
Your friend, as ever,
Bernice Thurman Hunter
Dear Arrow Readers,
Once again I have written a story about a real live girl. And once again
I have set my story in the past.
Amy's promise is based on my cousin's childhood memories. When she was a
very little girl..only six-years-old..she made a very important promise to
her dying mother. And for the rest of her childhood, perhaps even for the rest
of her life, she has tried to keep that promise.
All my books, without exception, take place in the past. And lucky for
me, today's kids like to read about how it was in the 'olden days'. Of
course these stories, although based on real life and real people, are categorized as fiction because fiction, plus my imagination, is the glue that holds
the storyline together. And embellishments (there's a big word for you!) are
what gives the characters flesh and blood and brings them to life.
I hope you will like Amy's Promise because I am busy writing another
book about the this very special family. It think I'll call it Janey's Choice.
Dear Arrow Readers,
Those of you who know me as 'Booky' (Boo-key) will already know that most of my stories are based on real life and real people and that they are set in the past.
For instance, Booky, is based on my own childhood during The Great Depression. And Lamplighter is my father's story, set in the late 1800's. In the Margaret series you find out what life was like in the 20's. And the adventures in The Railroader and The Firefighter take place in the 1940's and 50's.
During my school visits, the question I am most often asked is: "How do you remember what happened so long ago? That stuff is history!" (Imagine my amazement when I discovered that my life is now considered history!).
Well, there are many ways to recapture the past, but one of the best ways is to ask someone to share their memories with you. And that's how I came to write Amy's Promise.
I was always fascinated with my cousin Amy's story, and I was grateful to her for giving me permission to fictionalize and embellish it. (There's a couple of nice big words for you!)
Amy is twelve years old when the story begins, but she was only six when she made an important promise to her dying mother. And that is the theme of this story: how Amy copes with that promise.
My mother used to say, "Amy has a hard row to hoe." I hope you'll read the book and find out how she hoes it.
February 27, 1998.
Dear Girls and Boys of Ms. Stewart's Class:
I must apologize for not writing this letter by hand. I always used to, but now I have arthritis in my fingers and I find typing is easier. Also, in the past couple of years I had some unexpected health problems and hospital visits which slowed down my writing. But I am okay now and my computer is full of ideas.
Thank you so much for your wonderful letters. I read every one with avid interest and a lot of smiles and chuckles. As I read I made a list of your questions and I am going to try to answer them all. Here goes:
1. Yes, there will be a sequel to 'Amy's Promise'. It is about her little sister, Janey, and will be published this summer. I think the title will be 'Janey's choice'.
Also, I have another book finished and another one growing in my computer.
2. Where did 'quick as you could say Jack Robinson' come from?. I don't know where it originated but my mother used to say it all the time.
3. Was my family happy with the'Booky' books? That's a good question. They were happy for my success, but one brother (I won't say which one) said, 'the books cut too close to the bone'.
4. 'Hawk and Stretch' was based on my youngest brother's lifelong friendship with 'Hawk'. 'Stretch' (Billy) is the baby born early in the Booky books. The two boys were totally opposite in nature, but they stayed friends for life.
5. Yes, Margaret is real and alive and well. Who could invent a character as special as 'Margaret'? Her real name, by the way.
6. Was Winnie Plum a real person? Again, yes. She was Amy's cousin and best friend.
7. I did have tea with L.M. Montgomery and it happened exactly as I wrote about it in 'As Ever Booky'. I also have a letter from her in it's original envelope with a two cent stamp in the corner.
8. No, there won't be a sequel to 'Hawk and Stretch'. Billy can't remember any more anecdotes so it would be all fiction and I like my stories to be based on facts. However, for my boy readers, I am now working on another book in which the protagonist is a boy. He is a friend I visited recently in England and his life story intrigued me..so..I'm going to try to capture it, with the help of my imagination. Wish me luck!
9. Why do I write? For the same reason that some people skate and others sing and others dance. It comes naturally I guess.
10. Yes, I'd love to come to your beautiful island again. If only someone would invite me!
11. You asked me about my style of writing. I don't know how to answer that. I can only say that I have to get inside my characters and really know them. I guess that makes me a realist.
12. I wrote what I considered my first book when I was fourteen. It was called 'Victoria, the girl who never told a lie in her life'. (she was even more prissy than Pollyanna!). I printed it neatly at least twenty times, then I took it to L.M. Montgomery. What a nerve! Sad to say I didn't save it.
13. When do I do my writing? I spend a couple of hours at my computer in the afternoons. I used to write much longer hours but I am (I hate to admit it) getting old and I am slowing down. But I never intend to give up.
14. Last question: Am I proud of myself? Gee, that's a hard one. I guess I am a little bit, but I'm never very sure of myself. When people ask me 'what are you working on now?' I never answer directly. It's almost as if, if I tell it won't come true.
Well my dears, that's all for now. I have to clean up my desk before I start my new story because it looks like a cyclone hit it.
(The desk, I mean, not the story!)
With love to you all,
Bernice Thurman Hunter
From Bernice Hunter
Dear Readers, (Letter for Internet)
Those of you who know me as "Booky", pronounced Boo-key by my mother, will already know that most of my stories are based on real life and real people and that they are set in the past.
For instance, Booky is based on my childhood during The Great Depression. And Lamplighter is my father's story, set way back in the 1800's. In the Margaret books you will find out what life was like in the 1920's. And the adventures in The Railroader and The Firefighter happen in the 1940's and 50's.
During my school visits, the question I am most often asked is: "How do you remember what happened so long ago? That stuff is history!" (Imagine my surprise when I realized that my life is now considered history!)
Well, there are many ways to recapture the past; one of the ways
that worked best for me was to ask someone to share their memories with me. That's how I came to write Amy's Promise.
I was always fascinated with my cousin Amy's story and I was grateful to her when she gave me permission to write it.
Amy was twelve years old when the story begins. But she was only six when she made an important promise to her dying mother. And that's what the story is all about: how Amy copes with thatpromise.
Why I wrote Janey's Choice:
Since the publication of Amy's Promise I have been deluged by letters full of questions about Amy's family: What happened to baby Janey? Did she ever come home again? Did Amy ever become a famous pianist? And her brothers, Mikey and Patty and Harry, what did they grow up to be? And their father, the handsome and querulous John Phair, did he get better or worse? And whatever became of cranky old gramma?
Well, the only way to answer all those questions was to write another book. So that's what I did. The name of that book is Janey's Choice.
Janey was just a tiny baby when her mother died, so her Aunt Bessie, her mother's older sister, and her husband, Uncle Wallace, took her home to live with them in Winnipeg.
Then, when Janey was eleven years old she had to make a momentous decision: a decision that would affect the rest of her life.
I hope you'll read Janey's Choice and find out all about it.
Activity suggestions for the readers of 'Janey's Choice'
The next time your teacher asks you to write a story, and he or she says you can choose your own subject, try writing about yourself or a member of your family. Maybe your parents or your grandparents or one of your cousins will have an exciting story to tell.
All of my stories are based on real people and real events and I find that truth is almost always more fascinating than fiction. Interview your 'characters' on a tape recorder (that's what I did with both 'Amy' and 'Janey' and I was thrilled to find that I had captured their personalities in their voices). Need I add that Amy and Janey are my real-life cousins, twice removed?
If you have an artistic bent, and would like to do your own illustrations, find some old snapshots of the characters you've chosen to write about and create your own bookcovers. (I've often wished I was an artist so I could do that very thing!).
These are just suggestions, of course, you may have much better story ideas. So, go ahead, blend fact with fiction and let your imaginations soar!
December 16, 2001.
Secretary to the Governor General
and Secretary General of the Order
Dear Ms. Uteck:
In November I faxed you the information you requested concerning my recommendation to become a Member of the Order of Canada.
Yesterday I happened to watch the Order of Canada ceremonies that took place earlier this month.
I noticed that in each case, when the recipient was introduced, not only his or her accomplishments were mentioned, but also a run-down of their good works.
I contribute to many charities these days, as we all do, but my personal passion is my commitment to the education of the world's underprivileged children.
For the past twenty years, through World Vision Canada, I have sponsored needy children in El Salvador. The young man I have supported for the past fifteen years, Diego Cubillos, is now well on his way to becoming a teacher in El Salvador. He now writes to me himself in fluent English and he tells me that he wants to be a journalist as well as a teacher when he graduates.
I hope that you will find this information useful.
With kindest regards, I remain,
Bernice Thurman Hunter