Nathan Hale is the author of the “Hazardous Tales” books, which bring history to life in a graphic novel format. Kids love the illustrations and humor (such as the so-called Research Babies, who are babies that appear at the end of the books to hold narrator Hale to the truth) and parents love that their kids are falling in love with history in the process. The series has already covered Nathan Hale (the spy, not the author), ironclad warships of the Civil War, the misfortunes of the Donner Party, and WWI. Hale’s newest book, The Underground Abductor, which focuses on Harriet Tubman, will be released April 21.
My son Charlie, age 11, loves the “Hazardous Tales” series and was thrilled at the chance to do an email interview with Nathan Hale.
Charlie of Reading Rock Books: Since The Underground Abductor is about Harriet Tubman, would you do another book about a single important person in history?
Nathan Hale: Certainly! Although there are many people in The Underground Abductor–not just Harriet Tubman. There are stories about Nat Turner, Frederick Douglass, John Brown, and others. This book is a bit like One Dead Spy, where it covers one main person, but also lots of other interesting historical characters.
RRB: Are you planning to do a WWII book? If you did, would it be in two books to satisfy the Research Babies?
NH: A WWII book is definitely in the works. It would have to be in multiple parts, yes. The Research Babies were angry about doing an entire war overview for Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood, the WWI book. They won’t do a full war overview again (or at least, not for a while). A WWII book would cover a smaller story within the war, like Big Bad Ironclad covered a small portion within the Civil War.
RRB: Did you ever want to teach history?
NH: Sure! That’s why I make the Hazardous Tales! Lots of kids are learning history just while reading my books!
RRB: Are you related to Nathan Hale, the historic figure?
NH: No. But I am related to Thomas Knowlton, the spy master who hired Nathan Hale.
RRB: What other points in history are you thinking about writing about?
NH: WWII, definitely. Some early explorers, the French and Indian War, the second half of the Revolutionary War (post Nathan Hale), the Pony Express, the War of 1812, more Civil War… you name it!
RRB: I really like your illustrations. Where did you learn how to draw?
NH: I went to art school. But I didn’t really learn to draw there. I learned to draw by drawing all the time.
RRB: Would you ever consider selling posters of you artwork from your books?
NH: Sure, that would be cool!
RRB: Would you ever make a real Big Book of American History like the one that swallowed Nathan Hale in One Dead Spy?
NH: Hopefully one day the huge collection of Hazardous Tales books (like a hundred!) will be their own Big Book of American History.
RRB: How does living in Utah affect what you write about?
NH: It’s a pretty boring place. Meaning it’s pretty (nature) and it’s boring (not a lot of culture, restaurants, or nightlife). The nature is cool and inspirational, the lack of anything to do helps me stay at my desk and draw comics.
RRB: What are you currently reading?
NH: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll, a very spooky collection of horror/fantasy comics. One of these days, I’ll be putting out a non-history comic. It’d be fun to do something scary or fantastical like this book.
Nathan Hale’s work can also be found in the collections Guys Read: True Stories and Been There, Done That, edited by Mike Winchell, which will be out in November.
Ashes in My Mouth, Sand in My Shoes is a collection of short stories and the debut book, first published in Norway in 1987, of Per Petterson, known to most American readers for his breakout novel Out Stealing Horses. Available in the US for the first time, this collection features Arvid Jansen, a recurring character in several of Petterson’s books, as a child in 1960’s Oslo.
Petterson’s prose deftly recreates the uncertainty of childhood, beginning with nightmares and bedwetting in “Ashes in His Mouth” and proceeding through Arvid’s prepubescent awareness of the trials and heartbreaks of the men around him. Arvid is an eavesdropper, hiding on the top step when he should be in bed asleep. These stories, more than anything else, explore Arvid’s ardent admiration of his father, who is a man in mourning for his parents and for the life he had before the war. One story bleeds into another, snapshots of Arvid’s childhood and his family.
The stories in this volume are rich and full, yet the book itself is startlingly short. In less than 120 pages, Petterson conveys all the emotional weight of a much longer work. I read it one sitting and could easily have begun again. Having already read In the Wake and I Curse the River of Time, I appreciated this insight into Arvid’s childhood. The books aren’t actually connected, but Arvid is in each, confusedly trying to make his way and never failing to charm me.
Is it spring yet? We’re tired of snow and ice, so here are some “staff” picks of some of the best kids’ books for Easter.
The books Jack is plugging are:
The Littlest Bunny in Tennessee by Lily Jacobs
Cutie Pie Looks for the Easter Bunny: A Tiny Tab Book by Jannie Ho
and Little Chick by Klaartje Van Der Put
Harper Lee’s first book in over 50 years will be released July 14th. We hope to have a midnight release party and will post more information on that when it is available. In the meantime, we’re happy to take your pre-order!
Pre-orders for Go Set a Watchman are 15% off! Just click the “add to cart” button to start your order.
Go Set a Watchman
by Harper Lee
*If you prefer to have your copy mailed to you, feel free to pre-order your copy through our online store.*
We halted used book trading for the holiday season and will restart on January 15th with a brand new trade policy. The new policy can be found here. All used book trades after January 15th will be subject to the new guidelines. We’ve never had an official, written policy before and we think this will make the process easier for us and for you. The big changes from the way we had been conducting trades before are that we will be much more selective about what we accept, but more credit will be given for what we do take. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! (615) 326-0401