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  • Writer's picturePattie Harte-Naus

2024 Belden Boy Relaunch

I am proud to announce the relaunch of the multi-award winning Belden Boy, an anti-bullying series tied to Common Core State Standards for perspective and figurative language.

Why a relaunch? Let me start by saying that this has been a journey of discovery, along with a passion for history and writing that all happened one day, long ago. I sat down with pen in hand and wrote the first chapter in the Adventures of Peter McDugal. Influenced during my childhood years by the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder, wishing that I lived in a cabin like her in the woods, going to a one-room school, and then being pulled back into the realty of being bullied by a fourth grader who taunted me relentlessly for the next five years. All of this came in to play with the creation of the first story. But there was more.

As an educator, I was finishing my Masters Class in Curriculum when I discovered a boarded up one-room school in the Galena countryside. I was asked to help save the old 1859 Belden School as my last assignment. I was given the names of the elderly students who had closed the school in 1943. I spoke with the few who had stories to tell of going to school in the day, stories that could make you smile or laugh, maybe even bring a tear to your eye. I recorded those stories and made Belden’s students a promise that I would save and record everything that I scribed. I did just that.

This was the beginning of the journey of writing the Belden Boy series. I came to know my characters as if they were friends or maybe my students. Peter McDugal is a boy who is shy, quiet and does what he knows is right. His pal, Franky, is much the opposite. He comes from a family who is down and out, only child to a sick mother and a failed famer who just doesn’t care about his family, especially his son. Franky runs through the woods each day, doing what he pleases, and goes to school only if he feels like it. He bullies anyone and everyone, especially Peter, his pal. Miss Bishop is the kind and caring teacher who tries her best to talk to the boys about their friendship. But as time moves on, so does she. A new schoolmaster comes to the community. He butts heads with Franky as he is a bully, as well. Then comes Annie. A young girl who travels down from Minnesota with her Pa to the Belden community to live with her Grandpa who is ‘soft in the head’, as they say. She and her pa help the old man until his dying day, but during those days, Franky comes to call. It’s true that Annie suffers from a disability, but that doesn’t keep her down. She introduces Grandpa to Franky, who intrigues the boy, and teaches him a thing or two about life during the ‘War Between the States’, and serving alongside Ulysses S. Grant. Franky and Peter are in awe of the old man and his stories, and smitten with their new friend Annie.

Many lessons are within the four-book Belden Boy series. and told by different perspectives: victim Peter McDugal in the first two books, Franky, the bully, in the third book, and the girl bystander, Annie, in the fourth book.

I wrote the Belden Boy series while teaching 4/5th grade elementary. I was in essence creating a writing lesson for my students, and modeling the thought process, along with having rich discussions about the different perspectives in a bullying situation. I dedicated the third book to my students.

When I look at the original Belden Boy series, I am proud. But it is also a reminder to me of how far I’ve come fourteen years later. The books have been my friend on this journey...often a lonely and frustrating journey. Working with a few vanity printers was extremely costly, an experience I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Publishers are quick to take your money, promise you the world, assigning one, two, three and maybe four illustrators to your story. If you were lucky, you might receive a return phone call three weeks later if you had a question. Communication was virtually non-existent. The costs...the promises...the disappearing act was enough for your heart to sink, along with your hopes for a good book at the end of the journey. During this time, I experienced a costly learning curve with printing/publishing. It is a lesson that I will never forget. Mistakes that I would never want to repeat. This is why I created Whistleslick Press, an affordable self-publishing service that I provide with my partner and daughter, Kelly. I offer free writer’s workshops to help adults avoid those costly mistakes in publishing that I once experienced.

So, it’s time to relaunch my old friends in the Belden Boy series, giving them new life. They are deserving of a new look. We had a talented illustrator who captured the eye of the elementary reader with beautifully detailed front covers. And for the parent who might be looking for a wholesome story for their child, one that is down to earth and sends a message of understanding bullying: a message that we all come from different backgrounds with a variety of reasons why we might act the way we do, whether it be right or wrong. 

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