Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare by Sands Hetherington is an after lights-out adventure story that will delight young readers and middle graders who relish roller coaster fantasy and fun, filled with unforgettable characters and an astonishing and inventive collection of magical whatchamacallits.
The book is all about the nighttime adventures of a young boy named John, who is not ready to go to sleep, and his friend, a bright red crocodile named Crosley who turns up under John’s bed.
They sneak out of John’s house using Crosley’s “I-ain’t-here-doodad” which makes them invisible to John’s parents. They then embark on an adventure chasing down enemies and cleaning up one mess after another as they solve the earthshaking mystery: who stole all the pineapple cheesecakes from the only factory in the world that makes them!
I recently talked with Sands about some of his life experiences that might have acted as inspiration for his new book.
Kai: What age range is your book for?
Sands: Thanks for having me, Kai. The book is probably best suited for readers seven to nine years old, maybe ten. For listening, two years is not too young.
Kai: Can you share a memory of yours or a story of you from when you were within the age range of your target readers?
Sands: In third grade we had show-and-tell on Mondays. It was mostly tell and usually involved weekend experiences. I and a couple of other boys were outrageous liars, and if we had whoppers to tell, we would declare it amongst ourselves beforehand; otherwise we might call each other out in front of the class. I was probably the worst of us. I remember telling about gunfights I'd had (last Saturday, with real guns), and I had some sort of contraption that I flew around town on. The teacher Miss Huffman was very indulgent. I have no idea what the rest of the class thought.
Kai: How has life changed for children today than when you were that age?
Sands: First understand that I'm coming from the forties! Kids' lives seem so different now, so much more structured, for one thing. We had no planned activities. (Oh, maybe the Cub Scouts, but nobody cool belonged.) I would go home after school and amuse myself building model planes or reading comic books or hitting fungoes with kids in the neighborhood. Maybe even a movie during the week if there was a really good one like Tarzan. Fascinating adventures on the radio. There was no TV, and there was certainly never any homework!
Kai: How is life still the same?
Sands: Having said that, everything essentially IS the same. Structured and 24/7 or not, the activities are similar, the kids go to school five days a week and hang out with their buddies, they crave and receive entertainment, and quite a number of them have dogs. It's the gadgets that are so different, but this is a superficial thing. Watching King Lear in the 17th Century or on a wide-screen is still watching a play, and it's still 90' from home plate to first base.
Kai: What was your favorite toy or activity when you were that age?
Sands: We would go to this small lake all day on Saturdays and Sundays and swim or mess about in rowboats and canoes. It was outside of town and I got to shoot my .22 rifle at tin cans. I took the rifle to show-and-tell a couple of times and nobody raised an eyebrow.
Kai: What inspired this book and how did you decide on this age range for your book?
Sands: My six-year-old son John invented Crosley as an after-lights-out companion, red color, funky name and all. John and I started kicking Crosley ideas around after that and making up episodes. Crosley got to be a real family member. A year or so later I decided to do an adventure after lights-out book featuring John and Crosley. Once I figured out why in the world Crosley was red, things just fell into place. I didn't decide on an age range for readers; the story just came out that way.
Kai: Finally, I have four kids. Over the years, they’ve attended a lot of birthday parties. I love the idea of building a theme gift around a book. If you were to give a gift basket to a child based on your book, what else would be in the basket besides Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare?
Sands: Great: Start with the book. Add a slice of pineapple cheesecake in a sealed plastic container. (Not a whole million-calorie cheesecake!) Throw in an I.D. gimcrack (page 22) and maybe an I-ain't-here doodad (page 15). A small magnifying glass might do for this.
Thanks for having me,
About the author:
Sands Hetherington credits his son John for being his principal motivator. Sands raised his son as a single parent from the time John was six. He read to him every night during those formative years. He and young John developed the Crosley crocodile character in the series during months of bedtime story give-and-take. Sands majored in history at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and has an M.F.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in English from UNC-Greensboro. He lives in Greensboro.
Night Buddies and the Pineapple Cheesecake Scare is available wherever books are sold and online. For more information visit www.nightbuddiesadventures.com