Spotlight TV with Logan Crawford

I'm Logan Crawford, and right now on Spotlight, we're speaking with author Roger Hukle, who is taking readers on a thrilling journey back to the roots of America in his New Colony Critter series. With his recent masterpiece, The Food Pirates, he is shedding light on the importance of cultural diversity, resilience, and courage in shaping the wilderness of early America. We're delighted to have Roger join us here today on Spotlight. We thank the team at Rushmore Press for helping us put him in the spotlight today, and we ask viewers like you to support writers like him by subscribing to our channel. Roger, thanks so much for joining me here today on Spotlight.

You bet logan. And thanks for having us here, too, and having this opportunity. So, our credit project, it's actually a series of stories that we've created to assist young learners in developing their reading, writing, and comprehension skills, which are absolutely critical as they go through the grades and also as you get into your eventual career. So we've created a fanciful early American colony that we call New Colony. That's the name of the village, and it's populated by a diverse group of critters that work together to survive in the wilderness. And a lot of the messaging in our stories that we're doing is the importance of being responsible, being independent, working together. So that kind of starts the process. But we call it the Critter Project, and we have a number of critters involved.

Absolutely. And that's your critter creative team. Correct?

Yes, that is correct.

Tell us about them.

Okay. The critter creative team. There's actually five of us. I'm one of the team members. I'm one of the authors here, and I have a background in education from the standpoint. I've taught Russian language while in the military, and I was assigned to commandant staff and was involved in basic cadet training and other educational activities. My co author is a student. She's a sophomore in college, and she's a majoring in French political science and with minor in international relations. And a lot of what she's been able to do, but she's my granddaughter has been based on the time that we spent early on in her growth and development and getting her to a level where her mastery in English language has done her very well. So there's two of us. The third member, I would say, is Susanne Arens. She's the president of Crystal Peak Design, and she's our designer and has won many awards, both local nationally, internationally for her work and her marketing. And Suzanne's an educator. She's also a partner in our enterprise here, but she's an educator and with Pikes Peak State College here, and she's also been chair of their multimedia and design group.

So then the fourth, I'd say, is Mark Epperson. Mark's out of New York City. He's a really unusual talent. He's a performer, he's a singer. He's done off Broadway shows and musicals. He's voiced TV and film productions. And he's involved as a co producer, as Suzanne's, our other co producer. He's a co producer of our DVD series. Just a really great guy. Then we have an unusual fifth member of our Critter crew who actually designs computer chips, and his name's Fred Wagner. Fred's out of Branson, Missouri. And he at one time was a co owner of a Montessori preschool and he's also traveled the country. He's an educator, loves to develop children's abilities and minds. And he's an educator, but he's taught classes on our founders and on the Constitution. So if you look at this group of five individuals that's our Critter Creative Crew try and saying that real fast. Critter creative crew. And from the youngest to the oldest, we have a spread of over half a century. So we have a lot of different experiences and outlooks on life and all this other kind of stuff to kind of combine to put into our stories.

Absolutely. You bring a lot to a table when you have a diverse background culturally, educationally and experientially. As you mentioned, these books and products that go along with the books are excellent learning tools for children at home and particularly for home schooled children as well, don't you think?

Yeah, I do think so. I want to make a mention on this home school thing because we think that'll be one of the primary potential users for this book series that we're doing. And what's interesting, one of the largest homeschool associations in the nation recently did a study. It went out to their membership and said, if you could teach one class, what would that class be? And they were expecting to get like history or math or something like that. Well, the overwhelming response was English and language is the one class that they would teach. So the association went back and said, we expand upon that a little bit more. And the general description they got was that if you can teach a child how to read, they can learn anything on their own. So we think that'll be a big beneficiary of what we're trying to accomplish here.

Absolutely. That's the tool. All of the information is out there. If you become a strong reader, a proficient reader, that's going to give you the golden keys to the city. Absolutely. Tell me about some of the products that you and the Critter Creative Crew has been working on.

You did that.

Well, I did it slowly with a lot of.

Anyway, so far we've got two books completed and we have companion books that go along with these. So in our first book we did was The Do for Others Day. And in this particular book, we tell the story of the town's leading citizen who is a character named Mayor Turkey. We thought that was appropriate for a so he comes up with this brilliant idea for the village where he wants everybody to change positions for one day so they can experience something new, kind of cut the boredom and all this kind of stuff. So he had him pick a job out of a bucket. And the unintended results of his do for Others day are humorous, we think, interesting and unintended consequences. So the base of this story is, from a lesson standpoint, is that how often do we take those who provide services to us for granted, the people that stock the shelves of the grocery store and provide the gasoline for the gas stations or come and cut our grass or whatever it happens to be. We take all this for granted, and it's important to realize the contributions they make to our lives.

So the second book we've got done is called The Food Pirates. And it basically is the title says it all. What happens is that for two nights in a row, nefarious group of characters of critters come and they raid the village at night and they steal food from the gardens and from the storage bins or whatever, which was really a serious thing back then. You couldn't go to the grocery store to replace it. You had to grow your own food. So the story is based around how the children of New Colony worked together to track the pirates down and also capture them and how they did that by working together. So the message in all of our books and these two and the ones we're coming online with, is the importance of being responsible, being independent, and working together for the benefit of all. And then each of these books has companion publications as well. For example, we're doing a series, let's take the do for Others Day. It has a color book where we take the story, reduce it down, and on the bottom half of the page is the story that can be read to the child or the child can read it.

And then the upper part is a color book version of the art that we use. So that's a color the story. Little bit of activity there, which is fun. And then we have something we call the Complete the Story series, where we take the same now birth to do for Others day of the Food Pirates. And we use the artwork, we put it on the page and we put lines on the page. And the idea is that the child then looks at our artwork and we put a few little prompt sentences there. Then they write their own story. So they use their imagination. And it might be really simple printing or it depends on what stage they are. And when they're done, they can sign the front cover and give it as a gift to a parent or grandparent. We think that's kind of fun.

Wonderful. Wonderful. It is great scaffolding, great facilitation of learning that you're providing there, because, like you said, it's multiple tools. There are creative tools, there's art tools, there's writing tools. And of course, the primary tool which you're providing is the tool of reading. Before we go today, tell us a little bit about some of the books or projects that are in the works.

Well, we have three more books going, and I might mention too that we do DVDs. We call them magic motion DVDs. Susanne Arens came up with this, our creative director, co producer, and what happens here, it's basically our books that are voiced by Mark Epperson. And as he's reading, there's special effects and there's music in the background. But as he's reading, the pictures that go along with what he's reading move across the page and plop down. That's the magic motion part. Suzanne came up with that. It's really kind of funny, puts a little motion, makes it a little bit more interesting on those. So if you combine the car, the storybooks and the complete the storybooks, and the DVDs that we have, and the regular storybooks, at some point in a child's age, one or more of those should apply. If they can't read, they can watch the DVDs, they have the storybooks that can be read to, and then they can actually participate as well. So that's kind of a bundle, a package bundle that we're doing on every one of our stories.

Excellent. Like you said, it appeals to children learn in different ways. Some are visual learners, some are demonstrative learners, some are hands on learners. And this appeals to the many different types of learners that there are out there. Before we go, is there a little tease you want to give us of what's in the pike?

Oh, yes. So in the pike we've got of the three books we have, our preliminary titles are The Celebration, where we bring on a group of Native American critters.

Again, they're all birds. And we have The Hidden Valley is one of them we're working on now, which has kind of an environmental focus on it. And then we have another story we're working on right now that has to do with a severe storm that hits the community and how it survived during the snowstorm that basically buried all the buildings of New Colony. But they all have that same stress of the importance of being independent, being responsible and working together. And another thing too, we like to stress is how America, from its earliest beginning, has benefited from the skills and talents of a number of people, a diverse group of people of different cultures and different backgrounds. And we think that's the strength. We're one of the most diverse countries in the world and we benefit from all that diversity on all those different skills and levels. So that's one of the key messages in our program.

Exactly. We have the best of the best here in the United States. And for the folks at home, you can get the best of the best for your children. This series is incredible. It is the New Colony Critter series. It is written by Roger Hookel and also helped out by his Colony Critter creative crew. And there's a series of books, DVDs, coloring books, workbooks. Finish the story yourself. There is a lot there to unpack and a lot there that will benefit your child. Roger, thank you so much for joining us here today on Spotlight.

You bet. Enjoyed it. Thanks, Logan.

Thanks so much, Roger. And to the folks at home, I'm Logan Crawford, thanking you for your time this time. Until next time on Spotlight.

The Food Pirates by Roger Huchel and Elizabeth Hilley. The Food Pirates is the second book of the New Colony Critter series of audiobooks, ebooks, printed books, and other learning and reading AIDS that showcase how America, from its earliest beginnings, has benefited from the skills and talents of individuals from many different backgrounds and cultures. This story involves the mysterious disappearance of food from the shops and family gardens of New Colony and how the children of the village, through perseverance and ingenuity, solved the mystery, caught the Food Pirates, and received their just rewards from the grateful townspeople. The final message of this critter adventure is courage never fails. And courage is what was required to build a community in the wilderness in early America.