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December 14, 2018

Christian children’s author Heddens writes about different kinds of people in this series inspired by realhildren doing extraordinary things

Tell us a little bit about your characters in The Handy Helpers and the world they live in.

The main characters in my books are seven kids who call themselves the Handy Helpers. They volunteer at a senior center in the imaginary town of Bluesky. There are three boys and four girls, all ten years old. The seniors they help are a zany group who always have some crazy project going on. The Handy Helpers jump right in and help and also have a lot of fun along the way.

What inspired you to write a series for children?

In my favorite book, Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen tells her readers what happened to the sisters after they were married. I love that. I wanted to write a series so my readers could pick up the next book and find out what happened. I was inspired by many of the books I enjoyed as a child, especially Little House on the Prairie and books by Beverly Cleary. I want to inspire young readers and help them develop a love for reading that will continue throughout their lives.

What inspired you to write across generations and abilities? In addition to the seniors, there is a child with Down syndrome in the series.

When I was growing up, my grandparents were a very important part of my life. As the Handy Helpers soon discover, they have a great deal in common with the seniors. While the children are trying to establish their own independence, the seniors are struggling to maintain theirs.

I have a daughter who has Down syndrome. I had not intended to have a character with Down syndrome, but when my character Beth Anne appeared, I was not surprised that she did. Beth Anne reminds me of my daughter in many ways—she is an avid reader—but she has her own personality. The adults as well as her friends learn from their association with her. It is my hope that my readers will as well.
What part does Christianity play in the series?

My characters are Christian children living in Christian homes, but they each make their share of mistakes. The parents strive to be good, but they also find themselves doing things that add to the problems. Still, they apply Christian principles, and in the end, everyone learns from the experience. Each experience brings us a little closer to being the person we were meant to be. We can't have the good without the struggles.
Who is your ideal reader and why?

Although my books are aimed at children ages 9–12, I know many adults who enjoy reading them. The plots are intricate, with many side stories that my readers like to follow. That includes the fate of three runaway children who are rescued from a forest fire. I sincerely hope that every reader of my books will find something to take away.
What is the one thing you most want to tell people about you or your book?

Nearly every day in the news or in social media, I learn about a young person who is doing something amazing. It might be building a tiny house for a homeless person or raising money for a child with cancer. These are kids who see a problem and take it on instead of wondering why the adults in this world aren't doing anything about it. These are the people who inspire me. I love all my characters and I'm proud of their accomplishments, but they will never come close to being as wonderful as the children we encounter every day in real life.