Just in time for Halloween and the 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis comes two books from the same author. Jake Henderson, a history teacher at Woodward High School (not to mention an Enid native, and Enid High graduate), penned the two novels, and we at the Route 60 Sentinel asked Jake to sit down with us and tell us a little about each project:
Tell us a little about Ryan’s Crossing…
Ryan’s Crossing is a story I wrote in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It focuses on the adventures of three 8th grade boys who are living their normal lives when their world is suddenly disrupted by the Crisis.
So, the story deals with the civilian aspects of the Crisis, rather than the government/military aspects?
Exactly. The centerpiece of the story is what the people of the country went through, not what the politicians went through. From fallout shelters to the “duck and cover” drill, I tried my best to convey the panic that many people went through during that time period.
Is this your first attempt at writing historical fiction?
Yes, but hopefully, it will not be my last. I decided to start writing historical fiction a few years ago, when I was searching for a book I could use in an 8th grade reading class. After a lengthy search, I was dissatisfied with the books I had found, so I decided to write my own. I chose the Cuban Missile Crisis for my first attempt, but I already have plans for other books. I’m currently working on storyline ideas for everything from the War of 1812, the Old West, the Land Run, the 1920s, the Great Depression, and a few others as well.
It’s my intention to offer a wide selection of historically accurate novels, with good storylines, that can be used in both History and Reading classes. History has become a neglected subject in the modern education system—edged out by Math and Science—yet, I still feel it has an important place in the education landscape.
We’re also starting a website, readingthroughhistory.com, which will hopefully be a one stop destination for all history teachers. They’ll be able to find lesson plans, assignments, video resources, book suggestions, movie suggestions and more. The website is not quite ready yet, but hopefully will be in the next couple of weeks.
Why did you choose the Cuban Missile Crisis?
I’ve always been interested in the time period of the 1950s and early ‘60s. I have a particular interest in the cultural history from that time period, including the music, television shows, and movies, and I attempted to incorporate as much of that as I could into the novel. Also, I wanted to write something for my dad. The characters in Ryan’s Crossing are the same age he was during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
I understand that this is not a stand-alone work, but there is also a companion piece. Give our readers a little information about that.
The Ryan’s Crossing Historical Companion Guide is intended to be a resource guide for parents and teachers. I tried to include the “real history” of all of the events taking place in the novel. While I tried to be as historically accurate as possible with the book, there was no possible way to share all the details. Thus, the historical guide is meant to fill in the gaps that any reader might have. It includes lessons and assignments, suggested activities for classrooms, and several other items meant to help students understand the time period.
Was this book written specifically for students and classrooms?
I had classrooms in mind when I wrote the book, but I feel anyone with an interest in history would be able to enjoy it.
Your other release is Radio Road… what’s it about?
Simply put, Radio Road is about Halloween. At least, Halloween as I remember it from my childhood. It’s always been my favorite holiday, and I really feel like, in the past few years, it has lost a bit of its charm. This story is my homage to the holiday as it once was.
I would love for this to become a book that teachers read out loud to their classes every October. I think it would be fabulous if kids could read Radio Road and say, “Wow, this is a really great holiday, and this is the way it ought to be celebrated.”
Do you worry about religious sensibilities? There are those who would oppose promoting Halloween on a religious basis… what would you say to that?
First, I tried to avoid the gory or more frightening aspects that some associate with the holiday. That’s not what Halloween should be about. Halloween is a time for fun and games, trick-or-treating, carving jack o’ lanterns, and dressing in costumes. Those are the elements of the holiday that Radio Road attempts to emphasize.
Second, I suppose it’s worth pointing out that there is some religious basis to the holiday, considering it was once known as All Hallows’ Eve (which was the day before All Hallows’ Day, a Catholic holiday).
However, I do realize that there are those who will not be satisfied and insist that Halloween is an evil holiday. At that point, I guess I would just have to resort to the old adage of “you can’t please everyone.”
What age-range is Radio Road written for?
When I wrote the book, I had 6th graders in mind. The story is very loosely based on my own 6th grade experience. However, I’m guessing that anyone who’s about the same age as me might be able to find some enjoyment in the story as the book invites them to recall their own childhood memories.
Is there a companion guide for Radio Road too?
Yes. The Radio Road Historical Companion Guide includes a fairly thorough history of Halloween. It focuses on the origins of the holiday, as well as the historical basis for prominent holiday symbols like black cats, bats, and jack o’ lanterns. Just like the Ryan’s Crossing companion guide, it includes lessons, assignments, and vocabulary builders. I’ve also included some fun activity suggestions, trick-or-treating safety tips, and even some recipes.
Where can our readers find these books if they are interested?
Right now, they are available on Amazon.com. Hopefully, before too long, we can have them available elsewhere as well.Radio Road on Amazon.com Radio Road Historical Companion Guide Ryan’s Crossing on Amazon.com Ryan’s Crossing Historical Companion Guide