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Feature in Danville Advocate Messenger

Danville author writes book for middle-graders
By JENNIFER BRUMMETT
jenb@amnews.com
May 2, 2010

An angry child in the foster care system. An angry horse, abused and sick. A tired caregiver, unsure of whether she can care for the two.

This is the trio of characters around whom “Dream of Night,” local author Heather Henson’s new novel for middle-graders, is spun.

Henson decided to take riding lessons when she moved back to Kentucky after living elsewhere for many years. She wanted to have horses and hadn’t ridden much when she was a kid.

She started taking lessons with Susanna Thomas, equine director at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington. Henson called Thomas an amazing horsewoman from whom she learned a lot.

Thomas’ organization, Henson explained, is to “find homes for Thoroughbreds who have been in the racing industry and maybe had an injury or haven’t been money winners.” If suitable candidates can’t adopt a horse, she added, they can foster a horse, if they can’t keep one long term. They even can sponsor a horse if they can’t afford to keep one. “I think what they do is really amazing,” Henson said.

She said riding lessons taught her how little she knows about horses. “It would take a lifetime to learn to be a good rider or horsewoman,” Henson noted, “but I love horses. Through the lessons I came to really admire horses and respect them in a way I never had. Growing up in Kentucky, I’d seen them in fields … but I’d never really had a chance to be with a horse.”

With Thomas’ help, she started spending more time with horses and now is interested in adopting equines when her farm is ready for them. Henson said many people don’t realize how many horses are out there who need to be adopted. She said 35,000 thoroughbreds are registered with the Jockey Club each year, yet only one wins the Kentucky Derby.

The Jockey Club is the breed registry for Thoroughbred horses in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The organization is dedicated to the improvement of Thoroughbred breeding and racing, and it fulfills that mandate by serving many segments of the industry through its subsidiary companies and by providing support to a wide range of industry initiatives.

Learning that led her to wonder what happens to the rest of the horses — the ones who don’t win the Derby, or maybe don’t win at all, who don’t win big purses for their owners.

“That where my story began,” Henson said of her inspiration for “Dream of Night,” which will be for sale Tuesday. “What does happen to all these horses? They are registered Thoroughbreds but not money winners. They get sold or go from owner to owner.

“The story idea for the book came from riding lessons, and I also, through riding lessons, through the books and Web sites Susanna suggested … started to realize there are a lot of programs across the country that use horses to reach kids with a wide range of disabilities, both physical and emotional. Horses are used for kids with physical disabilities, with autism, with emotional disabilities.”

Working with a horse gives in individual, whether adult or child, empathy for another living creature.

“So when kids work with horses they begin to build trust where there are trust issues. They care for them, feeding them and grooming them. They are taking care of another creature and it helps them understand how to reach out. … Horses speak to people in a way that’s really special,” Henson explained.

Answering the question of why racehorses need rescuing is what led to “Dream of Night.”

“As I sat down to write, as often happens (for me), the characters started speaking,” Henson noted. “The character of the horse started talking to me, so I started writing from the perspective of an abused ex-racehorse.

“I felt strongly — I felt like I knew their story: the 60-year-old woman, the younger girl who had been abused, and the horse. All three came to me.”

A lot of Thoroughbreds wind up with a happy ending. But, because there are so many, a lot of them end up on farms with people who can’t afford to keep them, Henson noted.

“You see a lot of articles in the newspaper about rescue operations where they’ve found horses and they’re basically starving,” she said. “Or they’ve been mistreated or abused.

“Another thing about Thoroughbreds is they are bred to be fast, which makes them temperamental and difficult to handle. They are trained to be aggressive … and sometimes people mistreat them because they are afraid of them.”

Thomas works with the horses to rehabilitate them, Henson said. She tries to gentle them before introducing them to an adoptive family. Some of these rehabilitated horses become eventor horses that participate in dressage events. They can have a second life, Henson noted, if they have a person who knows how to retrain them.

The author said she hopes, first and foremost, that the children who read it enjoy and connect with it.

“I want them to think about the bigger world — to get involved with an animal shelter, helping with dogs and cats, or getting active with the community. I hope it gives them inspiration to do that.

“And also, I’d like kids to think about maybe there’s a kid in their class who seems a little shy or inside a shell and maybe this book will make a kid empathize with someone else.”

SO YOU KNOW

“Dream of Night,” Heather Henson’s new novel for middle-graders, is available wherever books are sold beginning Tuesday. Henson will be signing books beginning at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Lexington. She also will be signing books 4-6 p.m. Thursday at The Blue Marble in Cincinnati. Other events will be planned in the future to celebrate the publication of the book.

Copyright: AMNews.com 2010

here’s the link:
http://www.amnews.com/stories/2010/05/02/fea.655115.sto

Back in Kentucky!

A friend of mine pointed out that I’m not blogging the way I said I would. I have gotten off to a sluggish start, and I’m sorry about that. Sadly, it has to do with a death in the family. My husband Tim’s father died last week at the age of 86. It was not completely unexpected, but still it’s always a shock when a loved one dies. As soon as we heard the news we piled the kids in the car and took off for Minneapolis (an 800 mile drive). The kids were great (for the most part) and it was a lovely funeral, lots of good friends and distant relatives telling stories. Jerry Ungs was a unique character and he will be missed.

So we arrived back in Kentucky last night to torrential rains and flash flooding. The rain was truly biblical. Many roads were washed out and we had to take a few detours just to make it home. Our front fields had turned into lakes. Luckily no drowned cows or chickens. Today is sunny and clear — a perfect day, the calm after the storm. We were missing our beloved Kit Kat, but found her high and dry in the barn, with 5 kittens hidden in the corn crib! Wow, what a great present to come home to!

So now I’m gearing up for my mini tour to celebrate Dream of Night coming out tomorrow! Yay! I heard there’s a nice feature in the Danville Advocate Messenger, so I’m going to check that out in a minute and post the link.

If you’ve been checking this and not seeing any new posts, I’m sorry. I promise this time I’m going to blog for real. Lots coming up this week, and so I will keep you posted as I travel to Lexington, Cincinnati, and Columbus in the coming days.

Regional book events — please check back for details…

The wonderful folks at Joseph Beth in Lexington, KY are hosting a signing for Dream of Night on May 4, publication day!  Two days later, I get to visit the Blue Marble Bookstore (in northern KY, near Cincinnati), one of my favorite places, and talk about Dream of Night.  Also, we’re working on planning an event at the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation’s showcase adoption facility located at the KY Horse Park in Lexington, both to celebrate the book and to raise awareness about Thoroughbred adoption.  Please check back for specifics in the next coupla days…Thanks!

It’s a book! A real book!

Okay, picture this:  the package arrives, I glimpse the return address, I know it just might be first copies of my new book, hot off the presses, sent by my wonderful and thoughtful editor.  So, I rip the big padded envelope open…and….

IT’S

A

BOOK!!!!!!

Galloping into bookstores May 4, 2010!!!

I can’t believe it!

Dream of Night is a book.

Okay, I’m a mom.  I’ve held my newly born babies in my arms for the very first time, and of course holding a newly born book isn’t as mind and heart-blowing, but it’s heaven just the same.

More later….

Right now I have to just sit here and gaze silently for a moment at my little creation (which of course isn’t my creation alone at all but the final beautiful product of so many amazing talented people, including my lovely and hardworking editor and her terrific team of book superheroes at Atheneum.)

Dream of Night publishes officially May 4, 2010.

First review of Dream from Kirkus!

Yay!  I’m just thrilled to post a first review of Dream of Night which appears in this week’s Kirkus:

Henson, Heather

DREAM OF NIGHT

Once Dream of Night was a champion racehorse, but by the time Jess DiLima gets him he’s nearly dead from starvation and pneumonia, and his thin hide is covered in scars. Twelve-year-old Shiloh is scarred, too, both from physical abuse and from the emotional withering of years in foster care. Jess doesn’t feel up to the challenge of either one of them, but she knows that she may represent their last chance. Henson’s story unfolds in a tight, third-person, present-tense narration that shifts its focus among the three principals: Jess, Shiloh and Night. Her novel, like her characters, shimmers with anger and hope. She doesn’t pull her punches—the scenes and flashbacks of abuse are realistically graphic—but she also never lets the details overwhelm the narrative, always offering the possibility of redemption. The author understands, too, that victory is not necessarily a blue ribbon won or a family reunited—sometimes it’s just the quiet triumph of a girl confidently brushing a horse in a stall. Another impressive book by the author of Here’s How I See It—Here’s How It Is (2009). (Fiction. 8-14)

New book galloping into stores May 4, 2010!!!

I’m so excited about my new book that’s about to pub on May 4. It’s called Dream of Night, and it’s a middle grade novel told from 3 different points of view: an abused ex-racehorse, an abused foster child, and the foster mother who takes them both in. I was inspired to write this book after moving back to Kentucky and realizing how many ex-racehorses there are (thousands every year) and how many end up in abusive situations. I did a lot of research about people and organizations that work to rescue horses. I am especially grateful to the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation at the Kentucky Horse Park. Will write more about this wonderful organization and what they do in my next post.

Please keep checking my blog for more information about the book and upcoming events in May 2010. I haven’t been the best blogger, but my 2010 New Year’s resolution: to keep up with my blog, to update it regularly, and to respond to posts. The last year was just so busy (twins turned 5!), I was kind of in a fog about blogging. But this is a new year, and away we go!

Here’s a picture of the gorgeous cover for Dream of Night:

Galloping into bookstores May 4, 2010!!!
Galloping into bookstores May 4, 2010!!!