Friday, December 7, 2012

The House By the Creek

About a year ago, the judge I was working for asked me for a favor. He had written a children's book long ago, inspired by a family story from North Carolina during the American Revolution, and asked for my thoughts.  I read it, offered some editorial suggestions, and identified a local publisher in Greensboro that looked like it might be a good candidate for the work.

Six months later, I got an email from the judge asking for advice on a response that he had gotten from the company: basically, they were asking for a capital investment  to defray some of the costs of publication. I ran the message by my book trade brother, the former librarian known as Young Jeezy, and he was sceptical, asserting, that, although the company would probably do the formatting and publishing work, the extent of their support of the book would likely end there, meaning that it would likely not have a future as a Disney movie, or inspire a theme park in Orlando, let alone recoup the initial investment.

Still, the president of the company had written books about the American Revolution and the Civil Rights Movement in North Carolina, so I suggested to the judge that he at least talk to him. He did, and, impressed by the editor's knowledge of the industry and his connections to school libraries in the state (the most likely purchasers), he decided to go forward. He enlisted an artist friend to design the cover, and when I went to visit him at the court in September, he showed me the final draft, which looked beautiful.

Buoyed by a nice review in the Raleigh newspaper, the first printing sold out:

Leonard, a federal bankruptcy judge by profession, is the author of 95 of the most charming pages you or your kids will read in this or any other year. “The House by the Creek” is a truth-based tale of his great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, German immigrants named Valentine and Elizabeth Leonhardt.
The story opens, in 1781, with Valentine Leonhardt, a hard-working and prosperous farmer who had made his way in America after immigrating from Germany, showing his 10-year-old son, Jacob, a secret. He had Jacob pull a log out of the wall in the family home in Davidson County, and revealed to him some hidden gold inside a hollowed log. His instructions were specific. Jacob was to protect the secret hiding place no matter what, because the Tories might be coming, after Leonhardt and his three sons left within hours for what would be known as the Battle of Guilford Courthouse.
You can order the book through your local bookstore at, although it's not clear when the next edition will be ready (the judge says it's in second printing, but my local bookstore didn't know when it would be available).  I've ordered one for my bookshelf, and one more, which I'll donate to the Carrboro Elementary School Library. It makes a nice gift, and if you want an autographed copy, I can definitely arrange that for you.

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