Meet Author Sands Hetherington
Sands Hetherington, creator of the Night Buddies series of chapter books, credits his son John for being his principal motivator. Sands and young John developed the Crosley crocodile character in the series during months of bedtime story give-and-take. They collaborated many nights on escapades starring John and Crosley, until eventually it occurred to Sands why it was that Crosley was bright red. That was when the first book came together.
Sands raised his son as a single parent from the time John was six. He read to him every night during those formative years: all of the classic children’s stories from Aesop through the Grimms, Lewis Carroll, Frank Baum, Tolkien and Dahl, with a lot of Dickens and Hugo thrown in. When school was out they got in the car and toured Alaska, Canada and most of the contiguous states. John still gets around. So far he has lived in Germany, Scotland, Russia, England and Spain.
Dogs have always been a part of the author’s life, beginning with Whiskers, a cocker spaniel. When his wonderful boxer Hube died, he despaired of finding a boxer who could match him, and instead got a Saint Bernard. He ended up breeding Saints for a number of years and at this point has had twelve as house pets. Sands says dogs can do you a power of good, and if you lose one, go out and get another the next day and you will be surprised at how fast your grief goes away.
Sands is also a Civil War buff. He would like to spend a month of evenings with common soldiers from both sides to see how they felt about the business. And eccentric generals like Jackson, Sherman and Forrest, and most of all Lincoln. Because Lincoln never gets to smile in his pictures.
The author was born in New York City but was transplanted a year later to Greensboro, North Carolina, where his maternal grandmother lived. He never really left the area and has a lot of the South in him. His grandmother was a prominent educator and became a great friend and mentor.
Sands majored in history at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) and has an M.F.A. in creative writing and an M.A. in English from UNC-Greensboro. He lives in Greensboro now, and hangs out with his longtime friend Ann and their Saint Bernards Dudley and Maggie. He likes visiting ancient Mediterranean sites in Turkey and Italy, and most of all Greece.
Talking Points: Interesting Facts about Crocodiles
One of the main characters in the Night Buddies series is Crosley, the crocodile. What do we really know about crocodiles? What does it mean to cry crocodile tears, for example?
- To weep crocodile tears is to put on an insincere show of sorrow.
- The first crocodiles appeared 240 million years ago, at the same time with the dinosaurs.
- Crocodiles are much more closely related to birds and dinosaurs than the other reptiles.
- Crocs can live up to eighty years!
- Crocodiles sweat through their mouth, so when they lie on the riverbanks with their mouths wide open, that’s not an aggressive posture, but a way to cool off.
- Crocodiles have very sharp teeth. However, they cannot open their mouth if it is held closed, even with the help of an adhesive tape.
- Each crocodile jaw has 24 sharp teeth, used for grasping and crushing, but not chewing. The teeth of a crocodile get replaced continuously, throughout its life.
- The eggs of a crocodile are almost the same size as that of a goose.
- The crocodiles have a four-chambered heart, which behaves like a three-chambered reptilian one, when underwater.
- The eyes of a crocodile reflect light, making them appear red, and make night vision possible.
- Crocodiles do not shed their skin, rather they grow into it.
Q&A with Sands Hetherington
What inspired you to write the Night Buddies series?
My son John and I had been kicking the red crocodile character (his invention) around at bedtime for as much as a year, and one night while we were doing this it just came to me. At first it was one book, not a series.
Many parents have nighttime reading rituals with their kids. What was yours?
I don’t know that it rose to ritual level. We’d just get in John’s bed at bedtime and I’d read. Eclectic stuff. After maybe twenty minutes he’d have had enough and the lights would go out and that was that. John was a good sleeper.
How did you come up with the titles of the first two books in the series?
My editor/publicist advised me that we needed a series look to the books and that the titles should have subtitles that were descriptive. So we looked for some of the main props in each title (e.g. cheesecakes for the first, and impostors and the flying machine for the second) and that was how they came about. Then, organically, the subtitles became part of the main title, Night Buddies.
Where are the stories set? Apparently, it’s New York City, but you don’t specify it in the books. Why not? It’s fantasy and I didn’t want to particularize it.
I realize it has NYC aspects but I just wanted any big city like Superman’s Gotham. I read somewhere that fiction has the advantage of presenting universal things rather than the merely particular, so who was I to argue?
Tell us a little bit about the characters in your second book. How did they come about? How did you come up with the characters of Fast Fanny, Lonnie, and Ronald Ogelsby, for instance?
I started Fanny out as a pushy, somewhat stereotypical woman car salesman. She definitely stays pushy, but when I needed her later in the main action, I had to give her more talents: mechanic and consummate service-after-the-sale exemplar. I put Lonnie out there so Crosley would have a pineapple cheesecake stand to visit. Basically, Lonnie’s just a big, colorful doofus who is there for the Iguana Gang to victimize, among other things. With Rodney, I surely needed someone to have the sauerkraut and jellybean hot dog cart (that was essential to the plot), and I simply wanted another colorful minor character. To flesh him out I tried to give him a bit of a Scottish accent, and make him fat and irascible, and let him be a racing blimp aficionado, as well as giving him a significant part in the action as it turned out.
Why did you make Crosley the Crocodile red?
I didn’t. John (around the age of six) came up with a red crocodile named Crosley. Everybody thought this was so cute, and when I subsequently thought to do a book, it remained to me to figure out why he was red (water allergy, Black Bottom, antidotes side-effect). Once I did this, everything started falling into place.
How come John doesn’t have a middle name?
A family conceit. My kid really doesn’t. I thought it would be cute to work it into the story. (With a surname like Degraffenreidt/Hetherington, who needs a middle name? This is addressed in the book. Crosley doesn’t even have a surname and this is addressed.)
When Crosley gets wet, he does the Black Bottom dance. Where does this dance come from?
Popularized in the 20’s by Tin Pan Alley. Started well before this by semi-urban southern blacks. The name probably came from a black section in Atlanta.
What was the hardest part of writing your first book?
A tough one. I think Virginia Woolfe called it “making the first stroke.”
What were the challenges in bringing the stories to life?
Mainly sitting down and doing it. Stuff comes out easily enough. A great deal of it isn’t any good and has to be done over and over and then still isn’t any good and that’s certainly a challenge.
What would you like kids to take away from reading your books?
Just excitement and fun. If it gets them to want to read more and more, that would be great too.
What do you do when you’re not writing?
I keep house and hang out with my longtime companion Ann and the dogs. I also work out at the gym and travel and complain about the state of American politics.
Praise for Adventures After Lights Out — the Night Buddies Series
“This story of juvenile fiction uses two staples of the genre. The first is the creature that lives under the bed or in the bedroom closet of the child and the second is the fantasy of sneaking out of the house at night and enjoying a great adventure.”
— Charles Ashbacher
“Hetherington seems to have the right ingredients for a classic children’s whodunit—talking animals, an unsolved mystery and a brave hero willing to face unforeseen foes … Punctuating the story are Love’s pencil sketches that boast just the right amount of whimsy and adequately capture the spirit of Hetherington’s eccentric characters.”
“Night Buddies is a wonderful display of talent and literature.”
— Burlington Times News
“Night Buddies is a terrific story my second and third graders would love to have read to them, complete with its colorful dialect. Thanks for the sneak peek!”
— Lorie Thompson, Principal, Haskell Elementary School, Los Angeles Unified School District
“Night Buddies is visionary, conceptual, and a forecast of fun for children and schoolteachers alike. Author Sands Hetherington with mastery unveils creativity with purpose, inventions in language, and makes reading fun.”
— Al Carrozza, author of Universal Enzyme
Hetherington is so adept at writing for children that his books become instant classics—and that means that after lights out, parents will tiptoe in and grab some of this confection for themselves! Highly recommended.”
— Grady Harp, Reviewer for Literary Aficionado and Amazon Hall of Fame Reviewer
Lively and wildly imaginative. A wacky adventure. Crosley, the likable crocodile, and his buddy John go on a zany nighttime romp through the stratosphere.”
— Randi Lynn Mrvos, Editor of Kid’s Imagination Train
“The language is strong and exciting. It keeps the story moving and adds to the zany antics of the characters. I highly recommend that you get a copy of this delightful book. I hope the author is busy writing another!”
— Susan Day, Author and Illustrator
“High up in the sky and high up in entertainment and high up in creativity! Add in the great pictures that bring the story to life, this book is fun for kids of all ages. This just proves that different people and even reptiles can work together for the common good and get things done. Friendships are solid and teamwork is definitely important, or the Program will not get completed and lives could be at stake.
— Fran Lewis, Just Reviews
“This is a wonderful and entertaining tale for children…It is amusing following Crosley and John on their adventure. They meet some interesting characters along the way.”
“I love the idea of the Night Buddies, a secret agent program to help kids get tired and go to sleep. The book had lots of humor in it, and it is appropriate for kids of all ages. Even though the story has crimes being committed, they are things like stealing mothballs, creating messes, and other silly stuff. John and Crosley are great characters, and they are fun to read about…I am looking forward to the next book in the series! Five out of five bookworms for this fun adventure!”
— This Kid Reviews Books
“My favorite part of the story was how imaginative it was. Children enjoy reading books and watching movies that let them dream and explore new worlds and new languages and I felt as though this story captured all the joys of a new adventure. The author even had a special language that is outlined in the beginning of the book and … I am certain a younger audience would have been constantly entertained … I give this story Four Stars!”
— Lynda Coker, Between the Pages
“The second I opened up the package with this book, my son scoffed it up. I immediately had him give it back, but in the process of me trying to read it for review, the book kept mysteriously disappearing. I would find him upside down, in a sleeping bag with a flashlight reading the book instead of going to sleep…The book is action packed and well thought out. My son and I definitely look forward to future books in the series. I give (and so does he) this book a 5 of 5 stars!”
— Athena Nagel, The Stuff of Success
“…This series is packed with nonstop action, wacky inventions, allies and arch-rivals, rapid-fire dialogue, and the two best categories of kid-food: super-delicious and disgusting. Best of all is the pleasure of its language, fun to read and to read aloud. Any kid (even a grown-up one like me) will pick up its irresistible vocabulary, from Yerk! to Excelsior!”
— Lynne Barrett, award-winning author of Magpies and co-editor of Birth: A Literary Companion
Category: Juvenile Fiction / Readers / Chapter Books
BISAC Code: JUV045000
Title: Night Buddies and Evil School Bus #264
Author: Sands Hetherington
Illustrator: Natalie Leininger
Format: 5.5 x 8.5