Tell me about your upbringing and background.
Hillary: I grew up in Manheim, Pennsylvania, in the heart of Lancaster County with my parents and older brother. I kept a notebook beside my bed where I jotted down poems and short stories. It was always my dream to become a published writer. I currently live in Lititz, Pennsylvania with my husband, two children and two dogs. They are my biggest cheerleaders and always encourage me to dream big.
Angie: I was born in Lancaster City with my mom, dad and older sister, Marcy. My parents divorced when I was young but fortunately my family has always been really close and ultimately, I just gained amazing step parents and another sister, Amelia, as a result. I am really close with my family and they have always been encouraging and supportive of my drive to create and make art. My mom always says it was clear at a young age that I would be an artist when I grew up and my family has been a big part of me reaching for whatever dream or project I had up my sleeve. They are my biggest fans and I am theirs.
What is your educational and career background?
Hillary: I graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in English and Communications with concentrations in journalism and public relations. After graduation I worked in the marketing department of several companies while writing in my free time. SOAR is my first published children’s book.
Angie: I went to Millersville University for Art Education and then to Edinboro University for my Masters in Art Education. I studied abroad in Rome, Italy in college as well to study painting and have always loved to travel and explore new places. I have worked as a High School Art Teacher at Warwick High School in Lititz for 13 years now, and continue my craft as a fine artist through gallery work, commissions and now illustrating kid’s books!
What was your inspiration in becoming an author/illustrator?
Hillary: Growing up, I absolutely loved reading. I enjoyed getting carried away in a character’s story and following their path wherever it took them. I loved making up stories of my own as a child and often created my own characters for my family.
Angie: Honestly, it was always one of those back burner dreams that I knew I’d love to do, and I thought I’d do it well, but being a full-time teacher and with so many other projects I just never pursued it. So, this project was like a dream come true because it gave me this amazing opportunity to finally illustrate a children’s book. SOAR was written so beautifully and I remember reading it for the first time thinking that this was supposed to happen and this book and Hillary were supposed to find me. So now I get to be an illustrator and a big bonus was all the cute bugs and birds I got to paint when working on this book. And that Hillary and I have forged such a wonderful partnership and friendship!
What was the process in your book becoming a reality?
Hillary: To be honest, it is very difficult to get published. I started writing about Ramone in 2014. After several rounds of edits, I submitted my book to several book agents for representation. I was turned down. In 2018 I found out Schiffer Publishing accepts submissions directly from authors, but illustrations were also part of the submission process. Cue Angie Hohenadel! Angie and I were put in touch by a mutual friend and thought it would be fun to take a leap and submit SOAR with my manuscript and her illustrations. When we were told we got the contract I was beyond excited, but when I received my advanced copy, I couldn’t hold back the emotions. I was so overwhelmed with joy realizing after all of the time and effort I put into creating Ramone’s story the result was more than I ever dreamed.
Angie: I think Hillary can answer this question best. As far as the paintings go, I spent anywhere between 10-40 hours per painting and worked on them over about 8 months. For this book I used a paint called gouache. My studio is a little cozy room in our house that is a pretty typical artist’s studio…super messy, too many supplies, lots of art on the walls, cluttered, but my it’s all my own and I love it. I usually have so much on my desk that I need to scoot to the corner to paint…but somehow it works for me!
What do you think is most important for me and readers to know about you?
Hillary: I am a big dreamer! Book agents turned me down enough times to make me reconsider my writing journey. Instead, I took their criticism and input and wrote a stronger, more polished story which became SOAR. I encourage everyone to pursue their dreams, no matter what path leads them there.
Angie: Oh, that’s a tough question. Maybe that I am a pretty textbook introvert, even though I am a teacher. I get my energy refilled from spending hours alone painting or being in nature. Also, I love groundhogs…but my husband, Jeremy, and I call them by their lesser-known name of whistle pigs. I hid one in the book…can you find it?
Do you have any plans for any future work?
Hillary: Yes! Angie and I actually signed a second book contract with Schiffer Publishing in November 2020. It is a completely different story than SOAR and Angie is currently working on all of the illustrations. I also have a sequel to SOAR written and I am putting the finishing touches on another story. I plan to continue this writing journey as long as I can!
Angie: We sure do! A new book contract has been signed with Schiffer…but it is top secret for now! Look for updates from #teamdaecherhohenadel later this year 🙂
“Soar” begins by introducing Ramone the ruby throated hummingbird. It’s his first day to take flight but Ramone is feeling rather hesitant. Feelings of anxiety surge through him. Ramone’s mother can sense that her little guy is apprehensive. His mother softly flutters to his side and allows him to open up about his fears. She reassures him with a big hug and then models by taking flight of her own. He gets a surge of confidence and opens his wings. He sees his mother’s pride and hears her encouraging words helping him to banish any lingering doubt. She flies by his side and together they soar! His mother shares that she too shared the same fears her first flight. Ramone’s heart is filled with joy that he was able to conquer his fear.
-I admire the openness in addressing feelings of anxiety and fear and showing readers that it’s possible to move forward in spite of them.
-I adore how tender and compassionate Ramone’s mother is. Children deserve a role model like this.
-My most favorite line in the book is when Ramone’s mother says, “I was scared too on my first day of flying, but I was more scared of not even trying.” This is such a valuable message for children. Not to let the fear of failing keep them from ever beginning.
– Hillary’s use of rhyme is very masterfully done and Angie’s illustrations are absolutely elegant and vibrant with rich colors.
– I think the hummingbird facts at the end of the story are a super fun addition!
– I really appreciate the list of talking points/conversation starters on the last page. I find this to be super thoughtful and a wonderful guide for parents and caregivers.
-Fun fact- I am super proud that the Author and Illustrator are from my state of residence.
My takeaway from this book is that normalizing the discussion of feelings of fear and anxiety in young children is so important in helping them to manage and work through them. I applaud the author for raising awareness and covering this topic.
My rating: 5/5