Horatio In The Wind: A Picture Book For These Times

These are trying times. For parents. Kids. Everyone. Going into lockdown has been heaven for many kids – “What are we doing today?” “Nothing.” “Yay! And tomorrow?” “Nothing.” “Yay!” – but it’s presented parents with a poser: how to constructively fill those endless hours?

I’ve found myself turning to simpler things – comfort things – to get through. Favourite films. Recipes. And books. And I’ve tried to take 10 minutes each each day to read to my girls. Once they settle, it’s golden time.

The best kids’ books offer something for parent and child, and that’s what American author J. D. Oldenburg delivers with Horatio in the Wind, an exuisitely illustrated adventure tale that seeks to strengthen children and direct adults to their inner child.

The first in a series of stories intertwined through time periods in the lives of a family of characters, Horatio tackles the fear we all have within us: dying. It follows a seven-year-old boy whose keen fear of death propells him to find a way to bring everlasting life to his Kingdom.

But alas: life without death does not turn out as he expected, and balance must be restored.

“Death is treated as an abstract concept, we avoid talking about it, dress it up, and put make up over it,” Oldenburg says. “Creating this book helped me outgrow that fear, and I’ve seen it help others, young and old. We’ve had amazing moments through sharing the story.”

I wanted the book to feel like nothing in the market before, it needed to be a movie in a kid’s lap.

Oldenburg says the seed that planted Horatio in the Wind – which has been warmly received by parents and counselors all over Brooklyn, New York, where Oldenburg’s indie publishing house is based – first came when he was nine. “I was really scared of death when I was little; I didn’t want to ever die,” he says.

The fear led to a short story about a boy hiding death away, which earned him an ‘A–’ at school. In 2015, Oldenburg revisited the childhood story and the rest is history.

Oldenburg, who cites JK Rowling, Steven Spielberg, Christopher Nolan and Alex Garland as influences, says only a picture book could have done the story justice. “I am a visual story teller; I wanted the book to feel like nothing in the market before, it needed to be a movie in a kid’s lap. That’s what it is.”

Oldenburg believes kids and complex storylines can go hand in hand. In fact, he says, they deserve them. “I have a two-year-old niece who barely speaks, and already creates albums on my phone and videos from my photos I don’t even know how to create. Kids have access to so much information now days. It’s silly to think they are not ready for depth in story telling. I’ve met five-year-olds that meditate.

“Even in the ’90s I thought about death as a six-year-old, now in the era of digital bombarding, I am confident kids are thinking about profound themes like courage, death, loyalty, self-love, much earlier in life, and we must provide stories with the potential to make them feel heard, to guide them, while engaging them.”

The download of both ebook and audio companion are free during the COVID-19 crisis. You can find the ebook download at horatiointhewind.com or stream the 12-minute audio piece at horatiointhewind.com/pages/enjoy.


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