Copperas Cove Interventionist publishes first book for middle-grade readers
By BRITTANY FHOLER
In a society where children seem to be glued to their televisions or other electronic devices, the idea of kids asking to check out a book can be hard to fathom.
At Hettie Halstead Elementary, however, several students are itching to get their hands on a book in particular: “The Girl in the Silver Frame” written by A.T. Pence.
The author of the book is Andrew Pence, one of the school’s intervention teachers.
Pence served in the United States Army for eight years before joining the Killeen Police Department to continue serving his community until his retirement in 2009. Pence then worked in Afghanistan for a year and a half, and upon his return to the United States, he pursued his alternative teaching certification. He was hired at Martin Walker Elementary as a fourth-grade Reading teacher.
“Up to that point, other than reading to my own kids, I had never read youth, young adult or middle grade type of books since my own kids were little,” Pence said. “So, I started doing that, and I found some of them to be fairly interesting. Some of them were written pretty well, some of them weren't.”
Pence went back and spent another year in Afghanistan before coming back to Copperas Cove to teach fifth grade reading. It was after this that Pence started his journey in writing his book.
Pence had tasked his students with reading something and then reflecting on what they had read in their journal, writing about something in the book that reminded them of real life, just making some kind of connection, he said.
He demonstrated this by sharing his own reflection. The book was “The Old Willis Place: A Ghost Story” by Mary Downing Hahn.
“I said, ‘Well, there was something that I did when I was a kid.’ My sister and her friend, we went into the local ‘haunted house.’ The house was empty. We were going up the stairs, and my sister all of a sudden just started screaming, and of course, we ran out of their like the hounds of you know where were chasing us, and it turned out she had just stepped on a nail that was protruding through risers on the steps, but we didn't know that at the time. So, I'm showing them how. I've got a journal up on the board, and I'm writing as I go, and I did this for two or three days, just to kind of show them that this is kind of the idea."
Pence said that his example piqued the kids’ interest, and he continued to write more and more each day. Pence expounded on this and added in other parts and managed to then turn it into a short story of about 10,000 words story. He kept working on this and then found himself with a 60,000-word book that he wanted to publish.
“The Girl in the Silver Frame” tells the story of 12-year-old Mark and his 10-year-old brother, Scott, who decide to explore the town's local haunted house. According to the synopsis, “Scott has been having a recurring nightmare about the Brown House. The ghost of a young girl begs Scott for his help. While looking through the house, they find a framed photograph of a young girl, whom they later determine to be Elizabeth Brown. Elizabeth disappeared during a flood in the 1940's and now her spirit is trapped in the Brown House. The boys follow a trail of clues hoping to help Elizabeth find final peace.”
Pence said he has always liked Stephen King books but also “hard-boiled detective” fiction, such as the novels written by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
When he taught the older elementary grades, he accumulated a fairly extensive classroom library, he said. He estimated around 500 books at one point.
Pence added that he noticed that when it came time to pick a novel that he would read to the students, they tended to steer towards a scary book. In some instances, they chose scary books over recess time, he said.
Pence said that he noticed that this genre of middle grade and young adult “horror” or “scary” books featured decent character development, where the children in the book face some kind of challenge and for the most part end up overcoming the challenge.
Pence said he grew up reading comic books, which his mother hated, but he eventually moved on to Sports Illustrated and then the Hardy Boys and more.
“From then on, I was off and running,” he added.
Pence said he hopes that his book can serve as “the spark that leads them on to something else.”
“I know some of them just get it because they know who I am, so they think it's a big deal, but I know some of them are reading it and really enjoy it,” Pence said. “It's good, clean, fun.”
“The Girl in the Silver Frame” can be purchased on Amazon in hardcover, paperback or for Kindle as an e-book. It is also available for free through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited subscription.
The paperback is available for $6.99, while the hardcover is $13.99.
To purchase a copy of “The Girl in the Silver Frame”, visit https://a.co/d/05OWK8L.