Consciousness-Raising For The Tot Set
By Will James
Judith Windeler was writing an adventure story for her two sons and her nieces and nephews, when she saw a mole pop up in her backyard in Quogue.
“He was so tiny, an insignificant creature of no apparent use to humans that I began to see him as a character,” she wrote in a recent email interview. “The adventure took off from there.”
The result of that encounter was Ms. Windeler’s first children’s book, “The Mole Brothers’ Magnificent Mission, which came out in June and chronicles the quest of two young moles to save their Hamptons civilization from environmental ruin at the hands of oblivious summer people.
Ms. Windeler, who splits her time between Quogue and London, was poking fun at summer people, like herself. But she was also aiming to write about environmental consciousness in terms that children could understand.
“The major conflict is between humans and their animal neighbors,” she wrote. “In a small way, it makes children aware that maybe we are not the center of the universe. The story also explores the consequences, often unintended, that building a house or a road has on animals and the environment. The deer roaming along Montauk Highway because their habitat is being destroyed is a very sad current example.
The book centers on the mole brothers, James and Stewart (who just happen to have the same names as her sons), who live in Mole Town, which is located underneath an unnamed Hampton’s community. Mole Towns shafts and tunnels are collapsing, crushed and jolted by the construction of mansions and tennis courts up above.
The Mole brothers get their claws on an official Mole Ordinance Map and hatch a plan to stymie the above-ground development. Before their journey is over, they are pursued by an enormous black dog, elude a gang of knife-wielding gopher thugs and brave a litter-strewn wasteland, where Stewart has a painful encounter with a shard of broken glass.
“Good thing moles don’t litter,” Stewart says at one point. “All our tunnels would be clogged.
The story, Ms. Windeler wrote, empowers children by showing elementary school-aged moles being brave and solving problems. She says she also hopes her book will help young readers develop compassion for wildlife.
“There were newspaper reports last year of someone driving a stake through the back of an ancient turtle which made me feel both angry and sad.” Ms. Windeler wrote, referring to an incident in which an injured turtle was found in Noyac. “I think educating our children is the answer to undervaluing wildlife.”
Ms. Windeler, who wrote the book under the pen name Minerva Taylor, said she decided to self-publish because it was a way to bypass “the laborious agent/traditional publisher route. The book can be purchased for $10.95 on Amazon.com.
“I also wanted control over the story and the design of the book and the date of publication.” She wrote, “I used Amazon’s publishing program which is all done on the Internet. Publishing the book was a great learning experience and I am very pleased at the outcome.”
CreateSpace, a self-publishing company owned by Amazon provided Ms. Windeler with the illustrations on almost every page, the most striking of which may be a pair of beady-eyes gophers stalking through the tunnels in leather jackets.
Ms. Windeler, a former teacher and librarian who has been a freelance writer for 20 years, said the saga of the Mole Brothers isn’t over yet; she’s working on a sequel. She’s also in the process of publishing another children’s book called ‘James and the Mini’ about an American boy who lives in London and dreams of driving a compact car, and is writing a volume in a trilogy of historical novels set in revolutionary Russia.