May 29, 2016

“Night Catch”

We are delighted to share author Brenda Ehrmantraut’s blog with you today. Her appeal is widespread and includes the military community. When “Night Catch” was published it was a natural fit for us and our booklist. I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with Brenda numerous times and her sense of humor, creative view of the present and compassionate heart are so apparent.

OS1 Shawn Lane, Active Duty Coordinator on board USS Mason, reading "Night Catch" to his daughter, in front of their starry night backdrop.

This book blog has a little extra piece to it. One of our commands operating United Through Reading used “Night Catch” as an interactive family communication piece. The USS MASON had a great coordinator team of husband, Shawn Lane, active duty coordinator, and his wife Bobbi was the home- front coordinator.

Bobbi loved the book and developed a great activity. She created a starry night backdrop, cut out foam stars and sent them to the ship along with paper to trace and cut out the hand print of the Sailor parents who recorded “Night Catch”. The story could be read while sitting in front of the backdrop and then the parent traced their own hand, taped a foam star to it, and mailed it home with the DVD for their child to ‘catch’.

There were some great responses to the project, especially from some of Bobbi and Shawn’s own 4 children. Their toddler daughter tried to ‘High-5’ the hand! The son of another crew member would sit at their TV to watch Daddy while talking to him the whole time. He didn’t mind if Dad couldn’t answer, he held long one sided conversations.

I asked Bobbi if she wanted to share anything with Brenda, the author. She said, “Thank you for writing such a great book! It has such a good message and is a tool for the kids. We all see the sky and outside we can all see the same stars.”

Shawn and Bobbi appreciated the United Through Reading concept and program so much that they have already said they would be coordinators on a future deployment. Shawn said, “It was great to see so many of the crew participate, even those from visiting services.” The USS Mason also carried some Coasties as well as personnel from the Singapore Navy who also recorded stories for their children. Thanks to OS1 Lane, United Through Reading is international on many levels.

OS1 Shawn and Bobbi Lane's daughter feels close enough to touch her Dad during story time with "Night Catch".

Today we’ve asked Brenda to share some of the background to her motivation in writing the book as well as another story, “Hope Weavers”. We invite you to share your family’s Night Catch comments here in the blog too. Enjoy ~!



By Brenda Ehrmantraut

Isn’t it crazy the places our paths take us? I visualize myself standing on the outside of a window holding a copy of Night Catch. I knock on the window to get your attention and hold up the book. You look up, smile at me and wave me to the front door. “Come on in!” your lips read. “We’re so glad you’re here.”
You see, I don’t have any military experience myself. Yet you all seem like a family who has the guest room fluffed up and ready for me. Thank you so much. I can’t tell you how honored and humbled I am that military families and organizations such as United Through Reading have accepted Night Catch as the gift from the heart that it was written to be and are sharing it with others.

Seven years ago, when my brother received his deployment orders to serve in Iraq with his Army National Guard unit, I was terrified. I thought the National Guard did disaster relief and community service on weekends. I didn’t know they went to foreign countries for undisclosed missions. And I couldn’t wrap my mind around the fact that he would spend an entire year separated from his family. My heart ached for my brother parent to parent. And from that, Night Catch was born. I think that is why it resonates with so many people, despite the fact that I am not a military spouse as many guess that I am.

Visit the author's website at to order "Night Catch" and other titles by Brenda Ehrmantraut

In fact, I am a minister’s wife. But this has been a late career change for my husband. So I am now getting used to a life that has some of the same elements as yours: service, sacrifice and itinerancy. We know that “moving orders” will be part of our life. And I think this may be an area I will explore in writing soon. We have two school-age children and we moved them twice in two years. That’s fun, huh?

I might hit it with a sense of humor though. Because, frankly, some of the stuff that seems so doggone serious, is really just a blip on the screen. Take the haircut my son gave my daughter when they were six and almost three. When 12 inches of curly blond hair is laying on the floor and two gleeful children want you to be as proud as they are that they have managed to “make her a boy!” it’s just not that funny. But later, it really is. It’s snortin’ funny. The hair grew back and we’ve laughed about it for years. Please don’t judge me; don’t your preschoolers have access to scissors?
I started out talking about paths and ended up talking about scissors and that is exactly my point. I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but I never could have predicted that I would end up writing books for military families and longing – yes longing – to write more for them. It’s because the reception has been so warm, and the issues so relatable.

If you are interested in my other military title, it’s called Hope Weavers.

Themes of protection, reaching out to help others, and hopefulness make this another wonderful book by Brenda Ehrmantraut

It’s longer than Night Catch, but if you spend some time with it, you’ll find little surprises in the drawings by the amazingly talented Diana Magnuson who has illustrated, literally, a hundred books. Hope Weavers is a message for everyone about helping our fellow humans toward a brighter future. And keep an eye out for something on mobility, because I’ve got the bug to write it now. Go to my website http://www.bubblegumpress and send me a message. Tell me about moving, you, your kids and anything else you think will inspire me on this topic. Thanks!

Oh – if you’re in the mood for something funny that is all about typical kids and nothing about the military, check out my very first book, “I Want One Too!” If you have a little copycat in your house, you will quickly get the point of this sly sibling story.

And I’m excited to announce that Megan and Will, the beloved characters from “I Want One Too!” are appearing again in the upcoming title, “Me First!” due out this fall.
I hope you have as much fun reading the books as the illustrator, Robbie Short, and I have creating them.

The Right Book at First Book

Fourth in Kara’s series on The Right Book she introduces our friends at First Book.

 First Book provides new books to children in need “addressing one of the most important factors affecting literacy – access to books”.  How does First Book give children in need access to new books?  …through the First Book Marketplace.   In this special place, eligible schools, after school programs, early childhood centers, health clinics, foodbanks and other organizations serving kids in need can purchase books at 50-90% off the market price.  The opportunity is truly a gift. With the help of their partners, donors and dedicated volunteers they have provided more than 80 million new books to schools and programs serving children in need.

Our Transitions Program began purchasing books through the First Book Marketplace in 2010.  (Many know that the Transitions Program reaches children whose families are separated by incarceration, drug treatment or other social services.) The same year, First Book expanded their definition of children in need to include military children.  Mitali Chakraborty, Senior Director of National Engagement, explains “while military children navigate new schools with every military transfer and lengthy separations during deployments, they need new books to be a part of what is constant in their lives.  We are thrilled to offer the military units and USO locations the opportunity to order books from our Marketplace”. 

Together, United Through Reading and First Book staff search through a multitude of available titles to identify the best read aloud titles in the Marketplace inventory for United Through Reading programs.  First Book also forges wonderful relationships with a wide range of authors to benefit their constituents.  As an example, author Eric Carle, published a bilingual version of The +Very Hungry Caterpillar in Spanish and English ~ a huge benefit to the populations First Book serves.  For us, First Book invited authors Brenda Ehrmantrault and Eileen Spinelli to make their books about connecting during separation available to United Through Reading.  More on their work in an upcoming  Read! our blog.