Dry Run to Andersonville

November 26, 20074 CommentsPosted in book tour, guide dogs, Hanni, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized

Where is that darned bus?Hanni and I are doing a book signing at Women and Children First Bookstore on Wednesday morning, December 5. The store is in a terrific north-side Chicago neighborhood called Andersonville.
Mike, Hanni and I live on the south side of Chicago. The last time I went to Women and Children First, I took a cab. The beautiful thing about cabs: if they pick you up (see my blog post about a cab driver who refused Hanni) they let you off right in front of where you need to go. The ugly thing about cabs: they can cost an arm and a leg. It cost me over $20 to get to Women and Children First, for example.
This time, I figure, I’ll take a bus.
Truth is, Hanni and I rarely take Chicago buses by ourselves. I’m not afraid of much, but the fears I have are strong. One of my fears: falling into the laps of strangers. If a bus takes off before I find a seat, we’re doomed,
I can’t see the handles to grab onto for balance.
Knowing this fear of mine, Mike agreed to help us on a dry run yesterday. It went swimmingly.
First off, the bus was empty. Nary a lap to fall into. Even better: the bus driver waited for us to find a seat before he took off. Heaven.
A recorded voice called out the streets as we passed. To those of you who wonder whether blind people have a heightened sense of hearing, I’ll admit that after one announcement I told Mike I had no idea Chicago had a street called Killer.
“It’s Schiller,” he said.
I laughed. The ride was fun, really. I mean, once you’re seated, what’s to worry about? Chicagoans climbed on and off, a lot were chatting to each other, most of them seemed happy.
And no one fell into my lap.
After 45 minutes – Chicago is a BIG city — the recorded voice called out “Foster!” I grabbed Hanni’s harness, pointed to the front door, and commanded “Forward!” She led me perfectly, stopping at the top of the step down so I wouldn’t fall.
Women and Children First is two blocks north of Foster, Mike said. I turned north, commanded “Forward! and Hanni and I were off. When we got close to the door to Women and Children First, Mike stepped ahead. “It’s right here!” he said. Hanni went to him, sticking her nose under the doorknob. “Good girl!” I exclaimed, repeating that over and over while leaning down to pet the bejeezus out of her. Her tail was wagging with such enthusiasm that it brushed my face. We went inside, warmed up for a bit, then headed out again to circle back to the bus stop.
The second time, we let Hanni lead completely. When we got close to Women and Children First I started calmly and quietly repeating the direction she should be looking. “Right,” I said, pointing ever so slightly in that direction. “Right. Right. Right.” Sure enough, she walked right to the correct doorknob. Again the effusive exclamations, again the tail wagging. “Good girl, Hanni!” I know we’ll find our way on December 5.
It was a great afternoon. To reward ourselves, we ducked into a tavern/restaurant called Hop Leaf. Everyone we know who has ever gone to Hop Leaf gushes about it; finally it was our turn to give it a try. It did not disappoint. Mike and I enjoyed Belgian beer as we shared steamed mussels –Hot Leaf’s specialty.
The bus ride home was a cinch. No strange laps were disturbed.
Hanni’s bedtime treat that night was bigger than usual. We made it, I told her. Safe & sound.

Celebrating with Bethanni

November 16, 20076 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, book tour, guide dogs, Hanni, radio, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized

The wonderful kids at St. Athanasius gathered to meet Hanni and me. What a great audience!Uh-oh Hanni!  I think she’s got you beat in the cute department!Pick me! Pick me!Oh no–Hanni’s been spotted by the paparazzi!The Children’s Book Council named November 11 to 17 Children’s Book Week, and Hanni and I sure celebrated!
I already blogged about the radio show we were on Tuesday. What I didn’t tell you, though, was the reason Betsy and Sal decided to have us on Walking on Air in the first place: they knew it was children’s book Week!
Turns out we were on TV that day, too! WCIA Channel 3 in Champaign, IL did a special Children’s Book Week feature where they offered reading suggestions. Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound was right up there with some pretty well-known children’s books:
1) The Three Snow Bears, by Jan Brett (elementary picture book)
2) Knuffle Bunny Too, by Mo Willems (elementary picture book)
3) Hanni and Beth: Safe and Sound, by Beth Finke (non-fiction picture book)
4) Houdini, the Handcuff King, by Jason Lutes & Nick Bertozzi (biography in comic form)
5) The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (novel)
Okay, so that was Tuesday. On Wednesday Hanni and I were on the front page of my old hometown paper. If you look at the Elmhurst Press story online, you can link to a video of Hanni and me walking near the Elmhurst train station. As I said in a previous post, “Move Over, Brangelina!” I wonder if fans will start calling us Bethanni?!
Okay, back to earth. Thursday Hanni led me to the doctor’s office so I could get a flu shot. Somehow we managed to even make a doctor’s visit into a Children’s Book Week celebration. The doctor I go to also sees two patients who happen to work on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I left two copies of Safe & Sound with him – he promises to hand them over to the Oprah connections the next time they are in the office. I’ll let you know when Oprah calls.
Hanni and I ended our Children’s Book Week celebration today with a visit to St. Athanasius School in Evanston, IL. I spoke to first and second graders. Of course they are all geniuses – you have to be in order to spell the school’s name!
Tomorrow morning we head off to the Bookstall in Winnetka. My friend Kate has offered to drive Hanni and me there and help us with signing – and pawprinting – books. Good thing Thanksgiving week is coming up – Children’s Book Week has worn us out. We’ll need the break from all this celebrating!

Walking on Air

November 14, 200710 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, Hanni, radio, Uncategorized

Walking on Air LogoThese two beautiful ladies left me walking on air!Hanni and I were interviewed on a radio show called “Walking on Air” today. The show’s title turned out to be the theme for the rest of the afternoon.
I checked my email once Hanni and I got home from the radio interview. Dee ding! A message! I opened it. For a moment I thought I was misunderstanding the robotic voice on my talking computer. I hit the keys to listen again, and sure enough:
“The following book has been nominated in the Fiction Picture Books category:

Hanni and Beth: Safe & Sound by Beth Finke and illustrated by Anthony Alex Letourneau

Congratulations on your nomination!”
Yes! It’s true! Safe & sound has been nominated for a CYBIL Woo hoo!
What’s a Cybil? You mean, you don’t know?
Okay, I’ll be honest, neither did I.
I know now, though! The Cybils are a series of book awards selected by a panel of children’s and young adult bloggers, “the only literary contest that combines both the spontaneity of the Web with the thoughtful debate of a book club.”
According to the email message, nominated books will go through two rounds of judging, and the winners will be announced on Valentine’s Day 2008. Stay tuned.
But speaking of being tuned in, our interview on Walking on Air was swell. If you have never heard “Walking on Air,” it’s Syndicated on WLBK, DeKalb, IL; KWPC, Muscatine, IA; WLRB, Macomb, IL; WBYS, Canton, IL; and on WRAM in Galesburg, IL.
If you don’t live near any of those cities you can hear “Walking on Air” streamed live, weekdays from noon to 1 pm (central time).
To hear Hanni and me from today’s show, though, you’ll need to link to the podcast.
The “Walking on Air” hosts are Betsy and Sal. They’re sisters, and the show’s title comes from their uncle. Every morning on his drive to work he passes pairs of women walking together. These women walk every day and never seem at a loss for topics. What, he wondered out loud to his nieces, do these women talk about day after day? Since Betsy and Sally walk together all the time, they know what gets discussed. They are tons of fun, and our half-hour together flew by. I’m still walking on air.

Sit, Stay, Read

November 11, 20074 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, book tour, Hanni, Seeing Eye dogs, Uncategorized

Sit Stay Read LogoBook coverBarnes & Noble reading.  That’s me at the podium!The presentation went well.Hanni surrounded by a throng of adoring fans.Hey, I have some fans too…It’s official. Hanni and I are dogblog maivens. Another dogblogger blogged about us today.
Here’s the skinny: A woman named Mary Ellen was at the presentation Hanni and I gave earlier today at the Old Orchard Barnes & Noble in Skokie, Illinois.
Turns out Mary Ellen is the Executive Director and co-founder of “Sit Stay Read! Inc.” SIT STAY READ is a Chicago-based volunteer literacy organization that brings dogs and kids together to make reading fun. Mary Ellen’s dog Shandy is one of Chicago’s first Sit Stay Read dogs, and they dogblog about their experiences on the Shandy at Work dogblog.
The Sit Stay Read web site explains the program like this: “Reading aloud is a critical component of early childhood literacy. Children who have difficulty reading have an especially hard time reading aloud in front of peers and adults. SIT STAY READ programs allow children to read aloud to specially trained therapy dogs. The dogs increase confidence and generate excitement.”
After our presentation this afternoon, Mary Ellen asked if Hanni and I might want to be Guest Readers/Listeners at a Sit Stay Read school program in Chicagoland sometime. “Our kids would be thrilled to hear you,” Mary Ellen said. They’ve had opera singers, firefighters, poets and other professionals as guests. “You and Hanni would be a wonderful addition.”
Hanni and I would love to give this a try. It was great to meet Mary Ellen at the bookstore today, and we look forward to meeting Shandy in the future. In the meantime, we’ll keep track of them by reading their dogblog.

Move Over, Brangelina — Here Comes Hanni

November 9, 20074 CommentsPosted in Beth Finke, book tour, Hanni, Uncategorized

Heeeeeeeeeeere’s Hanni!A reporter met Hanni today as we came off the train. He shot pictures while we walked along the platform, then escorted us to our speaking event. There, waiting in the wings, was a filmmaker ready to videotape Hanni for a small bit in a documentary. A photographer from another newspaper was there to shoot pictures during the presentation.
The way Hanni was acting – hamming it up for the photos –you’d think she was in Hollywood posing for People Magazine or Entertainment Tonight. But the heavy coat I’m wearing in the background gives her away. We were in Elmhurst. It’s a suburb of Chicago.
I was born and raised in Elmhurst. So was my mom. Flo is 91 years old now, the matriarch of her church. Her Lady friends at Messiah Lutheran Church in Elmhurst asked Hanni and me to come to the church to give a presentation. And when the Lutheran Ladies call, I respond.
So, apparently, do the local newspapers. The paparazzi were from the Daily Herald. And the Elmhurst Press.
The stories – and Hollywood-style photos of Hanni – are scheduled to appear in the local papers in the next couple of weeks. I’m not sure she’ll even make it into the documentary — it’s called A Hero on Every Block and I have no idea when — or if — it ever will be released. But maybe i shouldn’t be so skeptical. The filmmaker videotaped my mom, too, and if ever there was a hero in this world, it’s Flo.
If any of the newspaper stories, photos, or videotape is available online, trust me, I’ll link to them in future posts on the Safe & Sound dogblog.
All right, gotta go. Mr. DeMille? Hanni’s ready for her close-up.