A Picture Book That Helps Kids (and parents) Navigate Airports and Life
Posted on 25 May 2015
By Annette Hinkle
Sag Harbor Express, Sag Harbor, NY
Like many children’s book authors who also happen to be parents, Sandy Magura’s first picture book, “HippoDuck: Trouble at the Airport,” was born out of necessity.
“We travel a lot and in trying to explain an airport to my daughter, I found there was not much in the way of books out there,” explains Ms. Magura, a Sag Harbor native who lives in Stafford, Virginia with her husband and children Charlotte, 5 and Matthew, 2. “I wanted to take children through the airport as we see it — the ticket counter, the x-ray machine, the baggage claim.”
“The airport’s intimidating,” she adds. “It’s fast paced, we take off our shoes and coats, put them on the moving belt and it goes somewhere and they don’t see that. To describe that to her was hard.”
There were also the usual questions that young children have about new experiences. Can we get food at the airport? Do they have toys? Where do the escalators go? What do you do at baggage claim?
But of course, explaining the different functions of the airport experience can be pretty dry for young children. Which is why Ms. Magura approached the topic from the point of view of a very unique character — HippoDuck, a stuffed animal (two, actually) who have been sewn together so they don’t get separated. But naturally, on their trip through the conveyor belt at airport security, HippoDuck loses Charlotte, their little girl, and must roam the airport’s shops, restaurants and gates in order to find her before the plane takes off without them.
Like the theme of the book itself, HippoDuck, the character, is also based on a bit of reality.
“Hippo and Duck are Charlotte’s toys and they got lost all the time,” explains Ms. Magura. “As a parent, when a child loses the things she loves, it’s a nightmare. One day we thought we lost them in a store. That’s when we started this idea of where they might go and what they would see when they’re lost.”
Ms. Magura has found both the airport experience and missing stuffed animals to be a largely universal experience for her friends and their children, and on June 4, she will take her own trip back to Sag Harbor Elementary School, where she spent her formative years, to share HippoDuck’s airport adventures as part of morning program. During her time here, she will also visit with students at the Bridgehampton and Hampton Bays schools and on June 6, she reads and signs copies of her book at The Wharf Shop in Sag Harbor.
It’s rather appropriate that Ms. Magura is coming back to her hometown to share her new book with the youngsters of Sag Harbor, given the fact that her own journey from stay at home mom to children’s book author has a local connection — Emma Walton Hamilton, the children’s book author and teacher who Ms. Magura once worked with at the Bay Street Theatre.
Though Ms. Magura couldn’t take Ms. Hamilton’s children’s book writing courses at the Stony Brook Southampton campus, she was able to sign up for “Just Write for Kids!” an eight-week online program offered on Ms. Hamilton’s website.
“At first I didn’t know much about picture book writing, I just stared writing. She takes you into character and plot development,” explains Ms. Magura. “You analyze other picture books, their plots and characters and you build upon that.”
“It’s about developing a character, their personality and how they would walk,” she adds. “Becoming your character is important and it’s what I had to do.”
And in defining the unique personality traits of HippoDuck, who embodies many qualities of young children, Ms. Magura feels she has developed a persona that can take children on other adventures in more books about new experiences and travel.
“I created them as two personalities,” says Ms. Magura. “Hippo loves a good adventure and is more outgoing and Duck is more shy. I tried to adapt the book to the different kind of children there are.”
The research and character development evidently paid off. After approaching a number of publishers, Ms. Magura’s book was picked up by Laredo Publishing which brought in illustrator Gastón Hauviller to bring the story to life. For Ms. Magura, seeing his illustrations for the first time made the book real in a way it hadn’t been up to that point.
“I just had words on the page, it was the picture up here,” says Ms. Magura pointing to her head. “The best day was when I got those sketches. I lit up. All of a sudden the story was coming alive. He did everything perfectly and I was ecstatic.”
When Ms. Magura comes to Sag Harbor next week to read to the students of Sag Harbor Elementary school, she will also be seeing a couple former teachers, including Bethany Deyermond, who she says helped her through the whole writing process.
“Mrs. Deyermond was the aid for Mrs. Jack, who was my kindergarten teacher,” says Ms. Magura, a 1998 graduate of Pierson High School. “I still keep in touch with a bunch of teachers. My husband doesn’t understand it.”
But people in Sag Harbor do, and on June 4, they will have the chance to welcome back a new author who is one of their own. “HippoDuck: Trouble at the Airport” was released in early February and though she has no scientific way to measure its effectiveness, Ms. Maura notes that her friends have told her that it has made their own children’s airport experiences a little smoother. Which is why she is already envisioning possible future travel adventures for HippoDuck.
“My mother in law is taking the kids to Indiana for two weeks this summer,” she says. “And I’m going to take a train trip…it’ll be research.”
To learn more about HippoDuck, visit www.sandramagura.com.
HippoDuck - Trouble At the Airport
Sandra Magura, author
Gaston Haufiller, illustrator
465 Westview Avenue, Englewood, NJ 07631
9781564924124, $16.95, www.laredopublishing.com
"HippoDuck - Trouble at the Airport" is the inspiring tale of a unique toy made of two stuffed animals sewed together, Hippo, who loves adventure, and Duck, who is shy and likes to stay at home . HippoDuck belongs to Charlotte, who was preparing to travel by plane to Grandma's house for summer vacation. HippoDuck was sewed together so neither precious toy would get lost. Charlotte and HippoDuck liked to do everything together. While going through the airport's check in, HippoDuck went through a conveyor belt with shoes and luggage and other belongings of Charlotte's family. Then a strange thing happened: HippoDuck fell off the suitcase clip and lost Charlotte! HippoDuck has many explorations and adventures looking for Charlotte in the airport, but finally a special guard managed to reunite the animals with Charlotte. "HippoDuck - Trouble at the Airport" is an excellent story to prepare young children for sights and experiences common to air travel. The charming, expressive pastel colored illustrations of the unusual stuffed animal help make some of the scary aspects of travel a manageable adventure.
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