Children’s books new genre for Solvang columnist
Readers of Henry Schulte’s erudite columns that appear Sundays in the News-Press’ Voices section will be surprised to learn that he has taken on a new genre — charming books for children about “Pedro, the Avocado,” “Becky, the Balloon” and “Clayton, the Cocoa Bean.”
He began writing them after retiring last December.
“My family and I have been farming avocados on Dos Pueblos Ranch in Goleta since 1977. When the ranch sold, I finally retired, and I’m not sure how it came about, but I ended up writing a children’s book about how avocados make it into your kitchen. I made sure it was factual, so kids, and adults, can learn from it in a factual way,” said Mr. Schulte by phone from his home in Solvang.
“This sparked another idea. Why not do a children’s educational series about how things are made, one for each letter of the alphabet?”
With the help of simple but clever illustrations by Valerie Bouthyette, he writes about Pedro and his exciting journey through life from an orchard to the packinghouse to the store to a home, where he is added to recipes like salads, guacamole and even green ice cream.
“I struggled with the concept of Pedro being eaten at the end. I didn’t want to scare kids who had fallen in love with Pedro and didn’t want to eat him. My solution was to take the seed out and grow another avocado,” said Mr. Schulte, who writes in the last pages of the soft-cover book that costs $8.95:
“Pedro had fulfilled what he was raised for. Next spring there would be millions more Pedros harvested to make millions of people happy all over again.”
Next came “Becky, the Balloon” about how rubber is made, and “Clayton, the Cocoa Bean” about chocolate. Fourth in the series will be “Daxton and Daylon, the Dollar,” about how money is made.
“Daxton is my grandson, and Daylon is my granddaughter. I named the avocado book for Pedro Sereno, my longtime foreman at the ranch,” said the 1971 graduate of San Marcos High School.
“It is very exciting to have time in retirement to go back to my real passion, which is writing. While I was working, I would help put the kids to bed and write from midnight to 2 a.m.,” said Mr. Schulte, who is married to Dundie and has two daughters.
His first novel, “Misery Loves Company,” was set in the cozy New England town of Knockwood, Vermont, during a chilling icy winter. Six-foot-seven Kevin O’Reilly, a bodybuilder who looks like a golden Viking, is dying of a terminal illness. He has sold all his belongings and left his life behind in California. His last action is to forgive his mother who abandoned him 20 years ago when he was 12, except when he arrives from his cross-country drive, she had just committed suicide before his arrival.
“It was my very first novel, so I wouldn’t say my best, but it was fun,” said Mr. Schulte. “My next novel, ‘Destiny,’ which will be out in the next month or so, is about Dirk, a young surfer who also owns an antique store in Solvang.
“One day, he’s shopping the old Brinkerhoff street in Santa Barbara for antiques for his store. He comes across a book about famous people, but there’s no publisher or any information about where and when it was printed. He started to walk away but was pulled back.
“When he picked it up, he got an electric shock. Intrigued, he bought the book, went to the beach and opened the chapter to Michelangelo, and he was immediately transported and became the great sculpture but figured it was an unrealistic dream. In another chapter, he became Billy the Kid, and when he fell asleep and was transported back to his time, he had a bullet wound and realized it wasn’t a dream.
“His next adventure put him in a PT boat and became John F. Kennedy and was put in the position to save the lives that were under his command. His final adventure was the real purpose of the book, and he was transported to become Barabbas and saved Jesus temporarily from death. It was at that point Jesus told Dirk he had been chosen to save the world.
“That’s when Dirk goes back to his time, and the world begins to collapse, and Dirk finds himself, unwillingly, to fight a powerful evil force and ultimately save Earth and start life on the planet over again.”
The author’s reference to Dirk as a young surfer is not surprising since Mr. Schulte has been an avid surfer for years.
“I also love to play the guitar and sing. During the last couple years, I’ve written numerous songs and will sing at open mic on occasion at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez. I’m working on putting something together where I can sing all my songs in some public venue here in the valley,” said Mr. Schulte, who is also an amateur photographer.
“It’s never too late in life to do all the things I want to do and to have the opportunity to go out and take up where I left off,” he said.