Museum director shares Huey’s adventures with new book
“I’ve always wanted to write a book,” said James Stokes, director of Huey’s Hideaway Children’s Museum. “I figured I’d better start with a children’s book.”
Stokes’ newly self-published book, Huey’s Treasure - A Magical Quest, is a children’s book that features characters from Huey’s Hideaway.
“Huey is an eccentric owl.” Stokes explained. “He doesn’t have a lot of friends, he lives alone, he’s all around a little bit disorganized. He’s not your normal owl; he’s neon color, but nobody knows why he’s such a crazy color.
He ends up bumping into Sammy the squirrel. Sammy is very much a busybody, he likes to collect nuts and save them, and he’s not too keen on sharing, so we thought we’d try and use that to help teach kids.”
The book revolves around a treasure hunt the duo set out on, but evolves into a life lesson for the fortune seekers. A key element Stokes added to the book is a song that Huey sings which acts as a map, with the lyrics guiding them along the trail.
“Towards the end of the book, Huey, because he’s so forgetful, forgets the last line of the song and they can’t find the treasure. They then realize that all along it wasn’t the treasure they were searching for, it was a friend... Owls and squirrels are kind of natural enemies, but they were able to come together and form a friendship.”
Stokes said the idea came from a museum fundraiser brainstorming session. Initially a partnership between Huey’s Hideaway and Peoples Choice Credit Union, the fundraiser soon attracted additional supporters, including TDS who has offered to pay the publishing cost of the first 100 books printed.
“One final piece of the puzzle was working with [Francis L. Simek Memorial] library,” he added. “We worked there with Erica Clarkson to further incentivize the national 1000 Reads program. When kids finish that by kindergarten, they automatically become members of Huey’s and then also get a book... To keep them interested they get free daily admission passes. So it’s kind of a partnership between all four of those entities.”
The fundraiser aims to raise money for Huey’s Hideaway to open a childcare center-like camp called Huey’s Academy, which would bolster income and allow Huey’s to be more self sufficient. It was envisioned as an 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. camp that would run all summer long, and have 14 weeks of STEM based programs.
“Huey’s Academy has been the pinnacle of what I personally have been working towards for two years, but there is much more that needs to be done,” said Stokes. “I am so excited to have Mary Burdett take over as Huey’s Camp Counselor.”
Despite the ambition, Stokes said the ongoing pandemic has hindered their ability to move forward.
“Everything that’s happened lately has kind of put the kibosh on what that might look like, but I’m still hopeful. If we’re able to move forward with that in full capacity, that would fund the museum all year long. It would be absolutely huge,” he said, underlining how critical it is for the museum to reach a sustainable income level, without relying on grants and canvassing local communities for contribution.
Due to the financial lag, Stokes redirected his museum income into different areas of operation, so things are kept stable: “Essentially I’ve written myself out of the budget for this next year. Maybe someday it’ll be able to sustain another full time director, but right now it’s just not possible.”
Stokes has plans to continue writing, and if the fundraiser goes well, he hopes to put out a second book regarding Huey’s Hideaway.
“One other thing I wanted to do was tell the story of our building,” he said. “The idea is we go back in time, to what used to be here. So I’ve been doing some research and working with the historical society.”
Others have shown interest in Stokes’ idea, and he’s already received assistance in researching the topic.
“My cousin is helping me out too,” Stokes said. “She would love to just have this history written down for children to let them know where we’re coming from, what did Medford look like a hundred, two hundred years ago.”
Huey’s Treasure - A Magical Quest is available at https://www.hueyshideaway. org/shop/book.