By Linda White
Do you remember your third grade teacher? Do you remember what made that teacher special? Bedford resident and parent of twins Todd Nichols has taught third grade in Lexington for 14 years. It would be highly unusual for his students not to remember his name, sense of humor, engaging demeanor, or the impact he made on their learning and their appreciation for reading.
Nichols is the author of the Peas and Hambone series. He identifies it as “a fun and relatable series for kids that I wrote in an attempt to attract reluctant or growing readers.” In part, his students were his first manuscript readers as well as his first critics. When he assigned the class a Writers Workshop assignment, he also gave himself the same assignment. When students shared their writing assignment with the class, he also shared what he had written. The result was the first book he self-published in 2013, Peas and Hambone Versus Flesh-Eating Zombie Gorillas which was re-released in 2017 as Peas and Hambone Save Us All. The second book in the series, Peas and Hambone Save Themselves, was released on May 26, 2018. Book three, Peas and Hambone Save Dad, is a current work in progress.
Peas and Hambone are best friends and have formed an unusual partnership. They are a collaborative, humorous, fast talking, crime fighting duo willing to take on any challenge. Consequently, they find themselves immersed in some very interesting and hair raising situations with characters such as the flesh-eating zombie gorillas and their manic leader, Evil Doctor Crazy Gorilla.
Peas is a nickname for 10-year old Peter who is an only child with very definite opinions on the value of “yellow snow.” Hambone is a dog.
“But here’s the earth-shattering part: the thing about Hambone is that he’s not only a dog—he’s also a kid. Just like me. Whenever he wants, he can walk on two legs and talk and do everything any kid can do. Impossible you say? I thought so at first too. (I mean, it’s not like I’ve been eating yellow snow all my life.) But only with me. He doesn’t do it when other people are around.”
Nichols has crafted a series for chapter book readers as well as their parents that is funny and smart with snappy conversation between the main characters, a rich vocabulary, plenty of movie one-liners that are a play on words, history and music references and a bit of Pig Latin. The references and play on words chapter titles are sure to give adults a smile and advantage for trivia night challenges, i.e. Here I Am to Save the Day, The Best Laid Plans of Dogs and Ladies. On a more serious note, Nichols provides Peas and Hambone the opportunity to explore many of the issues kids today face – bullying, not fitting in, school issues, the value of friendship, how to be and maintain friends, sharing, dealing with parents, etc. The illustrations and graphics by fellow teacher Chris Cavatorta effectively enhance the text.
Advice and encouragement to students of all ages from Nichols on behalf of all teachers:
“Peas and Hambone say: READ, READ, READ! Read books, more books, backs of cereal boxes, magazines, labels on cans, comics, graphic novels, tubes of toothpaste, graffiti, directions, instruction booklets, your best friend’s mind.
“Read everything you can get your hands on. (But, no, don’t read your annoying little sister’s diary. Unless you get her permission, of course.)
“Read every day. Read to learn, for fun, to laugh, to cry, to be inspired, to help you fall asleep at night, to grow ideas, to change the world. Always be reading. Do it today.”
Packed into his summer reading bag, Nichols has included his working draft for Peas and Hambone Save Dad, a host of his favorite children’s literature including the Who Was biographies published by Grosset & Dunlap, Because of Winn Dixie and The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo, The Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osborne.
Learn more about Todd at https://www.toddnicholsauthor.com/. His books are available at local libraries and Amazon.com.