NHS student authors book series, starts publishing company

  • Henry Reade, 16, a book author who launched his own publishing company, poses for a portrait Wednesday in his Florence home. The Northampton High School junior is holding the first in a series of four he wrote. This one is called “The Pencil Bandits: Finding Crime.” GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

For the Gazette
Published: 11/10/2016 9:45:07 AM

FLORENCE — Five years ago as a middle school student, Northampton’s Henry Reade was so tired of reading cliché books geared at his age group that he sat down and wrote one. That turned into a sequel. Then a third. And finally last summer, a series finale – all before he began his junior year at Northampton High School.

With the writing thing under his belt, the enterprising youth now wants to bring the fun and humor of reading to other people. So he used the money saved from refereeing soccer and the volunteer efforts of his family to launch a publishing company called Henry Charles Press.

Reade began writing the book series called “The Pencil Bandits: Finding Crime” with his father when at 11. The two started the project the summer before Henry entered seventh grade, and just completed their work on the fourth and final book this summer.

“I felt like a lot of the books I read lacked a certain edginess and humor, and they tried too hard to be moralistic,” said Reade, explaining why he decided to commit to the keyboard years ago.

So he decided to write a book that was written by the same audience it was written for. “The Pencil Bandit: Finding Crime” follows three poor brothers living in a dystopian version of the United States that uses a faltering economic system. They decide that honesty doesn’t pay and become criminals, since they think that’s the only way to get by in the world.

The book then explores social justice issues through the eyes of kids in an enjoyable and humorous way.

“I think that’s why it works, because he’s got that kid perspective,” said Nat Reade.

The sequel to the first novel is “The Castelli Curse,” followed by “Clues & Stuff.” The fourth book does not yet have a title.

Henry said the resources available to him were incredibly helpful. His father is a professional writer, and his mother is a publicist, so he realized that he had to means to accomplish a project like this.

When the story idea came to him one day, it hit him that he had the support necessary to make a book, so he might as well try.

“A big motivating factor was what was already done,” Henry Reade said. “I had a plot, why not make it into more of a plot? I had a plot, why not make it into a book? I have a book, why not expand on it and make it something more serious?”

The process for each book consisted of Henry and his father going for a walk and talking about a chapter. They would discuss the plot throughout the stroll and his father would give feedback, and they would then sit down at the computer and write.

Nat would type as Henry would talk, and the chapter would be finished after about five or six hours.

Of the four books that are the byproduct of this ritual, Henry said the first is his favorite. The elder Reade said they have already received enthusiastic responses to the first novel.

During the test phase, the father and son duo sold some copies at JFK Middle School, and advertised on Facebook by asking if anyone knew children who would be willing to test out their novel. He said both students and parents involved in the test have reached out to them with positive feedback.

In fact, they even got a page-long fan mail from a kid who is a friend of a friend in Vancouver.

A junior in high school, Henry said that he does not aspire to be an author. While he loved writing the books, it was really just more of a hobby.

Henry recently launched the book’s website, www.pencilbandits.com, which is directing fans to his crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo (https://igg.me/at/pencilbandits/) for his publishing company. From that site, readers can buy the books and merchandise.

Visitors to the Indiegogo site can watch a video made by Reade’s classmate, Joe Marks, also an NHS junior. 

To Henry, the creation of the series has taught him an important life lesson about perseverance. He said he learned that if you put in enough effort and hard work, you can create something big that you can be genuinely proud of.

Besides life lessons, the literary project was also a bonding experience.

“I definitely really value the relationship I had with my dad in writing these. I mean, we spent a lot of time together,” he said.

Henry and Nat Reade will be hosting a book launch party at the Parlor Room, 32 Masonic St, on Dec. 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. Those who attend will watch a short film, hear a reading from the book and participate in the First Annual Pencil Bandits Bad Rap Contest. 

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