By Sharon Mager
Pasadena resident and former Anne Arundel County sheriff Ron Bateman saw and experienced a lot during his years in law enforcement — as sheriff, but much more as an undercover narcotics agent and homicide detective. He’s been in exciting, dangerous and gut-wrenchingly disturbing situations, and he’s written a crime fiction book, “Silent Blue Tears.” Thirty years in the making, “Silent Blue Tears” is now being edited. While awaiting the completion of that process, Bateman was encouraged by his wife, Elsie, to turn his attention to a different project — a series of children’s books.
The inaugural book of the series, “The Adventures of Bucky, Doey, Browny, And Sandy, The Tine Family,” tells the story of a deer family with Bucky, the father; Doey, the mother; and fawn siblings Browny and Sandy. It’s a simple, sweet story of the family on their trek through the forest. Along the way, the deer learn about nature. The child hearing the book’s words also learns about nature, said Bateman, as does the reader.
The stories flow naturally from Bateman because they’re part of his early memories. “When I was growing up, I was always in the woods, hiking trails,” Bateman said with enthusiasm. He loved studying animals and fish. “They intrigued me.”
He always enjoyed nature outings with his family, including his daughters, but he began making up nightly bedtime stories for his son, telling the then 3-year-old Zachary about the adventures of the Tine family. Tines are the “forks” on the deer’s antlers, Bateman explained. Each story began with the deer waking up underneath a hemlock tree.
Bateman spent ample time in Garrett County and loved the hemlock trees. “They’re thick evergreen trees, and they provide an excellent canopy for a lot of animals, especially deer,” Bateman said. “Wild turkeys actually like to roost in them.”
By sharing about the Tine family waking up under the hemlock tree, with the illustrations, kids naturally learn about the tree, and how animals rest and seek shelter under them. As the deer family wanders through the woods, they meet Mr. Robbie, a raccoon. Mr. Robbie tells the deer he lives in an oak tree, and he explains how it keeps him warm. Bateman used the title Mr. before the character’s name to encourage respect.
He also shows diversity. “If you look at the four deer, they all look different,” he explained. Though they’re in the same family, each has different traits, differences in skin colors, and the father deer has “drop tine,” an abnormality that some deer develop.
As they walk through the forest, they discover their reflections in the water, which prompts another life lesson.
Bateman did his research, even heading to the local library’s children’s section to study the books, literally counting the words and pages to make sure his book was the right length. That activity earned him a few strange looks, he laughed.
Of course, he had some fabulous editors. His 7-year-old granddaughter, Taylor, first critiqued the Tine family story. Bateman then made tweaks — changing the word “limbs” to “branches” because Taylor did not like “limbs.” Taylor also advised her grandfather that the book was too long, so Bateman shortened it.
Next came 3-year-old Rylie who was engaged throughout and thought the story was perfect, giving it a thumbs up.
There’s a cozy, comfortable quality to the story that children and their readers will enjoy. It’s even small, about 4-by-6 inches, for young hands.
Bateman has many ideas including making future figurines of the Tine family and a carrying case. Many more Tine family books are forthcoming.
The book is illustrated by Zoe Neely, a 17-year-old Ohio artist the Batemans discovered online.
Each book is $8.99, and copies can be ordered on Facebook, @ronbatemanbooks, or on the website www.ronbatemanbooks.com.
Bateman expects his crime novel to be available in the spring.
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