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New young adult novels inspired by Visalian

New young adult novels inspired by Visalian

Visalia’s Kate Burke finds muse in husband’s childhood stories of World War II-era life on a Nebraska farm


VISALIA – Summer reading. For some kids, it is Christmas in the sunshine. For others, it’s months of homework. This summer, there’s fun reading for every kid in the “Blue River Boy” books by Kate Burke of Visalia.

Intended for kids of all ages, Burke’s protagonist, farmer boy Ron Burke, grows up from age 6 through 16. Ron’s fictional adventures are based on the real-life tales Burke’s husband charmed her with of his own boyhood, growing up on the family farm in Nebraska through World War II.

“I couldn’t believe the stuff Ron told me,” Burke says.

Like carrying his little sister home through a blizzard. Like his dog, Lassie, saving him from an angry cow. Like going to school through grade six in a one-room schoolhouse. Like breaking his foot, crashing his car, puncturing his eardrum and being dinged by his own bullet boomeranging on him.

Burke laughs, “I tell him, ‘I’m lucky you lived to tell me about it.’”

Burke grew up reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series, based on her own nineteenth century pioneer childhood.

“Sixty years later, Ron’s childhood wasn’t much different,” Burke notes. “They didn’t have electricity. They pumped water from the well for everything—drinking water, washing clothes. Yes, they used tractors and drove to town in a car, but Ron’s own great-uncle, who lived right across the road, farmed with horses.

“It struck me that Laura Ingalls’ self-reliant, pioneer society really had its ending in Ron’s childhood. Once World War II ended, the world was changed forever.”

Burke met Ron in the most modern way. “Ron was a country boy but he grew up totally into electronics and computers. We discovered each other in an online writer’s forum.”

They fell in love mostly by email. They married in 2000 and lived about another 12 years in the same farmhouse where Ron grew up. They have since sold the farm and now live in central California.

“We both miss the farm, and Nebraska, in many ways,” Burke said. “But farming itself is so different now. Farm kids today would be astounded by how Ron grew up.”

Burke’s “Blue River Boy” books are sold exclusively at Amazon. The set of five books are available individually and as a collection in electronic Kindle format and as paperbacks. Find them at www.amazon.com/author/kate_burke.

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