‘Hardcore Dutch Epicure Gypsy’ is a true story of grit and sweets

My wife, Wilma, and I are teaming up on a true story, “Hardcore Dutch Epicure Gypsy.” That’s the description of my wife that a bakery supply truck driver left on a note she found, and it is certainly fitting for the story of Wilma and her parents, Wolfgang and Betsy, and what it has taken to make a little international bakery in Litchfield, Connecticut, such a sweet success for the past 50 years. Preliminary work on this book has begun and we’d like to get it published in time for Litchfield’s 300th birthday in 2019, because The Dutch Epicure Shop is one of the many things that makes this town unique and special. We’ll also be seeking anecdotes from the shop’s customers, so message me if any of you want to contribute a favorite memory or story about the store, its many delights and/or the hardworking Joas family.

For now, here’s a little teaser …

THEY MET ON THE SS ROTTERDAM, a Holland America cruise ship, where they learned to work hard while others vacationed. They honed their skills as a pastry chef and stewardess. They saw the world together and fell in love.

And one day in 1967, Wolfgang Joas of Germany and Betsy Pronk of Holland docked for good in the little town of Litchfield, Connecticut, where they began raising a family and operating a fledgling bakery called The Dutch Epicure Shop.

More than 50 years later, in an America full of big-box retailers and fast-food joints, that little shop still hand-rolls pretzels and hand-dips macaroons in chocolate behind a modest storefront in a nondescript plaza.

If not for the German and Dutch flags flapping in the breeze alongside Route 202, one could easily miss this portal to a different time and so many places all at once — all of which can be experienced in as little as one bite.

PERHAPS IT IS FITTING that Wilma Joas — daughter of Wolfgang and Betsy, and owner of The Dutch Epicure Shop since taking over from her parents in 2002 — began selling her own ice cream in flavors ranging from apricot brandy to marzipan swirl to celebrate the family’s 50th year of running the store in 2017.

Wolfgang’s job in his first cruise on the SS Rotterdam was to make ice cream. When the massive ocean liner departed Holland on May 5, 1962, for a weeklong journey to New York and back, the 23-year-old was one of nine pastry chefs and part of a 130-person kitchen crew. The ship could ferry up to 1,700 passengers, including 150 to 200 in first class, during a time when it was cheaper to cross the Atlantic by boat than plane.

Wolfgang didn’t know it at the time, but his future wife was among the ship’s 600 total crew members who set sail that day …

P.S. I’ll be writing under my real name, John Cullen, for this one. Jack Chaucer, last seen blasting off for Mars with Nikki and touring the Isle of Wishpers with a group of children, is on hiatus.

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5 great reviews from 3 different countries for THE PASSWORD IS WISHPERS …

Five NetGalley/Goodreads reviewers from Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Canada and Great Britain share their thoughts on Jack Chaucer’s new children’s book, THE PASSWORD IS WISHPERS, now available in paperback at Amazon and Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, as well as major e-retailers.

“Such a super quick, and very cute story about keeping a group of small children calm during a scary situation. Even though it is only around 30 pages long, I have already fallen in love with the author and his writing style, and I cannot wait to check out more of his stuff.”

— Jemma Hammond, author and reviewer from Great Britain

“Ever wonder what kids do during a school lockdown? How do teachers keep their classes quiet when they are in such an emergency situation?

THE PASSWORD IS WISHPERS is a tale of imagination and playful fantasy set in the context of a lockdown. Mrs. Shea keeps her class of twelve students quiet and calm with a trip to the Isle of Wishpers. With their eyes closed, Mrs. Shea uses storytelling to guide them through their trip. Each child has an opportunity to whisper a wish (wishper) to add flair to the story.

The tale was beautifully written. I was in awe of Mrs. Shea’s ability to smoothly incorporate each child’s wish into her story and change the direction of the story without hesitation. I could see the eager faces of the children and imagine teachers inspired to tell similar tales to their own classes during lockdown drills or the real thing.”

— Liz Tipping, book reviewer from Joelton, Tennessee

“This is a very good story that shows the school classroom during a lockdown. I can’t exactly describe the quality that sticks with you other than to say that the story created a sense of peace in me. I can only hope that my children have a teacher like this in a similar situation. The teacher’s quiet confidence sticks with you after the story is finished. It does feel like it could use a few more illustrations. The ones that are included are well done and help bring the wishes the students make alive.”

— Richelle Zirkle, former school and government librarian in Houston, Pennsylvania

“As a retired elementary school teacher/administrator, we had to practice lockdown drills with our students. Because they were always drills, I do not think they were taken as seriously as they should have been. I liked that this story emphasized being quiet, taking it seriously. the story the teacher and students whispered was calming and kept them on task. The story was a bit long and probably could have used more illustrations. The illustrations that were there were large, vivid and colourful. This would be a great book to read before a lockdown drill or emergency so the activity could be used when the time arises. A nice addition to a primary classroom.”

— Carla Johnson-Hicks, retired teacher and primary school administrator in Windsor, Ontario, Canada

“I liked the colourful illustrations dotted throughout the book, allowing the reader to imagine what is happening a bit clearer. It’s a unique book. I’ve not come across anything similar before which is nice.”

— Rebecca Walsh, primary school educator in Great Britain

THE PASSWORD IS WISHPERS officially released today!

My new children’s book is now available in Amazon paperback, Kindle, Apple iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, etc., as well as the Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot! The amazing cover art and illustrations are by Jeanine Henning of Cape Town, South Africa!

Here’s the Amazon link …

And here’s what Joanne M. Moore, MLS, school library media specialist at Litchfield Center School in Litchfield, Connecticut, USA, had to say about the book:

“Author Jack Chaucer sensitively addresses a solemn school exercise in his first children’s book, The Password Is Wishpers. Along with fire drills and other safety measures, lockdown drills are standard in schools of today, and the author’s message soothes and distracts students in the fictional story about the sensitive topic. In the story, during an extended drill, the teacher and her students weave an exciting tale of adventure. Along the way, the children spell the word CHILDHOOD, as they discover and are reminded that their childhood is a gift to be cherished every day. Although silence is often required during a lockdown drill, if whispering is permitted, the book has a comforting message and is an exciting read. The book would be an excellent one to “whisper read” to students during lockdown drills in every school.”

A children’s book about school lockdowns? … unfortunate but true

I wrote my new children’s book, “The Password Is Wishpers,” because unfortunately in this world we live in, even our youngest school kids must participate in lockdown drills in case the next Adam Lanza shows up at our schools.

It is not lost on me that my 6-year-old twins are now the same age as many of the victims at Sandy Hook. I literally consulted with my son and daughter on the lockdown procedure they have experienced while writing this book. “The Password Is Wishpers” puts a positive spin on that experience with a resourceful and imaginative teacher, who weaves a tale from the whispered wishes of her first-grade students.

The lesson is to protect and treasure childhood innocence, even in a situation as horrible as a school lockdown.

This transitional book for first- through fourth-graders is 34 pages and will be published in paperback on Aug. 4 ($12.99 on Amazon), well in time for school and children’s libraries to order for the 2017-18 school year.

Jeanine Henning
of South Africa did the amazing cover art and interior illustrations. She handled every piece of art with incredible sensitivity to the book’s tricky subject matter for such young readers.

And what exactly is a wishper?

A wish made with a whisper = wishper

Check out this Goodreads link for the book blurb and more details:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35264578-the-password-is-wishpers

New children’s book coming out in August!

I had a lot of fun collaborating with my 6-year-old twin son and daughter on my latest book, “The Password Is Wishpers,” which will be on NetGalley this summer and published in time for the 2017-18 school year. Color illustrations by the amazing Jeanine Henning of Cape Town, South Africa, really bring this story of classroom unity, imagination and treasuring childhood to life!

Here’s a link to the Goodreads page and blurb for the book …

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35264578-the-password-is-wishpers

Hickory Stick signing was a blast!

It was like a family reunion at my signing of “Nikki White: Polar Extremes” on April 23rd at Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot. Relatives traveled from Rhode Island and Pennsylvania to come to the signing, buy books, hear me read Chapter 1 and feast at the White Horse Inn & Country Pub afterward. A fun day indeed! And “Nikki White” ended up being the No. 2 bestseller at Hickory Stick last week!!

Jack Chaucer book signing tomorrow at Hickory Stick Bookshop … praise for Nikki Janicek trilogy comes from across the globe

You’re all invited to my book signing tomorrow (4-23) at 2 p.m. at Hickory Stick Bookshop in Washington Depot, Connecticut. The NikkiJtrilogy has received scores of positive reviews from readers, teachers and librarians across the USA, Canada, England, Nigeria, Brazil, Australia, Sweden, Sudan, Philippines, India and the Republic of Georgia. Here are some of them …

“When I started reading this book, I had no idea it would be this intense and inspirational.”
— Deborah Obida, of Abuja, Nigeria, on “Streaks of Blue”

“Streaks of Blue does something that no other book has tried — it asks, “if just one person stepped in to love someone capable of murder, would that love be enough to stop them from hurting others?” Definitely a really worthwhile one to read.”
— Rebecca McNutt, of Nova Scotia, Canada, on “Streaks of Blue”

“I find Nikki very inspiring. … She reminds me so much of Hazel from ‘The Fault In Our Stars.’ I look up to both of them.”
— Samantha Arnold, of Khartoum, Sudan, on “Streaks of Blue”

“Such a touching and monumental story.”
— Georgina Robinson, of Hinckley, England, on “Streaks of Blue”

“Jack Chaucer took a tough subject, school shootings, and wrote a very poignant book.”
— Ruth Silver, USA, on “Streaks of Blue”

“I was super skeptical of this novel, but it was absolutely amazing, with a great message about reaching out and making a difference.”
— Shannon Mersand, a librarian at Yorktown High School in Yorktown, N.Y., on “Streaks of Blue”

“I wasn’t sure I was ready to read a book that references Sandy Hook yet, but he pulled it off. Heart-wrenching and amazing!”
— Amy Vandagriff, English resource specialist at Foothill High School in Pleasanton, California, on “Streaks of Blue”

“This book is wonderfully written. It is a masterpiece. I think it should on every English teacher’s to-read list. It helps not only to show how terrible things can be when people make poor decisions, but also shows the consequences of those actions.”
— Annie Marie, of Lake Jackson, Texas, on “Streaks of Blue”

“I am in love with this book. I wanted to keep on reading more after the story ended, and rarely do books capture me in such a way. The issues the book deals with are current, critical and must be talked about. Streaks of Blue is a must read for any teenager, even every adult.”
— Brittany of Cary, Illinois, on “Streaks of Blue”

“This book was not that long, but I would probably remember it for the rest of my life.”
— Sunny, of Asquith, Canada, on “Streaks of Blue”

“The story pulls at the heart with emotions, startles the heart with suspense, and washes away burden and brings out hope for our future.”
— Lynndell Watson, of Delta, Utah, on “Streaks of Blue”

“Nikki’s words made me re-think my school life and how we are rejecting our peers. And it made me call and write to all of my classmates and ask them if they wanted to talk and hang out.”
— Katie Topchishvili, of the Republic of Georgia, on “Streaks of Blue”

“I thought this book was totally awesome! Very well-written, beloved characters. It is very deep and emotional. (Chaucer) has certainly managed to touch me.”
— Jennifer Ahlin, of Uppsala, Sweden, on “Streaks of Blue”

“I enjoyed this book. In the end, I cried a little. So it touched me, moved me.”
— Paula Ribeiro, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on “Streaks of Blue”

“This book is about action, love, loss, mystery, suspense and so much more.”
— Natalie Lizardo Wilburn, of Pocahontas, Arizona, on “Nikki Blue”

“This book definitely blew away my expectations. … Another great read by Jack.”
— Natalie Lizardo Wilburn, Pocahontas, Arizona, on “Nikki White”

“I want to say that I think this author has magic, sorcery, mind-controlling powers. Every damn book in this series gets me so entranced with the storyline, a bomb could go off next to me and I wouldn’t flinch. … I want to know how this author thinks of the things that happen in this book. Some are so complex and make some characters downright heinous, it’s purely brilliant. … Nikki is my freaking hero. Total bad ass chick. … This is one of my top 10 all-time favorite series.”
— Christine Sewatsky Cheff, of Totowa, New Jersey, on “Nikki White” and the whole series

“Man, I’m angry with myself because I feel like I should have anticipated the ending to this book, but I didn’t, so cheers to Mr. Chaucer on that one. I love the character transformations in this one.”
— Kailyn Klausen, of Santa Barbara, California, on “Nikki White”

“The Bridge is a masterful puppeteer sliding Nikki into a complexity of hard choices played out against the harsh and beautiful landscape of Antarctica. Not only must she fight the elements that threaten to make the most sane mind lose touch with reality, but The Bridge forces her life to collide with Thomas in such a way that kept me riveted.”
— Katie Sholty, USA, on “Nikki White”

“I feel honored to review the entire series and now I can say this one is my favorite. The book was full of twists and turns, which makes it more exciting to read. There were also heart-stopping events on the first and last part of this book, it literally made me curse.”
— Camelle Rogando, of Pasay, City, Philippines, on “Nikki White”

“I couldn’t have hoped for a better setting (Antarctica) or ending.”
— Nandini Bharadwaj, of Bangalore, India, on “Nikki White”

“It is without a doubt a harrowing and transformative series of events for the majority of the characters we’ve come to know. … I really enjoyed Nikki’s character progression in this book. Also, wow, I did not see that ending coming, Mr. Chaucer. Kudos to you for surprising me with it!”
— Catherine, of Poulsbo, Washington, on “Nikki White”

“It was fabulous. Another great work from Chaucer. This series is always in my top 10.”
— Christina Jackson, of Shawneetown, Illinois, on “Nikki White” and the series

“Another incredible journey from Chaucer! This novel, the third in the Nikki series, is a fist in the face to the corrupt corporation known as ‘The Bridge’, it is the book all Nikki Blue fans have been waiting for! … A perfect third installation to this series, a quick, fast-paced read that leaves you thinking long after you have read the final page.”
— Julie Oakley, of Hobart, Australia, on “Nikki White”