Falling Rock

by Dr. Jessie Voigts /
Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture
Nov 26, 2014 / 0 comments

Do you love to share history and culture with your kids through stories? Me, too (in fact, that's the way I love to learn!). We love to read about different cultures, people, times, events - these small things, put together, bring the world alive to us. We were recently sent a review copy of a marvelous children's picture book, Falling Rock, written by Rebecca Heller and illustrated by Joyce Robertson. This book fits right in with our family and our love to explore other cultures and ways of living.


Falling Rock, by Rebecca Heller


The book tells a classic tale of a Native American and his journey, and is beautifully illustrated. The vibrant paintings perfectly complement the engaging story of a young man who spends years seeking his best friend. It's a tale of perseverance, of love, of traditions and naming and life.

Honestly? We love it!

We had a chance to catch up with Rebecca, to ask her about where the story came from, inspiration, that beautiful art, and more. Here's what she had to say...


Rebecca Heller, author of Falling Rock


Please tell us about your book, Falling Rock...where did the story come from?

The concept of the story of Falling Rock is not a new one, it has been told around the campfire hundreds of times in many different forms. It was first told to me as a camper by my camp counselor. I was probably around eight years old, and can vividly remember hiking through the woods in Northern California while my counselor unfolded the tale. He told me that whenever you see a road sign that reads "Falling Rock" it is because a Native American named Falling Rock was spotted in that place. I don't remember if he told me any other details, but that idea always stayed with me. I love the magic of something so ordinary meaning something extraordinary. I think even at eight years old, I knew it wasn't true, but I loved the idea just the same. Even as an adult when I pass one of the signs, I still think, "Falling Rock was here."


What inspired you to write this book?

The story of Falling Rock was one that stuck with me into my adult life. I had never seen a written version, so I thought I would create one. I actually wrote this book fifteen years ago. I had to give Falling Rock impetus to go on the road and liked the idea of him searching for his best friend, a horse. I wrote a story and my mother, who is an artist, created the artwork. At that time, we shopped it around to a few publishers but no one was interested. To be honest, the version I wrote back then wasn't very good. After a handful of rejections, the book went into a drawer and the paintings were packed away.

Cut to 15 years later, I have now published various books and had a child. I wanted to share the story of Falling Rock with my daughter. What is so great is that now there is technology that makes self-publishing picture books possible, so I pulled out the story and reworked it. I dusted off the paintings, re-photographed them and through Photoshop was really able to make them translate to the printed page. This time, I didn't try to get it published through official sources. In a way, I was just making it for my daughter. It was so exciting to finally see Falling Rock in book form. I was so happy with the way it turned out that I ultimately decided to share it.


The art - it is extraordinary! And it's created by your mom! Can you please tell us more about her work - and collaborating together on this book?

Joyce Robertson: "When Rebecca asked me to illustrate her Falling Rock story, I said yes right away. As a young girl I loved horses, the Southwest and the American Indian culture fascinated me, and I had been a graphic designer for years so I knew signs and symbols. At the time she asked, painting had become a new passion for me and I was using hand cut stencils, spray painting, and oil glazes as my medium. Rebecca's delightful story gave me rich subject matter for new paintings. These became the illustrations for the book."

Well clearly, I think my mother is one of the best artists in the world. She holds an MFA from UC Berkeley and has shown at many galleries around the San Francisco Bay Area and Hawaii, where she currently resides. What is so great is that my mom is just like me: you give her a task and it gets done. So it was really easy the first time around. I gave her the story and she created all the artwork right away. In fact, in reworking the book this past year, we decided that in order to make the story complete it needed one more painting (the final image of Falling Rock and Runs Like Thunder together), and fifteen years after completing the first set, she was like, "okay" and I got the painting in the mail about two weeks later.


art from the new children's picture book, Falling Rock



What do you hope readers take away from this book?

One idea that I hope readers take away from Falling Rock is that things are not always what they seem. There may be a little magic where you least expect it.

Something else I hope children take away is a love or appreciation for fine art. One of the critiques that we received when we shopped the book fifteen years ago was that the art was too sophisticated. I always disagreed with that remark, because I think that children are visually very sophisticated and the exposure to fine art can only expand their understanding of art and imagination.


What's up next for you?

That is a great question. The funny thing is that I don't really think of myself as a writer, although I write and now have four books out in the world. I have an unrelated full time job as a high school counselor that I love and a spunky toddler at home, so I am pretty busy.  But I am the kind of person that when inspiration strikes I go in whole hog. I have a few ideas floating around: another children's book, a sequel to Gilbert and Louis Rule the World, but I am not sure. I guess, like everyone else, I will just be surprised.


Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

For more information on Falling Rock or any of my other books, please visit my website www.rebeccaheller.com





Note: We received a review copy of Falling Rock from the author - thank you!


All photos courtesy and copyright Rebecca Heller