Author uses own experience in bilingual book

Betsy Lopez Fritscher

Roscoe author Chris Holaves started his own company, Astakos Publishing, in June 2006 after taking an early retirement in 2002 from teaching for the Rockford School District. The time away from the classroom allowed the native of Greece to pursue a lifelong vision of writing bilingual books for children.

This weekend, he’ll head to a state-line bookstore to sign copies of his Spanish and English narrative to meet fans of his first book for youth.

“This will be a chance to connect with readers and see what they enjoy,” he said. “It’s a beautiful book, a humorous book, with a little character that anyone can relate to.”

“Even the Dead Get Up for Milk / Hasta los muertos se levantan por leche” was released in May. Since then, Holaves and his wife, Sharon, have been touring the state and country urging libraries to offer the quirky tale of a boy who conquers his fears in a funeral home turned home his family rented.

“When you’re a small company starting out, it’s hard,” Holaves said. “You’re up against the big boys, and you go slowly and everything takes time to learn. Nevertheless, we need to be in the business. Our determination is strong and we have stories and poems to share. Teaching gave me an opportunity to be the best that I can be.”

Holaves, 63, said he borrows from his own past when writing stories, often re-engaging himself into the imagination of a third- or fourth-grade young boy.

“I want to write about what I know. I know what it is like to be scared of the dark, so he’s like me, but he’s not me,” Holaves said of the book’s main character. “He’s just a little boy.”

Sharon, also a retired schoolteacher and children’s author, said reading and writing are two of their family’s greatest passions. She has faith that her husband’s book will help others through their language struggles through the magic books possess.

“We used to bring books home by grocery bags, literally grocery bags for our sons,” she said. “Now Chris’ book is in the Vancouver library, Jersey City and even in Orange County in Florida.”

Holaves moved to the United States in 1954 from Greece, struggling through adapting to the new culture and language. He said the transition and degree of difficulty always led him to believe he was destined to help others overcome their language qualms.

“Reading is the key to overcoming barriers of learning in any language,” he said. “I could have written this in Greek, but I chose not to because my experience in the classroom teaching English and Spanish showed a need for this and I believe in reading and the emphasis of reading religiously.”

Next for Holaves will be completing another twisted tale for children, “Running with the Bats,” scheduled for release by summer 2009.

Betsy López Fritscher can be reached at or at (815) 987-1410.