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'Hombeez' Series Abuzz With Anti-Drug Message


Get ready for the invasion of the Hombeez, a swarm of characters pushing literacy and drug-free messages to kids in the "Hangin' With the Hombeez" series (Noware Books).

The critters have unique personalities and names to match--B Cool, B Sharpe, B Large and Hunnie B. The format is a kind of hip-hop "Dr. Seuss," designed to entertain kids while delivering the message. And the books do have a message: "Hangin' With the Hombeez-Extra Large," for example, teaches the importance of accepting those who are different.

Creator Dann Gershon grew up in the San Fernando Valley, spent 20 years in the fashion industry in New York City and the Far East and still can't believe he is now a children's book author. But heavy drug involvement by loved ones motivated him to get involved in Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Lamenting the lack of contemporary icons for kids, he sought to develop characters relevant to their environment and then take them where kids go--to books, music, fashion and the Internet.

"We always considered 'Dr. Seuss' the original rapper--if the characters are cool, the message is going to be cool," said Gershon, whose "Hombeez" books are illustrated by David Robinson.

Since hitting the market, thousands of books and millions of anti-drug stickers have been donated to schools and libraries--10,000 books, alone, to the local chapters of Partnership for a Drug-Free America for at-risk children around the country.

Then there's the music--the busy bees have teamed up with R&B hip-hop producers Full Force to form an animated hip-hop band starring the "Hombeez."

"It's a lot easier to quit if you never start," said Gershon, who is targeting kids ages 4 to 10. He mentions a letter from a father of two boys. After reading a "Hombeez" book, they made a pact--if friends or relatives approached the brothers with drugs, they would confront them as a family unit. Gershon believes the message is getting through.

To check out the books and meet a character or two, buzz over to Borders at 7 p.m. Saturday.


* Today: At noon: Los Angeles attorney and Holocaust survivor John J. Baer, author of "Witness for a Generation," will discuss and sign his book. Borders, 125 W. Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 497-8159. At 2:30 p.m.: Author Connie Zweig will sign and discuss her book "Romancing the Shadow." Calabasas Barnes & Noble, 4735 Commons Way, (818) 222-0542. At 2:30 p.m.: Ellen Jaffe Gill will sign and discuss her new book, "The Jewish Woman's Book of Wisdom," at Thousand Oaks Barnes & Noble, 160 S. Westlake Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 446-2820. At 7 p.m.: Kids Celebrate "Star Wars." Come as your favorite character, make "Wookie Cookies" and drink "Yoda Soda." Thousand Oaks Borders, 497-8159.

* Tuesday: At 7 p.m.: Pepperdine University Professor Michael Collings leads an ongoing poetry writing workshop. Borders, 497-8159. At 7:30 p.m.: Spiritual reading and discussion group will discuss "The Art of Happiness" by the Dalai Lama. Calabasas Barnes & Noble, 818-222-0542.

* Wednesday: At 7 p.m.: A sci-fi/fantasy book discussion group discusses "The Difference Engine" by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. Borders, 497-8159. At 7 p.m.: The American Girls Club features Samantha for discussion and craft-making. Ventura Barnes & Noble, 4360 E. Main St., 339-9170. At 7 p.m.: The East County Branch meeting of Small Publishers, Artists, Writers Network will hold a panel discussion with Diantha Ain, president of the National League of American Pen Women; Gerald Schiller, president of the Ventura County Writers Club; and Patricia Fry, president of the West Ventura Branch of Small Publishers, Artists, Writers Network. Newbury Park Library at Borchard and Michael streets. Contact Carol Doering at 493-1081 or e-mail for more information.

* Friday: At 7 p.m.: First-book story time featuring "Pete's a Pizza" by William Steig. Ventura Barnes & Noble, 339-9170. At 7 p.m.: Author Dona Schenker celebrates her new book, "The Secret Circle," for intermediate and young adult readers, featuring ghost stories, nail polish and "slumber party" activities. Borders, 497-8159.

* Saturday: At noon: Mystery author Gerald Schiller will discuss and sign "Death Underground." Afterward, mystery author Nathan Walpow will discuss and sign "Cactus Club Killings." Mysteries to Die For, 2940 Thousand Oaks Blvd., Thousand Oaks, 387-0084.

Catch you next week.

Information about book-signings, writers groups or publishing events can be faxed to Ann Shields at 647-5649 or e-mailed to

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