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"...this is solid historical fiction with a scrappy heroine who is genuinely tough and a true survivor. Irrepressible and irreverent."
—Kirkus Reviews


"Platt's realistic dialogue and period details contribute greatly, and readers will be drawn in as Hellie's willfulness proves a formidable asset against her many obstacles."
—Publishers Weekly


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A heart of steel can’t be stolen—unless the thief is Hellie Jondoe

 It’s 1918. A war of nations is ending and a worldwide flu epidemic is just heating up, but to thirteen-year-old Hellie, the only battle that counts is her own survival.

An orphan by four, a beggar by six, Hellie—as apprentice pickpocket to her brother Harry—is now “the best dang cannon of moveable property between Satan’s Circus and Hell’s Kitchen.” She’s as tough as she is resourceful . . . on her own turf.

But after a gang shootout coerces Hellie to head west on an orphan train, her plans to jump track are quickly derailed. Landing in the Hidden Hills, a ranch outside Pendleton, Oregon, Hellie meets her match in the domineering Scholastica Gorence, an elderly ranch woman to whom she is indentured for three years. To make matters worse, Hellie becomes the unwilling caretaker of Lizzie, a nearly blind girl, and Joey, a crippled toddler. The last thing Hellie wants is a family, but she is strapped with one now.

There’s a time to cut and run, a time to stay and fight. Choosing which is right takes savvy, guts, and heart . . . all compelling Hellie to dig down deep.

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"Hellie Jondoe is a great read that deals with hardships, loss, and triumphs.I highly recommend this book to those that are looking for realistic stories with happy endings."
Night Owl Reviews

"As always, Randall Platt brings us western authenticity, charming plot surprises, and captivating characters we cheer for. Hellie Jondoe captures the heart—and the heart of the West."
—Jane Kirkpatrick,
author of "A Flickering Light"

"A captivating story, well-told and delightfully populated
with endearing misfits...Hellie Jondoe works for
adults both young and old."
--- Marjorie Reynolds,
author of "The Starlite Drive-In
and The Civil Wars of Jonah Moran"

An Interview with Author Randall Platt

Q) There are several factors in HELLIE JONDOE that are of historic significance. First, the orphan trains. How did you come upon them in your research?

A) Just that! I stumbled upon this long, little known and sometimes misunderstood chapter in our history. I needed a plot device to get my young street urchin from New York City out west. In researching train travel in 1918, I found a book on the orphan trains. Hmmm, I thought, interesting. For nearly seventy-five years, homeless waifs and orphans were plucked out of the orphanages and off the streets and taken out west to what would hopefully be a better life. You can imagine how some of these children ended up. Some found perfect, loving families. Others became second-rate foster children or, in the case of thirteen-year-old Hellie Jondoe, indentured ranch help.

Q) The flu epidemic of 1918, known as the Spanish Influenza, also figures heavily into the plot of this novel. Why did you incorporate that?

A) Well, I had picked the year 1918 because I wanted the time frame to be that of war’s end, in this case, World War I. This era was important because that is what my feisty young heroine needs to come to terms with—ending a war. Of course, you can’t address 1918 and not address the epidemic which killed more people on earth than all the wars combined.

Q) With our current concerns about the flu, in this case the swine flu, are you finding some scary similarities?

A) Yes. One of the reasons the Spanish flu took such hold of the world was that for the first time America, and the world, was becoming a mobile society. Soldiers were returning from the war in Europe, barracking together, traveling together, and returning home on trains ... giving the flu a perfect opportunity to travel in close quarters with them. Close quarters— think about it. Look at how we all travel today. One freeloading germ on one plane can land on 200 people going to 200 different locations.

Q) How about the differences?

A) Of course we have vaccines now. And we have such instant communication and awareness we can virtually keep up on the progression of infections on an hour-by-hour basis. News doesn’t take four or five days to travel—it’s in our ears as it happens. Also, we have an educated society that has learned the lessons from the 1918 epidemic.

Q) What do you think those lessons were?

A) Quarantine, of course, and other ways of not spreading the infection further. Being aware of how a determined germ can morph and travel. Washing hands and knowing what damage a simple sneeze can cause. And of course, the big lesson is to never, ever underestimate the power and the determination of a flu bug.

Q) In HELLIE JONDOE, your characters offered up the option of not using aspirin to ward off the effects of the infection. Why?

A) One theory about why the flu did spread so violently was because our first “wonder drug”—aspirin— lowered fever and took away the ache of illness. It made a patient feel so much better they thought they were cured and went about their business—but the flu was only temporarily disabled and surged back with a vengeance in a few days. By then, how many more people were exposed? One of my characters is a Native American who believes in the use of Indian sweat tents to kill the virus, but the option of aspirin and a doctor’s help is always there. The purpose is to show the different ways different cultures dealt with an enemy that knew no borders.

Q) What other tidbits from history do you include in this novel?

A) I can never learn enough about the problems young people faced when forced to fend for themselves— surviving on the streets, joining gangs, and of course pickpocketing—an art form, actually. As was begging. Take all the problems people of the street, especially children, face today and add to that social stigma, violence, persecution, minimal social reform, and wretched living conditions prevalent a hundred years ago and you have five or six more novels from this author!

Early photography has always fascinated me. It was a new art form and a new medium of communication. When the newspapers started using photos to accompany articles a whole new form of reporting was born—photojournalism and exposé...something we don’t even think twice about today but which back then was quite sensational. In this novel, a woman photographer chronicles the journey of the orphans out west. Women rarely did such male-dominated jobs. So I touch on women’s rights and gaining the right to vote. For lots of reasons, 1918 was a fascinating year.

For more on Randall Platt’s young adult novel Hellie Jondoe, or to order a copy, call Texas Tech University Press at 806.742.2982 or visit www.ttup.ttu.edu/Book%20Pages/9780896726635.html

Randall Platt


  1. STOPPED LISTENING TO AUDIO BOOKS - I love being read to, but I can't think about MY stories while listening to someone else's story. So, unless it's a long, boring drive or flight, I no longer listen to audio books. Instead, I think about my current project.
  2. CREATE MY OWN SOUNDTRACK - I create IPod "soundtracks" for my own work in progress. I create a playlist of the tunes which inspire my story and characters.
  3. CUT BACK ON THE FREE ADVICE - I am the sort who will stop and talk to anyone, anywhere about anything. So I don't answer letters or phone calls, but will zap a quick email instead.
  4. SET REALISTIC GOALS - Just because I CAN write fast, does not mean I should, so I no longer try to get it written in two months.
  5. FEWER GROUPS AND FORUMS - I used to belong to several writers forums, clubs and newsgroups, but now only belong to a few and I open my yap only when I have something important to add.
  6. PICK MY BATTLES - Too many things far outside of my control were taking control of my time and mental energies. So, I write fewer letters, join fewer campaigns and stick to the business at hand - being a writer.
  7. TOOK COMPUTER GAMES OFF MY COMPUTER - A minute here and a minute there adds up to vanished hours. I now play only ONE game a day - and that is a crossword puzzle the first thing in the morning to make my head come to life.
  8. CUT BACK ON INTERNETING - Well, if you have read this far, maybe you need to do the same thing. Nah, just joking. Keep Reading. Number 10 scores!
  9. TAKE WORK AND MUSIC EVERYWHERE - I am never without my work-bag. The time we spend waiting adds up. So, even if there is a ghost of a chance that I will be kept waiting wherever I go, I know I will fill that time with work.
  10. TAKE SUNDAYS OFF - Okay, as you can see from the above nine items, I am a workaholic and it's taken me many, many years to realize I need one day to recharge, rethink and reset. Sunday is for family, food, reflection, and many times, sipping champagne. So when 4 am Monday rolls in, I am set for another week.... providing there hasn't been too much of that champagne thing.