The Goodwill Vultures Club - Review and Interview

Chapter book by Hugh Willard: LadyD Books

I received a gracious invitation from Hugh Willard, the author of The Goodwill Vultures Club: A Day Of Heroes, to review the young readers chapter book shown above. I was so curious to see what it was all about because the cover art grabbed my attention right way. The clubhouse, animals and the children are so cool but I wondered about the black vulture and how it related to the story. Immediately, I replied with a yes because I was interested and Hugh Willard also agreed to do an author-interview. I was pleased!

About The Book

“A heart-warming story of a boy who learns that while some see his disabled pet vulture as ugly, others can see her as inspiration and joy. The story of "Buzz" and Rob is a lesson in acceptance of disabilities as normal, not different." – Mark Lawton Thomas, author of My Lemonade Stand Can’t Stand Me and Amazon Best Seller, When Farts Had Colors There is no shortage of heroic stories laden with love and loyalty between humans and their four legged friends. But there are very few about vultures - at least not the kind with wings. In The Goodwill Vultures Club, Roberta, AKA, Rob, is just such a furry friend. – Ann Eisenstein, author of Hiding Carly (2012) “You’d better keep that wrinkled-headed, alien freak away,” was not an uncommon thing to hear when 10 year old, Elton “Buzz” Stewart takes his pet vulture out in public places. Roberta, who prefers to be called Rob, is a gentle spirit and often misunderstood by people who don’t see beyond her outward appearance. The Goodwill Vultures Club is the story of Buzz and Rob who learn that even an ugly, ailing bird is capable of bringing life and happiness to the lives of others.

Book Review

I love the book and admire how the author weaves layers of complex issues and making them simple to understand, like a loving and nurturing dad surviving divorce and his children adjusting to the changes that goes with divorced parents. Then, there's a bird named Roberta, famous for being on TV, and her owner Buzz who provide support and a way of healing for a special girl who has autism. Plus, you'll discover a bad boy coming around when Rob and Buzz show others how to find a way to rise above people's ugliness when they're afraid and do not understand animals who are unusual and people with disabilities. I especially like the fun approach to relationships and communication with brothers teasing, friends joking, animals bonding and mostly all happening in a tree house!

5/5 stars. Highly recommend. An enjoyable read and a great message for children and adults!

About The Author

Hugh Willard is a writer and psychotherapist living and working in Holly Springs, NC. He has two daughters, two dogs, and two minds (one serious and one silly), all of which keep him busy and happy. You can learn more about Hugh at     

Author Interview      

Tell us a bit about your book and where it’s available.

The Goodwill Vultures Club: A Day of Heroes is the story of Buzz, a most average 10 year old boy whose life becomes anything but average when he happens upon a wounded vulture while camping one summer with his father and brother. The bond between boy and bird becomes an uneven path to healing for Buzz in the aftermath of his parents’ divorce

Right now, it’s available at as well as through my publisher (  I anticipate it being available later this summer at numerous independent bookstores locally (Raleigh, NC area) and possibly through the larger chains such as Barnes and Noble.

What was the inspiration for your book?

I had a remarkable dream several years ago about vultures that gave me a whole new way of looking at these much maligned creatures.  I came to appreciate how they do their job as nature’s refuse collectors with no fanfare, but also no complaints.  And their flight is quite beautiful.  Using the vulture character as a target for the fear and rejection that arises due to lack of information and understanding felt like a great means to highlight the experience that we humans face at times given our own differences.

What was your aim for this book? What did you want readers to think and feel when reading it?

A few things:  This book takes a fairly straightforward approach to the harder themes of intolerance, loss and redemption, and ultimately affirms the contradictory nature of our experiences and relationships. It seeks to shed further light on the humanity of persons with physical and mental special needs. We need not treat these persons exceedingly different. We need not avoid interaction or conversation with persons having experienced loss. The answer in all of our interactions with persons (or beings) different than us lay in presence, which really is anathema to ignorance and intolerance.  I want to affirm this natural mindset for my young readers.

Additionally, this book tilts more in the direction of prominent male characters, including the main character Buzz, and in a more subtle, understated role, his father. The casting of these male characters is, of course, intentional. It will hopefully draw in greater interest by boys who may otherwise trend away from literature in the pre-adolescent years. It captures some of the playfully derisive quality of interactions among young boys while steering back into the direction of cultivating and validating boys’ emotional terrains. The father represents an emotionally available, nurturing parent; a stark departure from the buffoonish, irresponsible depiction of dads all too prevalent in today’s media. We need more models of effective loving fathers today, for both our sons and daughters.

Do you have any other books currently available?

I have an earlier self published book, entitled Alphatorts: With X-tra Yummy Zucchinis, also available on  This book is a playful antidote to the erosion of our language skills that is paralleling our deeper immersion into technology with its accompanying language shortcuts (lol, omg, idk, etc)

What will you be working on next?

I’ve already finished the second Goodwill Vultures Club book.  This one extends the narrative begun in the first book, and has the two dogs in a more prominent role.  It highlights pet therapy/service animals in conjunction with illustrating the impact of war on returning military vets and their families.  This sounds like a heavier theme, but the book respectfully remains true to the balance of lightness and churn characterized in the first book.  I definitely want to strike the balance between fun and entertainment with education.

How did you originally get into writing?

According to my father, I’ve been a natural storyteller going all the way back to age 3.  I’ve always had the desire, and actually began to dabble more in writing in my 20’s.  Family life and career demands pulled me away, until just a few years ago.  In addition to the fun and joy I experience in the whole process, I also find it to be very therapeutic for me to write.  It’s actually a great de-stressor (deadlines notwithstanding!)

What do you enjoy most about being a writer?

The creative process, wherein I have a general idea before I begin, but once into the piece, it seems to partner with me in creating itself.  It’s a blast to see it unfold before my eyes in real time.  There are always surprises.

What do you find hardest about being a writer?

Turning off the inner critic that wants to write the perfect phrase or sentence in the initial draft.  It’s very freeing to remember that I can just write and know that I will come back to edit and improve upon what I have.

Who or what would you count as your main influence?

There are many that inspire me.  Most animals do.  Even as they follow their instinctual drives, the consistency of their character is endlessly refreshing.  And with most mammals, there is great capacity for connection.  Not coincidentally, a number of the human animals that influence me share the kindred spirit with animals.  This includes my mother, who is now deceased but was an avid reader and writer herself, Jane Goodall, Barbara Kingsolver and Diane Ackerman. From the perspective of writing for children, Judy Blume has long been a highly admired and dominant influence for me.

What do you enjoy reading?

Personally, I enjoy non-fiction essays, memoirs and biographies.  I’m currently reading An American Childhood by Annie Dillard.  I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek years ago and enjoyed it immensely.  

Who is your favorite author?

Ohh, that is so hard to say.  If I say JudyBlumeBarbaraKingsolverDianeAckermanMarkTwainSueMonkKidd without leaving any space between them, does that count as one?

What would be your ideal writer’s haven for creating your book? Would you have a desk in a quiet cabin somewhere or an iPad on the beach?

Thank you for the easiest question to follow the toughest.  A home in the North Carolina Mountains with my laptop.  I would write indoors to avoid the computer screen glare, but would be next to a window with a stunning view.  I would take frequent breaks to meander outdoors while drinking in nature’s solitude.

Dear Readers,

I so much enjoyed getting to know the author a little bit more and many thanks for this wonderful interview. best wishes and much continued success to Hugh Willard!
The Goodwill Vultures Club: A Day of Heroes (Volume 1)

“You can’t get a cup of tea big enough or a book long enough to suit me." C. S. Lewis