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Spokane author Esther Hildahl receives award for self-published preteen fiction book

Spokane author Esther Hildahl recently won a 2019 Northern Lights Book Award in the preteen fiction category for her self-published children’s book, “Mr. Inky: Spider With an Attitude.”

Hildahl said she was inspired to write the book after her husband made an offhand suggestion.

“There was a black spider in my kitchen,” she said. “Like Vicki in the book, I tried to kill it with my flip-flop. It kept running under the stove, the fridge. I couldn’t get it. I finally gave up.”

Her husband Robert suggested she write a book about a talking spider and the idea stuck with her.

Hildahl taught fourth and fifth grades at Jefferson Elementary School for 19 years, retiring in 1987. She said she’s always wanted to be an author. As a child she would make up stories. “I’ve never been interested in anything else than writing children’s books,” she said. “I never really did anything with it.”

Robert gave her the final push she needed. She’d thought about writing a book but didn’t know how to get published. A friend told her about the Spokane Authors and Self-Publishers Group, and things started happening.

She self-published her first book, “Meadow Pond,” in 2012. That book was inspired by an older brother of a childhood friend in Libby, Montana. He would keep frogs in a pool in his bedroom until his mother would make him release them.

“All my life I wanted to write my first book about frogs, and I did,” she said.

“Mr. Inky” was her second book. The spider moves into the bedroom of a little girl and soon starts talking to her.

“Everyone likes him, even people who don’t like spiders,” she said of the character. “I had to make him lovable. He has an attitude and sticks up for his rights, but he’s a lovable character.”

The little girl gets bullied at school because she tells people about the talking spider in her room. Finally she convinces Mr. Inky to go to school with her.

“Of course things happen and he escapes,” she said. “You just kind of have to read the book. There’s a lot to it.”

Hildahl also has written a book called “Marie’s Marvelous Tomato” and her fourth book, “Poopie the Fly and Friends,” was published in 2018. Mr. Inky must have survived his previous adventures, because he plays a role in that book as well.

Hildahl said she often hears from teachers who read her books to students in their classrooms. She said a first-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary who recently read the Mr. Inky book to her class invited her to come and speak because the students wanted to meet her. Hildahl said she loves to visit classrooms to talk about her books, but this invitation was particularly special because it came from a teacher at the school where she used to teach.

“I was thrilled to go back there,” she said.

Hildahl said a friend encouraged her to submit her book for consideration for the Northern Lights Book Award. She did, but she didn’t expect much to come from it.

“It’s all over the world,” she said. “They come in from everywhere. I thought maybe I’d get an honorable mention.”

She’s pleased her Mr. Inky book was selected for an award. “Mr. Inky has been the most popular,” she said.

Hildahl is 77 now, but she has no plans to stop writing and illustrating children’s books. “I’m working on one now, but it’s kind of going slow,” she said. “I’ve changed it so many times.”

Hildahl often sells her books at local craft shows and can be reached via email at Her books are also available online on Amazon.

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