Pin Cherries bloom by Navaho-red shelter with steep white roof & arched door by Rich Hill
Welcome to the home of The Heart of Applebutter Hill. Written by journalist, singer-songwriter, civil rights advocate and avid knitter Donna W. Hill, it is an adventure-mystery with excursions into fantasy for general audiences. “Follow” The Heart of Applebutter Hill below and get Donna’s complete posts in your In Box, and be the first to know about upcoming contests and special features.

Proceeds from the sale of The Heart of Applebutter Hill will provide Braille books for blind students. Did you know that Americans with vision loss and other print disabilities have access to only 5% of books and magazines? Imagine trying to compete in school, college or the job market with only 5% of the resources your peers have.


The Heart of Applebutter Hill has received pre and post-publication recommendations from professionals in education, rehabilitation and the arts, as a valuable tool for secondary and college-level diversity and anti-bullying initiatives. Their comments are at: https://donnawhill.com/recommenders-of-the-heart-of-applebutter-hill-from-professionals-in-education-rehabilitation-the-arts/ 

Read the “Introduction to The Heart of Applebutter Hill for Educators” by Dr. Karen Squier, O.D., Clinical Assistant Professor, Southern College of Optometry (Memphis, Tennessee ), formerly low-vision specialist at the Chicago Lighthouse, at:https://donnawhill.com/intro-to-the-heart-of-applebutter-hill-for-educators/

Meet the Author

lackawanna trail high library (Factoryville, PA): Donna W. Hill on sofa w librarian kelly hopkins; 4 students (l-r: Taylor Selwood,Jordan Flynn, Ally Decker and Annika Kongvold ) stand behind. Jordan holds Donna's novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill & Donna's black Lab guide dog, Hunter, watches from the floor: photo by rich hill.

Invite Donna W. Hill to be a guest speaker for workshops, seminars and classes. Topics include writing, self-publishing, guide dogs, songwriting, anti-bullying, accessibility and mainstreaming students with visual impairments. Write to her using the “Contact the Author” link on this page.

Download Reference Letters About Donna’s Presentations

This 48-page PDF contains a sampling of the reference letters written about Donna’s programs over her thirty-year career. File size: 21 mb.
Reference Letters for Donna W. Hills Presentations (21mb, PDF)

After workshop on the novel The Heart of Applebutter Hill & Blindness Issues, U. of Scranton Education Students Gather Around Donna & Hunter for a Photo Op: photo by ashley allegra

Comments from Readers

Donnna - with her guide dog, Hunter - donates The Heart of Applebutter Hill to Dir. Jesse Johnson of the Towanda Public Library: photo by Rich Hill

Amazon Customer Reviews

“This very real depiction of a blind heroine in a can’t-put-down young adult fiction style is a must-read. I found myself reflecting on what it would be like to travel in the “Cloud Scooper” for days afterwards. Along with fun travel ideas, this book raises very real issues surrounding a blind student frequenting a mainstream school classroom. I’d love this to be compulsory reading for young people at school.” – Jordina Howell (Melbourne, Victoria Australia)

“The proof is in the pudding, but in this case, the Applebutter. I saw this book occupy a 12 year old for an entire weekend with no electronic media involved. That is saying something good!
Then I read it myself. Good characters…good take on bullying and blindness. Hope there will be a sequel!” – Patricia Girven

“The Heart of Applebutter Hill” has a rare quality seldom found in YA books: it masterfully balances the wondrous and whimsical with the very real social challenges that young people face today. Though set in a mythical locale, the characters, descriptions and conflicts, never stray too far from our own world. This allows just enough familiarity that readers will easily find sympathetic, as well as empathetic feelings in their Applebutter Hill experience. Tackling everything from environmental consciousness and social etiquette to bullying and blindness, Donna W. Hill skillfully maneuvers between tough topics, adding liberal amounts of humor and light-heartedness, and keeps the story as buoyant as the book’s magical air ship; the Cloud Scooper.
Entertaining and educational, witty and full of wisdom, “The Heart of Applebutter Hill” is sure to delight while it delivers its many important messages. I recommend this book to parents and educators who are searching for material that will provide a bridge to open communication with young people about some of today’s most sensitive social subjects. Adults will find as much pleasure in the pages as children will, and a book like this is a beautiful gift to share.” Amy Krout-Horn

Read these and other reviews of The Heart of Applebutter Hill at: http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/1483948226

Reader Comments on DonnaWHill.com

“I was lucky enough to receive an email out of the blue about this book. It was a great adventure story with likable, well-rounded characters with lots of different abilities and struggles — many of which kids rarely get to read about! My favorite was Curly Connor, not many writers write dogs this well!
I’m excited to share this vision of what school can be also. What great classes. As a math teacher I wanted to learn more about the math in Survival 101. I am going to recommend this book to librarians and teachers I encounter.
Please, please write a sequel! I know it’s okay to be left wondering but I really want to read more about the characters and their adventures and there’s a lot left to keep writing about!” – Max Ray, 10/22/13

The Heart of Applebutter Hill: the Story

Abigail & Curly Connor at Bar Gundoom Castle in oval opening in stone wall: photo by Rich Hill.

Imagine you’re 14 and in a strange country with your camera, your best friend, her guitar and her dog. You uncover a secret and are instantly in danger. Join Baggy, Abigail and Curly Connor as they explore Elfin Pond, sneak around Bar Gundoom Castle and row across an underground lake. The powerful Heartstone of Arden-Goth is hidden nearby, and corporate giants unleash a spy to seize it. Compelled to unmask the spy and find the Heartstone, they can’t trust anyone.

As summer heats up, their troubled friend Christopher is viciously bullied and an armed stranger terrorizes Abigail and Baggy. The friends disagree about the spy’s identity, but are convinced it’s a teacher. When a desperate Christopher shows up one night with the school cat, the truth is revealed. Soon, police are involved.

Purchase The Heart of Applebutter Hill & Help Blind Students

The Heart of Applebutter Hill book cover shows cave scene: stalactites reflected in an underground lake, while a hand holds the Heartstone of Arden-Goth, a blue, heart-shaped sapphire


Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/1483948226
CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/4000964

eBook versions can be purchased at these and other outlets

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00CNG6DDM
eBook Universe: http://www.philipsmith.eu/indie-author/donna-w-hill
Nook Book: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-heart-of-applebutter-hill-donna-w-hill/1115426305?ean=2940016415000&itm=1&usri=2940016415000
Apple iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-heart-of-applebutter-hill/id651693834?mt=11
Smashwords (7 eBook formats, including .epub, .mobi, .pdf and .rtf): http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/313071?ref=DonnaWHill

Outside the US

Amazon Canada (print & Kindle): http://www.amazon.ca/The-Heart-Applebutter-Hill-ebook/dp/B00CNG6DDM
Amazon UK (print& Kindle) http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Heart-Applebutter-Hill-Donna-ebook/dp/B00CNG6DDM/ref=dp_kinw_strp_1

Accessible Versions for Readers with Print Disabilities

Learning Ally: the world’s largest provider of volunteer-narrated audio textbooks and literature for people Who Read & Learn Differently

JPeg of the article “Meshoppen Author’s Novel Goes Audio” published by the WyoPress Examiner (9/23/15), announces Learning Ally’s publication of a human-narrated version for readers with print disabilities.

Formerly Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, Learning Ally now carries The Heart of Applebutter Hill. In the VOICEtext format, highlighted synchronized text accompanies the human narration. Listen and follow the printed word at the same time! http://www.learningally.org/BookDetails.aspx?BookID=KV589

Bookshare: an Accessible Online Library for Readers with Print Disabilities

Digital DAISY text, audio & refreshable Braille versions of The Heart of Applebutter Hill are available at: http://www.bookshare.org/browse/book/639304

A Request from Donna

After you’ve read The Heart of Applebutter Hill, please rate it and leave a review on the site where you purchased the book. Thank you for your interest and support.

Press & Professionals Comment on The Heart of Applebutter Hill

Donna presents a copy of The Heart of Applebutter Hill to Dir. Kristin Smith Gary at the Wyoming County Public Library in tunkhannock, Pa. Feb. 21, 2014: photo by Rich Hill

Meshoppen author pens mystery novel – Wyoming County Press Examiner

“In a way, the tale acts as an all-encompassing guide to childhood, as it details the struggles of bullying, consumerism and being cast from society.” – Michael Wintermute, 1/1/14, Wyoming County Press Examiner http://archives.wcexaminer.com/index.php/2014/01/01/meshoppen-author-pens-mystery-novel/

Fantasy Novel Keeps it Real When Portraying Assistive Technology – About.com

“Lovers of young adult mystery and fantasy fiction should check out The Heart of Applebutter Hill, the first novel from writer, musician, and disability advocate Donna Hill.
…the book’s depictions of assistive technology caught my interest and kept me reading. This excerpt from Chapter 2 makes a concise, eloquent case for the crucial need for texts in alternative formats:

Block quote
Abigail was almost as excited about recorded books as she was about having a guide dog. All of her life she had been made to read print. Even if the light was just right, the best she could do was to see a few letters at a time. Words appeared to dance around, and pieces of them would go missing between the page and her brain. In spite of the burning eyes and blistering headaches which ensued, she had always loved reading.
Block quote end

I like the power the novel gives its legally blind heroine.” – Andrew Leibs, About.com Accessibility expert, 4/7/14 http://assistivetechnology.about.com/b/

The biggest project of my life – Wilkes-Barre Times Leader

“In the book Abigail fights discrimination from sighted people, from the school newspaper adviser who rejects her application to the man who pulls up alongside her in a car and yells because her dog just answered the call of nature.” MARY THERESE BIEBEL, 12/19/13, Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader http://timesleader.com/news/features/1050744/The-biggest-project-of-my-life

New children’s book – highly recommended by the UK’s Positive Eye

The Heart of Applebutter Hill, a great read for any young person ,follows the adventures of Abigail and her guide dog Curly Connor.” – Gwyneth McCormack, Educational Consultant, 4/14, Positive Eye: Educational training and consultancy for professionals working with kids with visual impairment http://www.positiveeye.co.uk/new-childrens-book-the-heart-of-applebutter-hill/

New Book for Young Adults Features a Main Character who is Blind – WonderBaby.org (Perkins School for the Blind)

“Are you familiar with the diversity watchdog group Diversity in YA? They track the Publishers Weekly bestsellers list for Young Adult novels with main characters and authors representing minorities. Their report for 2013 found no blind main characters and no blind authors.

… Their next report will read differently. Donna W. Hill’s young adult novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, is a story of adventure and mystery… and a little bit of magic.

The book follows Abigail and her best friends Curly Connor and Baggy Britchez. Abigail is a smart, talented girl in a mainstream school… who just happens to be visually impaired. And Curly Conner? That’s her guide dog!

Abigail’s visual impairment is presented as just one more part of her multifaceted personality. It isn’t ignored, but it isn’t the focus of her life either.” – Amber Bobnar, 6/3/14, WonderBaby.org: resources for parents of blind & disabled babies & children http://www.wonderbaby.org/news/heart-of-applebutter-hill

Accessibility Issues for People Using Screen Readers

Screen reader users, there are issues with Word Press’s “Leave a Reply” form – which is labeled on this site “So, What Do You Think?”Here’s a “temporary” solution. Every page and post now has a link labeled “Accessible Comment Form for Screen Reader Users.” It will be sent to me, and I will post it on your behalf. The URL is: https://donnawhill.com/accessible-comment-form-for-screen-reader-users-3

38 Responses to Home

  1. Kris W. says:

    Hi! I would love to give a braille copy of this book to my daughter. We do not have a refreshable braille device so can’t download it. Is there a hard copy available in braille yet?


    • Kris, thank you so much for your interest in giving my book to your daughter in a hard copy Braille format. As of this time, I don’t have the resources to have it Brailled. I approached several companies a few years ago prior to publication and was told I was looking at between $5-10,000 just for set-up. I’m trying to interest NLS in doing it so that it will at least be available to borrow, but so far I don’t have enough sales or reader demand for them to agree to do an independently published book which isn’t a bestseller. I am very sorry about this, because I am a Braille advocate, and I thought it would mean a lot to blind kids to hold in their hands a book that a fellow blind person had written.


  2. It took me a while to complete the book The Heart of Apple Butter Hill. It is an excellent story with many twists and turns.

    Because I have never read such fantasy works such as Narnia, it came as a surprise, not that Rutherford came to be or of the Cloud Scooper or the Sunflowers and Mums but that Abby and Baggy were not so astounded as was I by these things.

    The book was brilliantly written and I can but imagine how it will trigger the imaginations of children of all ages. I hope you further the saga to learn if Rutherford becomes the mighty oak he is destined to be or that the heart brings about things miraculous in Applebutter Hill.

    Magnificently done.


  3. Anne Martin says:

    Is the book available in braille?


  4. Max Ray says:

    I was lucky enough to receive an email out of the blue about this book. It was a great adventure story with likable, well-rounded characters with lots of different abilities and struggles — many of which kids rarely get to read about! My favorite was Curly Connor, not many writers write dogs this well!
    I’m excited to share this vision of what school can be also. What great classes. As a math teacher I wanted to learn more about the math in Survival 101. I am going to recommend this book to librarians and teachers I encounter.
    Please, please write a sequel! I know it’s okay to be left wondering but I really want to read more about the characters and their adventures and there’s a lot left to keep writing about!


    • Max, thanks so much for reading my novel, and I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it that much. I appreciate your sharing it with librarians and others, and yes, I hope to write a sequel or two. Right now, I’m just trying to get this one launched. BTW, Survival 101 is the subject I had the most material for that I couldn’t fit in this first book. I’m an advocate for teaching kids financial literacy and an understanding of how and why things do and don’t work in our physical world. Curly Connor was based on my second guide dog, and many of the incidents, including his relationship with the kitten, were based on our real-life experiences. Again, thanks for the encouragement and support!


  5. Lisa Flannery says:

    Can’t wait to read the book thank you for the donations to federation of the blind.


    • Hi Lisa, thanks, I hope you enjoy it. My apologies for not getting your comment posted earlier. My hubby has been in & out of the hospital twice in the past 5 weeks with more to come.


  6. Karla Frisco says:

    Just bought the kindle book! Going to try and start it this weekend.


  7. Karla Frisco says:

    Hi Donna. I am trying to decide on the Kindle version or the printed version of The Heart of Applebutter Hill. Must make up my mind soon, I am excited to read it!


  8. Lyn says:

    Hi Donna, thanks for dropping by and reading and liking, The Curse I really appreciate it 🙂


  9. Chris Kuell says:


    I’m so looking forward to reading your book. Based on all of your previous work, I’m sure it will be a page turner. And thanks so much for establishing this accessible page for us who use screen readers. Do you know why Word Press doesn’t simply make their sites fully accessible?


    • Chris, Thanks so much for your support and encouragement. As for Word Press’s stance on accessibility … I wrote up details about this and other accessibility issues on Word Press. The Support guy wrote back, “I reported the issues you described, and they may get addressed in a future revision of comments on WordPress.com.” I received a similar reply 2 years ago when I wrote about the inaccessible audio player, and I am still waiting on that one.


      • How did you approach Word Press? In my experience nobody will pay attention to changing their status quo unless you give them information that will lead to a large financial bonus for them or their product. Or an additional 2 billion users, maybe.


      • Alice, I provided them with a detailed explanation of some of the accessibility issues. Blind people can’t offer major benefits; we are a “low-incidence” disability. We are also second-class citizens; instead of legal rights, we must depend on the good will of companies. A 2011 study in the First Monday Journal (U of IL, Chicago) stated that 80% of the internet is inaccessible. This is not because the tools aren’t there; they’re not being used or not being used properly and consistently.


      • Hi Donna, it might be possible then to get these tools implemented if you can find someone in your corner, an advocate, to offer specific ways a company can benefit (possibly good will in the form of publicity if nothing else), or not have to spend extra money to provide the tools. If the tools are not being used properly that might indicate a retraining is needed ($) or extra workers ($). A for-profit company that would have to spend $ without being able to make it back in revenues would go out of business. See if you can get some students wanting internship credit for life experience or something similar to go in to the company and do the training and set up the system, or ask a tech company that specializes in those things to donate their services to the other company. I don’t really know, just saying whatever pops up into my head. Hope something helps.


      • Alice, What you are describing is the kind of initiative that you need a major organization behind. The NFB is such an organization, and they have gotten some sites to implement accessibility standards, but they have their hands full trying to get accessible classroom materials for blind and visually impaired students, which is the right priority. For instance, Amazon is trying to get the national PTA to adopt a program using Kindle & Kindle eBooks. Not only are they the worst company with regard to accessible book players, but their actions, if the PTA agrees, threaten to place schools across the country in violation of federal law — organizations receiving federal funding can’t institute new technologies unless they are accessible. In short, the NFB doesn’t have the time or resources to help blind writers.


  10. I had the pleasure of getting an early read on Donna’s book; I
    still think about the characters, and especially the cloud ship! I believe
    it was the first story in which the main person was a Braille reader!


  11. Gorgeous photos, great new website. Congratulations on the book, Donna!


  12. Barry says:

    Wishing you all the best with the new book. I’m sure it will be a thundering success!


  13. Marie B. says:

    Hi Donna! What a beautiful picture! Where was it taken? Your story sounds like a best seller, best of luck with it!


    • Hi Marie, the picture of the building with the pin cherries in bloom? It was here by our pond. My hubby built it as a pond shelter, where we can feed the fish and avoid the afternoon sun. The back of it is open with a nice ballastraid, and it’s on a little hill with the pond to the east. He also took the picture.


  14. carrie says:


    I am looking forward to reading your book.

    Best wishes,

    Carrie Delecourt


  15. cindy wentx says:

    Hello Donna,

    I am looking forward to reading this novel. It would have been a welcome addition to the school library when I was growing up as a legally blind kid in a mainstream school.


    • Hi Cindy, Thanks. Part of the plan is to get copies in secondary & college libraries. I’m hoping it will benefit kids who are either losing their vision, disabled or just plain different to see themselves in literature.


  16. Karla Frisco says:

    Donna, I have read your articles and I have come to the conclusion you are one terrific author! I can’t wait to read your novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill. Come on spring!


  17. Carlton Walker says:


    Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us all. This is a terrific story, and you are a valued advocate for blind children.

    Thank you again!

    Carlton Walker


  18. Lyn says:

    Hi Donna, I read your post on Write with Warnimont and felt compelled to check out your site. I have to say, I can’t wait to read your book when it’s published.


  19. Cindy Deery says:

    Hey, Donna, this is Hugh and Cindy. Let us know when the novel is for sale!
    We got to spend a few days with Craig before Sandy hit (he didnt have any damage)


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