The National Parks Service turns 100 in August and that milestone was part of the inspiration for Park City-based author Melissa C. Marsted’s new book "Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons."
"I have lived in Utah for only three years, and as a long-distance runner, I have become fascinated with the state’s national parks," Marsted told The Park Record. "I was on a run one day, I think it was the Antelope Island 50k, when the ideas coalesced. I thought about Utah’s five national parks and the 100th anniversary and wanted to see if I could do this."
"Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons" is a children’s book written and published by Marsted through Lucky Penny Press, the children’s book imprint of her company Lucky Penny Publishing, which also publishes nonfiction and memoirs with the Silver Dollar Press imprint.
"I have made plans for more stories about the other national parks in the nation, but ‘Buzzy’ starts it all off," Marsted said.
"Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons" follows Buzzy, a honeybee, as he takes readers on a tour of Utah’s five national parks — Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion.
"There was so much that could have been in the books and it was tough figuring out what I should include, but once I got started it wasn’t that difficult," Marsted said. "When you start to research the national parks and start to learn about them, certain images come to the forefront."
The first goal of the book was to include places that parents and their kids could visit.
"I also added some places that aren’t as well known, such as Kolob Canyon, which is more of a secret gem," Marsted explained. "So, in doing so, I ended up putting in a mixture of places."
The author enjoyed writing about these places in a way that would be easy for children to understand.
"The book is basically for kids ages 3 to 8," Marsted said.
Still, with six other children’s books under her belt, Marsted knew there also had to be an educational component to "Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons."
"I have historical facts and used them fictitiously in the past," she said. "I approached ‘Buzzy’ in a similar way. There are some historical parts in there, but it’s a little more geography and animal related."
The bee visits the national parks and, within each park, meets different animals, including the bighorn sheep, the mule deer, Mexican spotted owls, a magpie, a condor, the desert cottontail, a peregrine falcon and the marmot.
Marsted wanted to use the animals as a vehicle to teach the young readers life lessons.
"For example, when Buzzy meets the big-horned sheep, they talk about their horns," She said. "They talk about how a sheep may defend itself, but would rather use grace to solve problems and things like that."
Another example is the condor.
"They teach kids to raise their heads with confidence," Marsted said. "These are the little messages that I spread throughout the book. And that was fun to do."
The condors also serve as another educational element.
"Both that bird and the spotted owls that appear in the book are endangered species," Marsted said. "It’s important for kids to know this."
After meeting with Michael O’Malley, the director of marketing for the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development a year ago, Marsted began writing the book in January.
"We met again in the winter to see if the state would commission my book, but as the illustrations came in, I decided to just commission the artist," Marsted said.
A family friend, Izzy Greer, illustrated the book.
"It was Izzy’s parents who are the reason why I’m in Park City now," Marsted said. "Her parents were part-time Park City residents and lived in Santa Barbara where I lived. They still own property here, and they brought me to Park City." Marsted mapped out the book after looking at the geography of the national parks and sent the story to Greer.
"I didn’t give her a lot of direction, but she would do an illustration every other night and text me the pictures," Marsted said. "I would just get chills. I didn’t say anything else, but how much I loved the illustrations and to keep going."
Colorado resident Pamela Beverly-Quigley conceived the book’s design.
"She and I met at a TEDx conference here at the Montage two years ago and then ran into each other again in August or September," Marsted said. "She has designed a series of books for us in the past, and with this one, like what happened with Izzy, I told Pam about my idea of the national parks books."
Marsted was floored by Beverly-Quigley’s design.
"What she did with the book design was wonderful," she said. "I gave her the text and illustrations and she went to town and used her unbelievable artistic integrity."
The three worked on the book through March.
During that time, Marsted received approval from the state’s legal council and the Utah Office of Tourism to use the phrase "Mighty Five," which refers to Utah’s five national parks.
"We wrote and illustrated and then we designed the book in April and the book was loaded three weeks ago," Marsted said. "It was as if the universe helped us."
In addition, because Marsted’s background is in grant writing for nonprofits, all of the Lucky Penny Publishing books are associated with a nonprofit.
"The one for ‘Buzzy’ is the National Parks Conservation Association," she said.
"Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons" is available on Amazon, Ingram Spark and at select retailers in Utah. It is available locally at Jans Mountain Outfitters, the Swaner EcoCenter and the Mirror Lake gift shop.
The book can also be found at Trailside Elementary and Weilenmann School of Discovery and The Summit County Library Kimball Junction Branch.
"My goal is to have every elementary school and library carry it," Marsted said.
The next book in the series will be called "Chloe the Quail Cruises California."
"It will focus on California’s nine national parks from the Redwoods to Yosemite and Joshua Tree," Marsted said.
For more information about "Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons," visit luckypennypress.com.