Park City children’s author returns with fourth book in series about national parks
Children’s author Melissa Marsted
11 a.m. on Sunday, July 21
L.L. Bean, 675 Main St.
Melissa Marsted, a Park City-based author, has published the fourth book in her “Wild Life Adventures for Young Readers” series, which teaches children about national parks and endangered species.
The new book, “The Secret Life of Phil,” which is illustrated by Cait Irwin, follows the adventures of Phil, a black-footed ferret, as he explores the national monuments and parks of Wyoming and South Dakota.
Marsted will debut her book during a free Tent Tales story time session at 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 21, at L.L. Bean, 675 Main St.
The author approaches the story time differently than when she does signings at bookstores.
“The youngest child to attend the story time I had done two weeks ago was 3, so that’s why I don’t read the books word for word,” she said. “I go with it according to how the kids interact with me.”
Marsted uses large-formatted illustrations and stuffed animals to highlight the themes and critters in her books.
“I talk about the animals and the scenery and teach them new words like hoodoos and things like that,” she said. “It’s really fun and the kids are really cute.”
During the past couple of sessions, Marsted has met families from places like Texas and Ohio.
“It’s a great little space that attracts interesting people,” she said.
Sometimes the audience is a little older.
“A high school-aged girl sat in on the last one I did,” Marsted said. “So I talked with her about how I wanted to be a writer since I was in second grade. And then we talked about our paths and journey.”
Marsted’s journey to “The Secret Life of Phil” started in 2016, when she published “Buzzy and the Red Rock Canyons” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.
The book focused on Buzzy the Bee’s trip to Utah’s Big Five — Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion national parks.
Since then, Marsted has continued her series with “Casey Cruises California,” where a California quail visits the West Coast’s national parks, and “Tiny’s Grand Adventure” that explores the American Southwest with a black-chinned hummingbird.
“After the first two books, I decided to put deeper messages that went beyond the animals’ journeys to national parks,” Marsted said. “I wanted to teach about what it means to be an endangered species.”
While the first three books used birds as the main characters, Marsted stirred things up with Phil the Ferret.
“I had done a lot of research, and the idea of a ferret just felt right,” she said.
The ferret also helped Marsted connect with Irwin, the book’s illustrator.
“Cait, it so happens, had a ferret for a pet when she was a child,” Marsted said.
Marsted discovered Irwin, a mural artist and owner of Irwin Artworks, during a four-day road trip to South Dakota. She stopped a Custer State Park, which has an artist-in-residence program.
“I saw a painting Cait did of three flying cranes, and I thought of me and my two sons,” Marsted said. “I bought right then, and found Cait on Instagram.”
After a few messages, Marsted asked Irwin to illustrate “The Secret Life of Phil.”
“She and I worked well together, even though we haven’t met face to face,” Marsted said with a laugh. “We did it all through Instagram messages and emails, and she works really quickly.”
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