Stokes Nature Center in Logan teams with Park City author for children’s firefly book |

Stokes Nature Center in Logan teams with Park City author for children’s firefly book

Story translated into Spanish and Somali

Stokes Nature Center in Logan comissioned Park City resident Melissa Marsted, owner of Lucky Penny Publications, to write the children’s book “The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern.” The book follows a western firefly named Luci who embarks on a quest to find out why her light doesn’t flicker like the others in her family.
Courtesy of Lucky Penny Publications

Park City-based author Melissa Marsted has taken a short detour on her road to writing children’s books about animals in America’s national parks.

Her latest yarn, “The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lanter,” was commissioned by the Stokes Nature Center in Logan. The book follows a western firefly named Luci who embarks on a quest to find out why her light doesn’t flicker like the others in her family.

The book is available at the Stokes Nature Center and will soon be available at the Swaner EcoCenter.

The idea started when Marsted, author of the “Wildlife Adventures for Young Readers” series, met Kendra Penry, Stokes Nature Center executive director, last August at the Governor’s Office of Economic Development Outdoor Recreation Conference at Timpanogos Cave National Monument.

“We got to talking, and I found she had done a curriculum guide on fireflies up in Logan,” Marsted said. “I told her about the children’s books, and said, ‘Maybe we can work on a book together,’ and it went flying from there.”

Two months later, Penry, after pitching the idea to her board and staff, came up with a proposal and contract, according to Marsted.

“They got grants from Utah Humanities and Utah Division of Arts and Museums and did a call for artists who lived in Cache Valley,” she said.

After narrowing the list down to four, the Stokes Nature Center staff decided on an artist named Leisl Cannon, an artist whose art ties in science, storytelling and creativity, according to Marsted.

Luci the firefly encounters a salmon in Melissa Marsted's children's book "The Mystery of Luci's Missing Lantern," illustrated by Leisl Cannon.
Courtesy of Lucky Penny Publications

“We had a signed contract by October, and I wrote the book in November and December,” she said. “Leisl completed the illustrations in January.”

Marsted recruited designer Aileen Aquino, who worked on the last four “Wildlife Adventures for Young Readers” books.

“This was the fastest that any of my books were put together,” Marsted said. “We were all on the same page, and met through Zoom once a week.”

Michelle Sagers, Stokes Nature Center community programs coordinator, helped Marsted with the firefly and location research.

“She sent me a lot of information, and gave me suggestions of where fireflies can be seen in Logan Canyon,” Marsted said. “So, one weekend my sons and I took a day trip, and stopped at the individual places where I would have Luci stop in the book.”

Marsted recorded information from plaques that were set up in a parking lot she found on the way down the canyon.

“During the Zoom conferences, (the staff) and I would exchange information,” Marsted said. “It was fun to learn about the four stages of insect metamorphosis — eggs, larvae, pupa and adults. I remember learning about that in elementary school.”

“The Mystery of Luci’s Missing Lantern” will also be available in Spanish and Somali.

“Cache Valley is home to a Somalian refugee community, and we wanted to engage them with the book,” Marsted said. “The Spanish translation is done, but the book hasn’t been designed, yet.”

Working with Stokes Nature Center lifted Marsted’s spirits after her routine of selling books while running half-marathons skidded to a stop when COVID-19 hit last year.

“I was scheduled to run and sell books all summer, but all the races were canceled,” she said.

Writing a book that takes place in Cache Valley inspired Marsted to write animal-related books for all of Utah’s counties, and she has also pitched ideas to other local organizations such as the Wild Utah Project.

“I have ideas for Boreal toads, desert tortoises and prairie dogs,” she said.

In the meanwhile, Marsted is working on her eighth book in the “Wildlife Adventures for Young Readers.” The book takes place in Yellowstone National Park and is about a bald eagle.

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