Young readers can take flight with ‘Olé’s Dark Sky Journey’
Local author showcases the Mexican spotted owl in a new tale
Utah has the world’s most certified International Dark Sky Parks, so children’s book author and Park City resident Melissa Marsted wanted to showcase as many as possible in her new book “Ole’s Dark Sky Journey.”
In doing so, Marsted created the character Olé, a Mexican Spotted Owl, who takes readers to these areas through narrative flyovers.
“I like the books to focus on nature, conservation and endangered species,” she said. “Mexican spotted owls are not endangered, but threatened, which is a precursor to being endangered.”
Since owls are nocturnal, Marsted felt Olé would be the perfect guide to 18 of the 24 dark-sky locations in the state that are free from city lights and pollution, which make them ideal for stargazing and identifying constellations.
In fact, the book, illustrated by Victoria Speck, highlights these areas’ more popular and visual constellations, she said.
“Fittingly, we decided to highlight Pegasus at Dead Horse Point State Park and Orion at Fremont Indian State Park,” she said. “I like the way Orion looks ties in with some of the petroglyphs found in the area.”
Other places featured in Marsted’s book include Goosenecks, Edge of the Cedars, Rainbow Bridge and Goblin Valley State Parks; Hovenweep and Natural Bridges national monuments and Canyonlands, Arches and Great Basin National Parks.
“Great Basin is the only national park in Nevada, but I decided to include it because it’s so close to the Utah border,” Marsted said. “So, the book is like a circular tour of these places that also feature our local Jordanelle Reservoir and Rockport State Park in Summit County.”
Marsted enjoyed diving into the research for the book.
“The scientific fact checking was mostly focused on the dark-sky element,” she said.
Marsted also enlisted the help of a ranger from Bryce Canyon, whose specialty was darkskies.
“I went to one of his presentations in August of 2021,” she said. “We were all in a remote area, and there were telescopes set up. He picked some of the constellations that I put in the book.”
The author also recruited a park ranger at Goosenecks to help her understand the geographic layout of the areas in the book, because she wanted Olé’s tour route to make sense.
“I needed help because it was a little tricky to find a way to fit in Natural Bridges, Rainbow Bridge and Kodachrome,” she said.
“Olé’s Dark Sky Journey” is the 10th installment in Marsted’s “Wildlife Adventures for Young Readers” series published by her own company, Lucky Penny Publications.
Her first book of the series, “Buzzy and the Redrock Canyons” was published in 2016, and features Buzzy, a honey bee, which takes readers on a tour of Utah’s five national parks — Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion’s.
Other books of the series include 2019’s “The Secret Life of Phil” where a black-footed ferret explores the Black Hills of Wyoming and South Dakota, and her last book, “The Bird That Lives in Paradise,” which is about a red-shafted northern flicker that tours the Washington State Parks and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument.
While “Olé’s Dark Sky Journey” is available on Amazon and Luckypennypublications.com, it will soon be available at visitors’ centers at Edges of the Cedars, Fremont Indian State Park, Zion Mountain Ranch near Zion’s National Park, which have all ordered copies.
“One of the joys of the print-on-demand model is that we can change the cover to match the areas where the books are being sold,” Marsted said. “Also, if readers find inaccuracies, we can make changes in the next printing within 48 hours.”
Saturday morning nature walks are held at 8:30 a.m. every Saturday at the Swaner EcoCenter. The cost is $10 per person and $5 for local residents.
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