News about the Legend Keepers middle-grade series
It’s been 5 months since Hidden Shelf released my debut novel, Legend Keepers: The Chosen One. As an author who had only published nonfiction, I didn’t know how this children’s book might be received. Would a story with a cast of animal characters appeal to young readers?
Certainly, other middle-grade animal fantasies have ardent followings. Think of such noteworthy authors as Katherine Applegate, Kathi Appelt, and Erin Hunter, whose creations feature cats, dogs, bears, gorillas, and other African animals. The popularity of Watership Down and Charlotte’s Web demonstrate the staying power of those classics.
Yet, a story starring Buddy—an orphaned mountain goat with a weighty destiny to save her mom’s band of goats—seemed a smidge far-fetched. Name another novel written about mountain goats. Indeed, most people have never seen one in the wild!
Fortunately, I don’t depend upon my writing to earn a living. I could take a risk to achieve my goal—to reach young readers with stories about topics important to me. Why not reveal climate change through the eyes and dialogue of animals who live its consequences every day? For kids, animals serve as trusted teachers.
Weaving the Environmental Message
To subtly deliver the story’s underlying climate theme, I wrapped it in a grand adventure. I took the reader to the roof of the world where people seldom venture. Throughout I’ve tried to seamlessly weave the environmental message but also reveal the lives of mountain goats and other animals that live out-of-sight, out-of-mind.
What I found most fun about writing fiction was creating characters. Their evolving interplay helped shape the story’s arc, often adjusting my preconceived course. Someone attending a virtual book event last October asked me how hard it was to create my characters. How did I make them so identifiable? And which character did I like best? It helped that I’ve studied animals as a wildlife biologist for … well a lot of years. Given enough time and concentration watching, the individuality of birds and mammals reveals itself. Whether Roark the wizardly raven, Maurice the vociferous, daffy marmot, or Whodare the cool, courageous pygmy owl, as each interacted with Buddy and the other mountain goats, the characters became believable—at least to me. Perhaps without young readers aware of it, these characters serve as stand-ins for humans. Each struggles to overcome loss and obstacles while discovering the importance of friends and family.
Which one is my favorite? Well, that’s like asking parents which child they like best.
Legend Keepers: The Chosen One Wins Award!
Hidden Shelf and I entered the book in several regional and national award competitions. Blowing my socks off, I learned in February that the Feathered Quill book competition awarded Legend Keepers silver medals in both categories that it was entered: Young Readers and Animal Stories for Children and Young Adults. Such recognition will hopefully bring the book’s story and environmental message to more readers. So far so good!
The Adventure Continues
In 2022 the adventure continues. Legend Keepers: The Partnership, is scheduled for publication later this year. I’m very excited about this sequel. In it, twelve-year-old Garson’s love of science leads to a chance encounter with Buddy at the Shining Mountain Glacier. From there, the animal and human worlds become entwined. Their common personal struggles and shared alarm over the changing alpine environment bonds our two protagonists in a story that transcends species’ barriers. Purchase your copy of Legend Keepers: The Partnership later this year!
Bruce Smith is a wildlife biologist who holds a PhD in Zoology. During his career with the federal government, he studied and managed most large mammal species that roam the western United States.
He’s authored five nonfiction books of natural history, conservation, and outdoor adventure.
He spent three years studying mountain goats in Montana’s Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area.
Bruce and his wife, Diana, live in southwest Montana not far from mountain goats.
This Mother’s Day Hidden Shelf authors share stories of their mothers, grandmothers, and mother figures in their books.
April 10th is National Encourage a Young Writer Day– Hidden Shelf authors share advice and encouragement for aspiring writers.
Martin Luther King once stated, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” This statement, looking back at all he had done in his short life, is remarkable in so many ways.