Eagle man shares adventures of Sylvan Lake mouse family | VailDaily.com

Eagle man shares adventures of Sylvan Lake mouse family

EAGLE — As any good grandpa knows, reading books with kids is part of the job description.

Duane Ziegler, of Eagle, has done that one better. He has written his own children's book — "JimJim and the Jelly Bean Journey." The book is set at nearby Sylvan Lake, and one of the main characters is named after his youngest granddaughter, Katie.

That seems only right, because one of Katie's comments was instrumental to Ziegler's creative process.

"My granddaughter mentioned it was very fun to read about animals talking to one another. Those were the kinds of books she liked," Ziegler said.

"JimJim and the Jelly Bean Journey" definitely meets the Katie criteria. It is the story of a mouse family who live at Sylvan Lake State Park. One day, the parents decide to journey to the other side of the lake and they allow their four children — JimJim, Joe, Mary and Katie — to do some exploring on their own. The mice children make new friends in the forest, but they also face various dangers. They make it through their adventures with the help of others and are ultimately reunited with their parents. Then their mother asks the mice children what they learned during their travels.

"Wow. I leaned that a caterpillar changes into a butterfly. I learned how much my family loves me and how much I love them," Mary mouse says.

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"We have many friends in the forest. I learned there are dangers everywhere, and we must always be prepared. I drew some pictures along the way," Katie says.

"I learned how to respect others. I listened to Mr. Stinkbug, and he warned us about Rusty the Hawk. Now he's our good friend," Joe says.

"We learned that you can't let bad things ruin you day because they aren't really bad, they're just lessons. We also learned that when you give kindness, you get kindness in return. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to go out by ourselves," says JimJim, who then hands over some jelly beans.

A fun hobby

Ziegler refers to his authorship of kids' books as his fun, new hobby. For the past 23 years, he as worked in the real estate business, and for the 20 years before that, he was a high school teacher. When he completed the text for "JimJim and the Jelly Bean Journey," he asked one of his former students, Vari Reichardt, to illustrate his story. Reichardt has been a children's art and preschool teacher for several years.

"JimJim and the Jelly Bean Journey" has been published through createspace.com, a self-publishing company operated by Amazon. The book is available on amazon.com and at several locations around the valley, including Batson's Corner Store/Eagle Pharmacy, the Vail Valley Pharmacy and The Toy Store in Vail. Ziegler himself manned a book booth at Eagle Flight Days last weekend.

Building a following

Ziegler said one of the first fans of "JimJim and the Jelly Bean Journey" was Eagle Valley Elementary School first-grade teacher Lindsay Carlson. She read the story to her class, noting it touched on a number of learning objectives. Then other first-grade teachers shared the book with their classes, and kids loved the story for both its whimsical nature and the nearby and familiar setting. Toward the end of the school year, 63 Eagle Valley first-graders trekked over to Ziegler's home, which is located just across the street from the school, to spend some time with the author and ask questions.

"Everybody loved JimJim," Ziegler said. "One little boy asked, 'Is it possible that you have some jelly beans?' I told him if everyone asked lots of questions, I might share some."

During his talk with the kids, Ziegler was thrilled to see the first-graders developing their own stories after reading his.

The greatest compliment he received that day happened after his talk was over and four little girls came forward.

"One of them said, 'I love JimJim,' and then another one said, 'I love JimJim more,'" said Ziegler. "How do you put a value on that? With that kind of response, I think I will keep writing. Quite a few of the elementary kids are waiting for a second book."

More in store

Ziegler has already lined out his second JimJim book. In this adventure, the mouse family scurry into a backpack on the ground when rain starts to fall at Sylvan Lake. But the backpack doesn't stay on the ground, and they are in for quite an adventure when its owner and his hiking buddy (named Nate and Mike after Ziegler's son and son-in-law) leave the area.

"The family is in the pack when they hear words like 'Grand Junction' and 'airplane' and 'Vegas' and 'Circus Circus,'" Ziegler said.

During the course of the second book, Ziegler plans to work in the names of four of his brothers. A fifth brother, who passed away, is the inspiration for JimJim.

Ziegler also has the idea for a wintertime JimJim adventure.

"I have a lot of fun creating the danger for the characters. Isn't that what a story is about — surviving danger?" he said. "I really do have a fun new hobby."