Aspen children’s author Jill Sheeley’s latest canine adventure
If You Go …
What: Jill Sheeley,’Adventures of Kip in Aspen & Snowmass’ booksigning
Where: Explore Booksellers
When: Saturday, Dec. 17, 4 p.m.
More info: explorebooksellers.com
Local children’s author Jill Sheeley has a new dog with new tricks.
The woman behind the long-running “Adventures of Fraser the Yellow Dog” series and the memoir “The World According to Fraser” is looking at the world through a dog’s eyes again in “Adventures of Kip in Aspen and Snowmass.”
The new book, aimed at very young kids, follows Kip, an Australian shepherd, and his owner, Courtney, through the local landscape. Readers may recognize Courtney as Sheeley’s daughter, now in her 30s, who has grown up in the pages of her mother’s books. Kip is her real-life dog.
“I’m one of the luckiest dogs in the world,” Kip opens his narrative. “I live in Aspen, Colorado. Every day is a blast.”
The pair frolics through winter and summer, to the Maroon Bells and Smuggler Mountain and up the Silver Queen gondola; Kip jogs along as Courtney cross-country skis on the local Nordic trails, he naps outside the Benedict Music tent and dresses up for the canine costume contest at Winterskol. They commiserate outside the popcorn wagon and get treats from the visitor center at the Wheeler Opera House.
The book also includes a map for a scavenger hunt to its featured locations (readers earn a certificate from Sheeley if they complete it and contact her online).
It’s a love letter to Aspen from a grateful author who’s lived here for 46 years. While the Fraser books sent him on rescues in local mountains and rivers, Kip’s literary debut is a laid back tour of the town.
“For Kip’s first book, I was just introducing the town of Aspen through a dog’s eyes for children,” Sheeley said recently over coffee at the Aspen Art Museum café. “Kids come here, they look around, they go skiing, but they don’t really know all the aspects. So I wanted to introduce them to everything.”
Sheeley will read from “Adventures of Kip” on Saturday at Explore Booksellers, with Kip on hand to meet his fans.
The new book is illustrated by artist Tanya Richards, who is based on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and imagined the dreamy watercolor aesthetic of “Adventures of Kip” based on hundreds of photos of local scenes.
Along with penning the Fraser series, Sheeley is the author of the holiday perennial “Christmas in Aspen” and a pair of cookbooks collecting local recipes. After Fraser died in 2008, Sheeley penned the young adult novel “The Blue Bottle,” which follows Courtney on a fictional Caribbean adventure. In the new book, she returns her to the friendly, picture-book style and a lovable canine protagonist. She has countless unpublished Fraser stories — and some about the “son of Fraser,” Ranger — but Kip, with his floppy ears and rambunctious personality, demanded a book of his own.
“I just felt the Fraser books were over, and then Kip came along,” she explained. “I didn’t plan it, it just sort of happened. And I knew I’d do it for younger kids.”
Sheeley has fine-tuned her sense of what kids want through years of storytelling in local and regional schools and with the nonprofit Spellbinders.
“I love working with kids so much and I’ve spent so much time reading to them and telling them stories that I think I know what they like,” she said. “I see their eyes bulge open when I tell them about how Fraser really was a rescue dog. That motivates me to keep telling stories.”