Ex-DA ventures into children’s books


“The Casual Vacancy” (Little, Brown and Company), by J.K. Rowling.

Frank Daniels, wide-ranging author of books on petrified wood and a murder case he prosecuted while district attorney, has released a children’s book as essentially Colorado as bonneted columbines and whispering aspen groves.

“Ptimothy Ptarmigan: Here Again ... Gone Again” is 36 exuberantly illustrated pages about the adventures of a ptarmigan and his high-alpine friends, including a marmot, a pika and a human poet who resides in a cabin.

They live on Mount Massive in the Sawatch Range, the second-highest peak in the Rocky Mountains at 14,421 feet — 12 feet short of Mount Elbert — and 18 miles east of Aspen.

Ptimothy rides a storm into Denver, a la “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” where he meets the gregarious pigeon Penny and even takes in a symphony performance.

Woven into the reading are illustrations of the official Colorado bird, animal, fish, tree, flower, mineral, gemstone, reptile, grass, insect and amphibian. How many of these do you know?

The book jacket describes the author as employing “appealing and intellectually stimulating forms of language that will interest and excite young readers — including alliteration, oxymorons, poetry, puns and palindromes.”

Indeed, although described as a children’s book “for readers of all ages,” it would be a challenging read, without adult guidance, for all but the most advanced young readers.

Daniels said he intended it that way, having started the storyline in 1976 while student teaching at a Denver middle school and wanting to incorporate lively wordplay into literature studies.

Law school came next for Daniels. He has lived in Grand Junction since 1983 and was the elected district attorney of the 21st Judicial District for some 12 years. Minerals and photography are avocations, and he has climbed all of the state’s Fourteeners.

Daniels published “Dead Center: The Shocking True Story of a Murder on Snipe Mountain” in 2003. The book chronicles the four-year investigation into the death of John Bruce Dodson, shot three times while hunting. Dodson’s body was discovered by his newlywed wife, who stood to inherit an estate of half a million dollars.

Publishing “Ptimothy Ptarmigan,” Daniels said, was closure to 35 years of on-again, off-again rewrites. Grand Junction artist Karl Nicholason brought the story to visual life just the way he’d imagined it, Daniel said.

And in answer to the official Colorado bird, animal, fish, tree, flower, mineral, gemstone, reptile, grass, insect and amphibian, that would be the lark bunting, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, greenback cutthroat trout, blue spruce, columbine, rhodochrosite, aquamarine, western painted turtle, blue grama grass, Colorado hairstreak butterfly and western tiger salamander.

“Ptimothy Ptarmigan” was published by Frank Daniels’ company, Western Colorado Publishing Co., and sells for $20. It will be available starting Monday at http://www.westerncoloradopublishing.com and Grand Valley Books, 350 Main St.


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