Washington County teacher to publish series of children’s books on exploring national parks – St George News
Justin Harmon, Debbie Houghton and Ashley Harmon have collaborated to create new Dilbert the Duck children’s book series, location unspecified, Aug 11, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Ashley Harmon, St. George News
ST. GEORGE – Debbie Houghton came up with the idea for her new children’s book series after starting a virtual storytime tradition with her grandchildren.
Houghton, a second-grade teacher at Three Falls Elementary School, spent more time at home with fewer opportunities to see her grandchildren after the COVID-19 epidemic in early 2020.
“I started reading one story a day, recording it and then sending it to my grandchildren,” she said. “Then I started doing it for my class as well. When I started to run out of stories, my grandchildren were really sad. And then when we started to be able to go back outside, I was like, “We have to get the kids moving. We need them to want to do fun things.
When an idea started to germinate in Houghton’s mind, she reached out to her daughter and son-in-law, Ashley and Justin Harmon, for their help in creating a series of books. Their goal was to combine scenic photography, original artwork, and poetic storytelling to celebrate the outdoors and encourage kids to get outside.
Together, the trio have already written and illustrated two new books, “Dilbert the Duck Visits Zion National Park” and “Dilbert the Duck Visits Bryce Canyon National Park,” both available for pre-order for $ 25 each.
The mixed media approach to the books uses Houghton’s handwriting alongside Justin Harmon’s drawings, all set in real-world locations photographed by Ashley Harmon. The series is slated for release on September 1 and is best suited for first-time readers ages 5-8, although 12-year-olds can still enjoy the series, Ashley Harmon said.
An adventurous duck named Dilbert is the central character of the new series. At the very beginning of the first book, he leaves his home in a fully illustrated setting to explore American national parks with his companion Succulent.
“I chose a duck because I thought it would be totally different and unique,” Houghton said. “I have the impression that Dilbert is a bit like me: a bit wobbly and a bit shy. We are somewhat in the same boat.
As for Dilbert’s travel companion, Succulent, the inspiration for this character came from Justin and Ashley Harmon.
“Something always happened that he had a silent mate who sort of acted like the ball in Castaway,” said Justin Harmon. “If he (Dilbert) has to be isolated, there’s probably something he would talk to. I just started drawing this sidekick little buddy and then Ashley looked at him and said, “Is that a succulent?” And I said, ‘Yeah, I guess that’s it.’ “
The Harmons have their own photography business specializing in wedding photos and national parks. Houghton has been teaching in the Washington County School District for over two decades, and she has just started another year at her elementary school in Hurricane.
Plans for future books include installments featuring Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Houghton also wrote two math books and turned them over to the Harmons for further revisions and contributions.
While the books can inspire children to visit individual national parks and learn more about each, Ashley Harmon said the main goal of the series is to inspire confidence and courage in young readers.
“We want to teach children to be brave, to be adventurous and to love the outdoors, especially our national parks,” she said. “Because I think if we never teach kids to love them, they won’t take care of them.”
More information on the new book series as well as tips for exploring local national parks can be found at Dilbert the Duck website. Questions and inquiries can be emailed to [email protected].
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