and Fraser will appear at a reading and book signing at
Explore Booksellers on Friday, Aug. 27, from 5-7 p.m.
"Rescue in Cougar Canyon"
offers the usual mix of outdoor discovery, childhood friendship,
a slightly scary situation, lessons in safety, and detailed
illustration by local artist Tammie Lane. But the biggest
hook for the young reader, as always, is the uncommonly
savvy and brave Fraser, who has rescued Courtney from a
snowslide, led the girls out of a winter blizzard, and saved
Maggie from a mine shaft on Aspen Mountain. Sheeley claims
that Fraser has not been an act of pure imagination.
"I was always getting calls
from neighbors: 'Did you hear what Fraser did?'" said
Sheeley. In one episode, a neighbor witnessed Fraser dig
a tiny pup out of deep snow and make a path for him to walk
to safety; in another, Fraser prevented an impending Rottweiler
attack on a small dog.
Books were always big in the family.
Sheeley had written such locally flavored books as the cookbooks
"Tastes of Aspen" and "Lighter Tastes of
Aspen," and "Christmas in Aspen," which combined
holiday memories of longtime Aspen families with recipes.
When the family traveled, Sheeley always taught her daughter
about their destinations through local Fraser books.
Following a trip in the mid-'90s,
Sheeley noticed there were no Fraser books about Aspen.
She knew that Fraser books didn't generally sell as
well as cookbooks.
"But I just had one of those
intuitive instincts that a Fraser book would sell well
if there was an animal in there," she said. "And
here I had a wonderful dog. Kids would just be drawn to
him, and he had all these amazing adventures. I figured,
why not write about him? And at the same time, Courtney
and her friends were having these big adventures, skiing
and hiking, that you wouldn't have, say, in Illinois [Sheeley's
Sheeley's first book, "Rescue
on Snowmass Mountain," had Courtney getting stuck in
a snowslide. (Courtney was only partly buried; Sheeley doesn't
put too much fear factor in the stories.) Fraser became
a hero in the book by alerting the ski patrol, and became
a celebrity to the children of Aspen. (My 5-year-old daughter
Olivia freaks out at her occasional Fraser encounters. And
don't get me started on how often I have to pretend I'm
Taylor or Maggie as Olivia concocts her own Fraser-based
Sheeley says the books, which have
sold some 50,000 copies, are about more than just a cuddly
dog. They work especially well for visiting children, who
learn about mountain culture and local landmarks. But Fraser
- who can be seen as a stuffed animal, and on postcards,
bookmarks and more - is what gets kids' attention.
"He can't go anywhere without
people coming running," said Sheeley. "If we say
his name, five families will come over and say, 'That's
not the real Fraser, is it? He has a real star quality."
Stewart Oksenhorn's e-mail address