Trip to Dinosaur inspires author

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Deborah Kogan Ray, a well-known children's book author and illustrator, visits Craig often, but her trip last week was for a different purpose than usual.

Her daughter, Karen Ray, is what typically attracts Kogan Ray here. During one of her pervious visits to Moffat County, she became inspired to write her next book, based on the travels of the one-armed Colorado River explorer, John Wesley Powell.

While visiting Dinosaur National Monument, she read a sign about how Powell's boat was lost there when he and his crew first began their journey.

"That's what got me started on this," she said.

Kogan Ray is working on Powell's story and has been conducting research here. She stayed in Craig for one week and is headed back to Wyndmoor, Penn., early Tuesday morning.

Her recently released books have a similar theme to the one about Powell. They are what Kogan Ray referred to as "picture biographies," often about lesser-known historical figures, and give children easily understood historical accounts they can relate to.

"The Flower Hunter," a book based on created journal entries, follows the life of William Bartram, a botanist from America's colonial period, and his relationship with his father, John Bartram, who was also a botanist.

The inspiration for this book came from a tour Kogan Ray took of the Bartram Gardens, near his home. The guide said Bartram's father used to refer to him as "Billy, my little botanist."

"When you're an author and you hear something like that you just know there's a story there," she said.

By including details such as leaf identification in her story, Kogan Ray said the story becomes a educational tool as well.

She incorporated details such as these in another of her books, "Hokusai: The Man Who Painted a Mountain," about a Japanese artist.

Below her colorful and engaging illustrations, Kogan Ray included English words written in calligraphy for children to practice.

"I wanted to make the book very multi-layered," she said.

Kogan Ray said she often forms connections with her characters, and felt particularly close to Hokusai by the time the story was completed.

"This one I have very strong emotional ties to because it's about an artist," she said. "What else is an artist likely to have emotional ties to?"

She said her books are designed to have lessons for the children and adults who read them.

"All of the books I do, the people, no matter what they are doing, it's the passion and drive they have for what they're doing," she said. "It's the idea of the individual, that an individual can succeed."

Find out more about Kogan Ray's work at her Web site, www.dkray.com.

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