Local Author Honors Park System With Latest Book

Local Author Honors Park System With Latest Book
Local Author

SALISBURY – Through the tales of a wild horse, a local author is highlighting the importance of conservation and education in her new book, “Ace, King of My Heart”.

Set on the barrier island of Assateague, author Lea Herrick details the fictional life of a colt named Ace and his stories of strength and survival.

As the readers follow Ace and his journey, they are exposed to the history and wildlife of Assateague Island, and with it comes life lessons of hope and dedication.

With the help of literary “osmosis,” Herrick said the book teaches children underlying themes of herd behavior on Assateague and the conservation of natural habitats.

“I felt inspired to write a story about these horses and animals,” Herrick said. “As we are losing more of our natural areas, I thought it was important to document this.”

In January of 2015, she set out to create a book about Assateague and its horses for the park’s 50th anniversary.

Park employee Rene Capizza suggested a storyline of herd behavior, according to Herrick, and park rangers directed her to books and information about Assateague and its horses.

“I’m very partial to Maryland because we don’t get a lot of recognition,” she said. “They always talk about Chincoteague.”

Unlike the ponies of Chincoteague, Herrick said Assateague horses remain wild, and many locals and tourists do not know these differences.

“I, for one, was confused until I started going to lectures with the Assateague Island Alliance,” she said. “I didn’t realize the islands had different entities managing the horses. If I don’t know and I live here, I’m sure many tourists don’t understand the difference.”

With the help of Cherokee Books publisher James Hanna and his daughter, illustrator Nora Howell, Herrick pursued the story as a way to celebrate the milestone anniversary.

But when Hanna suddenly passed away last year, Herrick had to delay the publication date and miss the park’s timely anniversary.

Without a publisher or illustrator, Herrick placed the project on hold.

But after seeking help from her friend Dave Insley, Herrick soon found an illustrator, teenage artist Krystal Colon of Wicomico County.

“She is just the most dear, sweet child I have ever met in my life,” she said.

After one meeting, Herrick said Colon started completing the illustrations for the book while her husband took photographs for the templates.

Herrick also received inspiration from a young pen pal in Ecuador, who sent her a drawing of dolphins, which was then rendered and placed in the book.

“There is no such thing as coincidence,” Herrick said. “Things happen when they happen.”

Instead of writing the book for Assateague’s 50th anniversary, Herrick said the book’s release coincides with the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.

“It’s a nice family story, and we want it to preserve the environment,” she said.

Those interested in purchasing a copy of the book can do so at the Amazon and Barnes and Nobel websites. Copies will also be available from sale in the Assateague Island National Seashore Visitor’s Center gift shop, where a portion of the proceeds will go toward educational programming within the park system.

The book has allotted pages for notes and nature drawings and a link to the Assateague Island Alliance, where readers can help foster a horse.

“It was a great way to give back to the parks,” Herrick said. “With budget cuts, it always seems like parks and arts are on the lower rung. I am very proud of our state and thankful of what we do have. Hopefully we don’t lose it.”

Herrick is a Salisbury resident and author of “The Courageous Corgi,” an award-winning book published in 2004.

Her passions include animals, nature and the Eastern Shore.

“Sometimes you don’t appreciate what you have until you are away,” she said. “I wouldn’t live any other place now.”