The new title from Great Smoky Mountains Association takes young readers on an underwater journey through the music and magic of a Smoky Mountain stream. Written by Morgan Simmons and illustrated by Don Wood, Singing Creek tells the story of a talented singing crayfish with big ambitions.
Molly McPhee is an aquatic resident of Great Smoky Mountains National Park with hopes of recording her very own album. To achieve her dream, she recruits other native aquatic species to join her band—from madtoms on tom-toms to a banjo-picking bullfrog. But just as they’re about to record, a mysterious stranger with a bad reputation appears, and Molly’s dreams take an unfortunate turn.
Author Morgan Simmons, a native of the area, spent 28 years telling true stories of the Smokies as a former Knoxville News Sentinel reporter. Singing Creek is his first foray into fiction.
“I wanted to do something substantial for my grandchildren to remember me by,” said Simmons. “Untold hours were spent at the creek on our property when my kids were growing up, catching crawfish. They remembered all the stories I used to tell them, and I decided: Why not try and make a story out of all of that?”
Written first and foremost to be entertaining, the book also teaches young readers about aquatic life in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Often overshadowed by the park’s more well-known characters like black bears and elk, many unique and fascinating species are found within the Smokies’ picturesque creeks—and Singing Creek brings those stories to light through both fiction and fact. Readers seeking more information on the story’s real-life counterparts can flip to the book’s glossary, which features illustrated facts on each animal and information on protecting aquatic life in the Smokies, like why you shouldn’t move river rocks.
“We wanted to bring the characters to life and make them attractive but also represent the truth about aquatic life,” said the book’s designer Lisa Horstman, lead publications specialist for Great Smoky Mountains Association. “The goal was to treat the readers with respect and value their intelligence, since there is a lot to be learned from the book.”
Former colleagues at the Knoxville News Sentinel, Simmons and Wood are longtime friends and bandmates. As musicians, both felt it was important to bring as much authenticity to the instruments as they did the representation of the aquatic life. Of course, not every band is blessed with an eight-legged guitarist, a top-hatted fishing spider, like Molly’s.
Singing Creek is now available for $12.95 in the park’s visitor center bookstores and at GSMA’s online store smokiesinformation.org/singing-creek