When Willernie Mayor B.K. Parent first began writing her young adult book series, she happened to visit the Canadian municipality of Neebing, just across the border from Grand Portage.
She liked the word Neebing and used it as a word for a mysterious creature in her first book “Journey's Middle,” where she brought her imaginary land of Sommerhjem (Norwegian for summer house) to life. She later learned Neebing means summer in Ojibwe.
When a Grand Marais resident read her book, she informed officials in Neebing that they were named in the book. Parent and Neebing residents soon got together and the municipality began to incorporate her books into their tourism efforts.
This year, Neebing named the park next to its municipal offices “Journey's Middle Park.” The name is appropriate not just because of the book, but because the municipality is between Thunder Bay and the U.S. border, Parent noted. Through a grant, a wagon was also dedicated at the park last month. The main character in the book drove a homewagon, a caravan home on wheels, Parent explained. She helped build the wagon this summer.
The municipality of Neebing has a population of 2,000 and is essentially five townships under one umbrella. The area has several unnamed parks that may take on the names of book characters in the future, Parent said. One of the municipality's parks is named in memory of Alf Olsen, and Parent incorporated his name into her most recent book.
She has now written six books in her series and is working on a seventh.
“I keep saying I am done, but I am not,” she said. “I've got one started but I don't know where it is going to go.”
Parent, who began writing her series in 2012, won the 2018 Minnesota Library Foundation Author Project contest in the young adult fiction category. She is a retired school psychologist. She worked at Vadnais Heights Elementary School. The books are illustrated by her niece, Katherine M. Parent.
Books in the Sommerhjem Journeys series are available from the author, at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and some local bookstores in Kindle, hardcover, paperback and e-versions. To follow the series, visit: www.facebook.com/Sommer hjem-Journeys-Series-386364014789134/