If someone asked you about the Gulf of Mexico environment today, what would come to your thoughts first?  Probably the massive BP oil spill. But in her new children’s book Salty Seas and His Heroic Friends, Louisianan Lynda Deniger informs young people and reminds adults of the bountiful natural resources and enduring way of life that preceded the spill and will endure decades after it is a piece of history.

A hit with teachers and young audiences in the Gulf region, Salty Seas uses wildlife – Sammy Seagull, Patti Pelican and Dottie Dolphin – to illuminate the ecological and human lifeways that are associated with the saltwater resource.  The human element includes the shrimping industry, largely populated by independent operators and their families, who have close ties to their communities.  Shrimper Captain Charley is the master of the shrimp boat saved by the wildlife characters when a sudden storm arises and he is knocked overboard.

In simple prose and vivid illustrations, the book awakens the imagination of its young audience to the wonders of the Gulf.  One parent wrote Deniger to say, “From the moment Salty Seas arrived in the mail, I could not wrestle it away from my kids! They were all over it! I heard a lot of ‘That’s so cool!’ and ‘Oh gosh a shark!’ The pictures are bright and capture the eye, and my kids were delighted with Salty and his friends! I think it’s a great book to look over with your kids, to see how life is for the people along the Gulf.”

Says Deniger:  “Salty Seas was written in 1988 while watching shrimp boats trawling near Grand Isle’s shoreline. Didn’t do anything with it because children’s genre wasn’t my thing. About 2 years ago I decided it was time to publish it.”

She self-published and promoted the book one-by-one not only to regional bookstores, but largely to school children. One of her promotional methods is performing the story for early elementary audiences. To date, she has sold more than 2500 copies of Salty Seas.

Deniger, who lives in Abita Springs, Louisiana, believes the book is reaching its intended audience. “One mother told me that Salty Seas is her child’s favorite book and they have to read it every night. A children’s author couldn’t ask for anything more,” says Deniger.

A former journalist, Deniger says she “used my reporting skills to find out about shrimping, the lifestyle, the blessing of the fleet, and more because I wanted the facts in the book to be accurate about shrimping. I couldn’t go down in the bayou and perform the book for the shrimpers’ children and it not be accurate. They would have laughed me out of there.”

The author adds:  “I especially wanted children who didn’t know about shrimping to understand it was a multi-generational vocation. Of course, it’s an important industry of our state and children outside of the southern locales really aren’t that familiar with it. Children outside Louisiana, unless it is a coastal community, would know very little about what goes on aboard a shrimp boat. The value lessons are friendship and teamwork.”

How difficult is it to self-publish a children’s environmental book? Deniger says, “It’s not easy but there’s lots of great info out there to walk you through it. I did send my book to a regional publisher who returned it in about a week saying it wasn’t what they were publishing at this time.

“I had done my research and figured out that with my background in advertising, marketing, sales and public relations I could probably make this happen myself. So I bought a couple of books, read all the articles I could find, talked to self-publishers, charged it to my credit card and jumped out there. I’ve had great success according to what I can decipher. Most self-publishers are lucky if they sell 2-300 books. So I’m already way over the mark. Thank God. But it’s been hard work. I know it has helped that I actually storytell the book in schools. It’s ‘edu-tainment,’ as one of my friends says.”

The BP spill has not escaped Deniger’s concern and will be the central topic of a followup book she is planning with the same characters.  “People asked me, what about the oil spill?  It came to me that Patti Pelican and Sammy Seagull get oiled, rescued and then released.”

While most publications about the spill are scientific, Deniger has a different purpose.  “Part of the point will be to tell kids there are things they can do.  The charge to kids will be, you might be the one who grows up to be a scientist and thinks of a new way to protect sea life. It’s a message of hope for their future and ours.”

The new book, Patti Pelican and the Gulf Oil Spill, will be published before the first anniversary of the BP spill.

Priced at $18.95, Salty Seas, illustrated by Paulette V. Ferguson, can be ordered at http://www.saltyseasandfriends.com or by e-mailing author Deniger at Lynda@saltyseasandfriends.com.