Skip directly to content

Los Alamos Author Fran Stoval Reveals Secret Dragons Of The Valle Caldera In New Book For Children

on November 7, 2019 - 7:46am
Author Fran Stoval with her model of Bow, the baby dragon from her book, The Secret Dragons. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
Poet Annie Kuiper. left, and artist Fran Stoval clown around while showing off their joint project, Pastels and Poems 2020 Calendar during an interview Friday at the Los Alamos Daily Post world headquarters. Photo by Bonnie J. Gordon/
Los Alamos Daily Post

Los Alamos artist Fran Stoval, known for her pastels and stained glass work, has branched out into a new field. She’s the author of a new book for kids in grades 4-6.

“The Secret Dragons” tells the story of three kids spending the summer at Tent Rocks Guest Ranch (a real place that was destroyed in the Las Conchas Fire) who discover a dragon’s egg. When it hatches, they go looking for the dragon’s parents and discover a colony of dragons living in the Valle Caldera.

The adventure takes place in 1937 and uses local landmarks and even some local people as a backdrop for the book, including members of Boy Scout Troop 22 who were students at the Los Alamos Ranch School and J. Robert Oppenheimer.

The book is illustrated by Stoval and contains a “dragon’s eye view” map of the area that will delight readers. It also contains a glossary of terms that might be unfamiliar and even foot notes.

It’s all on a level that is age-appropriate. The mixture of fact and fantasy will have readers scanning the skies near the Valles Calderas for dragons.

The dragons in the book are Amphitheres, winged serpents or dragons found in the folklore of Latin America. They have rainbow colored wings, like a scarlet macaw.

Stoval moved to Los Alamos in 1967.

“My husband and I bought a jeep and we went down all the canyons,” Stoval said. “We met a lot of people who became characters in the book, including Effie Jinks.” 

They met Jinks, the sole resident of the town of Bland, standing in front of a gated entrance to the town with a shot gun. She wouldn’t let the couple take the road to visit another mining town, Albemarle, further up the road.

Stoval did a lot of research about dragons as well as about the area where the book takes place in addition to relying on her recollections. She had the story mapped out in her head and finally wrote it down “on an airplane ride to Seattle in about three hours”.

The book really took shape when Stoval’s “editor extraordinaire” Annie Kuiper got a hold of it.

Stoval and Kuiper met in a stained glass class Stoval was teaching. Stoval let Kuiper read the manuscript.

“It’s a great book, but it needs editing,” Kuiper told the author. And Kuiper, a professional editor, was soon on board.

“I’m dyslectic,” Stoval revealed. “When I was young, I thought I was just stupid, but my struggles with reading and writing highlighted my other senses. It may be what makes me an artist!”

Not satisfied with one long-term project, Kuiper suggested another one. The two have also produced a calendar, which incorporates Kuiper’s poems with 12 months’ worth of Stoval’s pastels of northern New Mexico scenes. Each poem was inspired by the painting it’s paired with.

Both “The Secret Dragons” and the Pastels and Poems 2020 Calendar are available in time for holiday giving. Kuiper and Stoval will be at CB FOX 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9 to sign copies offered for sale. They also will be at projectY in Central Park Square 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Small Business Saturday, Nov. 30, with books and calendars for sale.

In addition to CB FOX, Fuller Lodge Art Center also is selling both items. The calendar also is available at the Los Alamos Visitors Center, where Kuiper can be found directing guests to special places around the area. The Secret Dragons also is available in Kindle and soft cover formats from