Relative Inspiration

Menomonie author pens youth book series

Carrie Weiss, photos by Andrea Paulseth

About eight years ago, 84-year-old Nancy Bjornson got an itch to write. The Menomonie native was fascinated by the stories her nephew told her about working a summer job patrolling mountain campsites in Wyoming, with the companionship of two llamas. Bjornson used Weldon’s tales as a model to build her book series “Jesse and Cash.”

“I had these two boys I had to create, they just got into my head,” Bjornson said.

Bjornson herself grew up reading classics like Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer, so it isn’t surprising that her characters, Jesse and Cash, are teenage cousins. The most recently published, the second in the series, is Jesse and Cash and the Illegal Trappers, which came out in October.

The story takes place on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island, where the boys spend a summer. Jake Hildebrand of Menomonie read the book at age 11, and found the story thrilling, “especially the part where the boys get trapped by the criminals.” Hannah Anderson, 13, was also taken in by the book, which she read “in around one hour,” she said.

In the first book, which came out last April, Jesse and Cash and the Fool’s Gold, Jesse and Cash spend the summer in the mountains of Montana.
“If you’re wondering where I got the name ‘Cash,’ you’ll have to wait until the third book,” Bjornson teased. In the third installment, scheduled to come out in April 2009, the cousins will journey to Durango, Colorado.

Bjornson relayed her nephew’s adventures through the boys’ eyes, though she changed the rustic setting in each book. She thoroughly researched the details of each story on the Internet and by talking to people, “all of the people I’ve contacted have been willing to help,” she explained.