The Santa Monica Pier can be an overwhelming place.
Hundreds if not thousands of bodies bristle against each other and the ocean waves crash against the pier adding to a cacophony of noises. These noises include shouting, music, and nearby screams due to giant steel beasts. Wait — giant steel beasts? Giant steel dragons, to be more succinct.
Documenting a slaying of such a creature (on a public boardwalk, no less) requires documentation, and that’s just what 10-year old Stella Harris did as co-author of her book ‘Stella Rose and the Sea Dragon’.
The children’s book is an allegorical tale about a young girl named Stella Rose and chronicles how Stella (both real and fictional) overcame her fear of riding a big kid ride at the Santa Monica Pier while becoming friends with a green Sea Dragon. The book was co-written by Stella’s father, Pier Historian James Harris and illustrated by Michael Bailey.
To celebrate the release of the book, Stella, her dad and Bailey will be available at Pacific Park Thursday, May 23 at 10:30 a.m. to discuss their book. Pacific Park will also be giving away free rides on the Sea Dragon for anyone who purchases a copy of the book at the release event.
Stella says the story came about due to her trepidation of that ride and subsequent bedtime storytelling intended to assuage her fears.
“Well, I was scared of it, but I was always eyeing it,” the younger Harris said of the Sea Dragon ride. The Sea Dragon, a Pacific Park staple, is a swinging ship ride with two dragon heads that moves back and forth, making ride-goers feel as if they’re in the stormy Pacific.
“Like, it looked cool and that made me want to try it, but I was always a little too scared of trying it. It was so big and fast, it made it seem scary.”
Harris’ father James said Stella would thoroughly enjoy the other rides in the surrounding area — graduating from Shark Frenzy and Wave Jumper to the West Coaster rollercoaster and Inkie’s Scrambler — but there was just something about that Sea Dragon ride that terrified her.
Unluckily for the young Harris, she had made firm plans to one day conquer that thing.
”One thing about Stella, she always had a plan for when she was going to do things,” James Harris said. “I’d ask, ‘Stella, do you want to go camping sometime,’ and she’d answer, ‘Maybe when I’m 4.’ While she was on the kiddy rides here, it was, ‘When do you want to go on the giant seadragon swing,’ and she says, ‘Maybe when I’m 8.’ Seriously.”
Stella realized she made this pact with herself and had to process it. Stella would often wonder, Will I be ready when the time comes?
The elder Harris, already an author himself with ‘Santa Monica Pier: A Century on the Last of the Pleasure Pier’ collaborated with his daughter, helped to craft a story to help her gain the courage to conquer this beast (er, her fears) once and for all.
“When she finally processed this all in her head, she came up with this story,” James said.
“We recited it as a bedtime story for a long time, too,” Stella said.
Writing about her own avatar conquering this fear, Stella eventually found her footing to brave the dragon-headed beast.
She recalls the day as if it were yesterday; she put one foot in, then the other, nervously. Once safely secure in the ride, it began to move. The steel groaned as the ride begin, increasing Stella’s nervousness then… well, it was fine.
“When I was getting on, I was so scared,” Stella said, “I was wondering if I still wanted to do it. The sensation was really different when I was on it and it started. It was like, just a big swing to me. It became my favorite ride quickly and still is.”
Now, with the beast slain, Stella has a new fear to fight — publicity.
“It’s scary being in front of a lot of people,” says, commenting on the upcoming book release event at the Pier.
In true Stella fashion, she says she made this commitment and will make the most of it, using her story to inspire others.
“At first I didn’t even want [the book] to be about me because I was embarrassed. Now, I think it can be inspiring for everyone. I hope that if they’re afraid of doing something or facing something, reading this, they’ll consider it and do it and overcome their fear.”
‘Stella Rose and the Sea Dragon’ is available for purchase at Pacific Park, the Pier Shop and other locations on the Pier, as well as at the Santa Monica Visitors Center on Main Street. The book is also available at resonantentertainment.com