Bellevue’s Kurt Wagner published his first children’s book in 2016.  Four years later he’s up to seven books, all centered around the character, ‘Anthony the Mouse.’

Wagner, along with his family, published three new books this year, including Anthony’s Farm Animal Friends, Anthony’s ABC Book, and Anthony’s Outdoor Adventure.

The trio of new books, along with a new Anthony plush toy are available next week, just in time for the start of the holiday season.

Many local folks will remember the Wagner family as they owned and operated Wagner’s Unlimited, the convenience store and eatery on Bellevue’s south side (now Bormann’s Neighborhood Pitstop) for over three decades.

The books have another local Bellevue angle; as the illustrations were created by Bellevue High School graduate Grace Witt, who is now a senior at the University of Dubuque, majoring in graphic design.

While Kurt was the main author, wife Tina and the entire family was integral in all seven books, with children Jake, Cierra and Kole Wagner providing input and expertise.

“As with all of the books in our series, our books are a family project and a collaborative team effort.  My wife, Tina, handles the majority of the administrative tasks, and our kids Jake, Ciarra and Kole share their opinions on the storyline, the illustrations, as well as help polish and edit our text content,” said Kurt, a 1977 graduate of Bellevue High School. “It’s great having such a supportive family for my team as we continue adding new Anthony stories.  

Wagner said he has always wanted to write children’s books and decided to pursue his dream about five years ago. He included many of his family traditions in his first Anthony the Mouse book, which incorporates the magic and excitement of Christmas through the eyes of a child.

As well as being successful authors, the Wagner family also created their own publishing company, “Be Happy Publishing,” which was the result of Tina’s expert marketing efforts.

“We also worked with a company designing, developing, and manufacturing a new Anthony plush toy this year, which we’re releasing this fall,” said Kurt. “In addition, we have created an Anthony the Mouse mascot for marketing events, school visits, and other promotional opportunities.”

“Other new offerings this year include e-book digital format for all seven books. The books are also available in audiobook format, each narrated by local Dubuque radio personality, Johnny Rhodes, who is my brother-in-law,” added Kurt. “Johnny brings the stories to life with his excellent delivery and added sound effects.”

As well as writing, Kurt has travelled around the Tri-States area conducted many author visits at schools and libraries.  

“Due to the pandemic, we are working on other ways to continue sharing our Anthony’s Adventures stories with school this year, and gearing these visits to be virtual for the near future,” said Kurt.

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In November 2017, Kurt was honored to be added to the list of Iowa Authors. I was also asked by Iowa Education representatives to present and speak at educators conferences they were hosting in Des Moines and Dubuque on several occasions.

“We worked together with our illustrator, Qing Yang, to help create fun, vibrant illustrations that our readers enjoy,” said Kurt.  “On one of our three new releases this year, “Anthony’s ABC Book”, we worked with Bellevue High School graduate Grace Witt.  She assisted in the layout and illustration design for our ABC book.  She has also created activity worksheets to accompany our ABC book. Grace is incredibly talented and did a great job.”

Another of the trio of books is entitle Anthony’s Farm Animal Friends,” which introduces young learners to common farm animals and the sounds they make.  “This book is sure to be a fun read for young children and one they can certainly read along with,” said Kurt.

In final book in the new trio, young reads can go along with Anthony as he explores nature in  “Anthony’s Outdoor Adventures” is full of beautiful illustrations and colorful bugs. It incorporates many scenes the Wagner family has encountered or enjoyed in their travels.

“All of our books promote fun ideas for children to experience for themselves and reflect on our families fun together growing up,” said Kurt. “All of our books offer free printable coloring pages from our website, which I am proud to say that our sons Kole and Jake designed and developed.”

Along with successful book sales, the Wagners continue reading and donating books to the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital and offer discounted books for families to donate as well.

“Tina or myself visit the hospital around the holiday season and read to the children and give donated books for them to distribute to the children,” said Kurt. “We donated over 75 books last year thanks to Jake and his generous business partners donations. All donated books are greatly appreciated.”

The seven books in the Anthony the Mouse series include:

1.    “Anthony The Mouse Who Stirred At Christmas”

2.    “Anthony’s Happy Halloween”

3.    “Anthony’s Summer Vacation”

4.    “Anthony’s Rainy Day”

5.    “Anthony’s Farm Animal Friends”

6.    “Anthony’s ABC Book”

7.    “Anthony’s Outdoor Adventure”

All the books in the series are available at the BookWorm in Bellevue or online at the book’s official website (www.anothonythemouse.com).