Father writes Tahoe Tessie book to help daughter overcome fear

Laney Griffo
Special to the Sierra Sun

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — What started as a father writing a book to help his daughter overcome her fear of water has grown into a series featuring Lake Tahoe’s favorite cryptid, Tahoe Tessie, and her friends.

It all started when Juliet was 4 and she and her dad, Donny Beken, were on a boat with some friends.

As Juliet, who is now 8 tells it, she and the another girl were running around the boat and misbehaving.

“My dad was afraid I would fall off the boat so he told me if I didn’t start behaving Tahoe Tessie would get me,” Juliet Beken said.

What started as a harmless fib to get his daughter to behave spiraled into a full-blown phobia of water for Juliet.

The books helped Juliet overcome her fear of water.
Laney Griffo/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Donny Beken said she became not only afraid of Tahoe but also, pools, bathtubs and even the toilet. Beken knew he had to fix it.

He had already written a book for her, called Sleep Little Star to read as a bedtime story, so he decided the best way to tackle the problem would be to write a book painting Tessie as a lovable creature and not a terrifying monster. In August 2020 the book was released.

“Tahoe Tessie the Lonely Lake Monster (Creature),” tells a story similar to Donny and Juliet’s story. Tessie overhears a dad tell his daughter that Tessie will come and get her, making Tessie sad because she’s just a misunderstood creature that wants friends.

Romeo the Black Bear attempts to befriend Tessie and she soon has a group of woodland creatures as friends. Romeo is a nod to his daughter’s name, Juliet, a fact Juliet was proud to share.

Juliet said the book helped and she’s been back to the lake several times since the book was finished.

Juliet said she wants to take over the series from her dad.
Laney Griffo/Tahoe Daily Tribune

Since then, the Tessie and friends universe has grown. The second in the series, “Tahoe Tessie & Friends – The Rocky Rescue,” was released in February 2021 and follows the tale of a little fox that slips down Cave Rock into the water and has to be rescued by Tessie.

The third book is slated to be released this summer. Titled “Tahoe Tessie & Friends – Firefighting Friends,” the book tells of the friends putting out an unattended campfire before it can rage out of control.

Donny Beken is already working on a fourth book about trash on the beach.

“I’m always thinking of other ideas,” Donny Beken said. “I want to increase awareness of Tahoe and its problems.”

He added that he hopes to instill safety and stewardship in children’s minds and hopefully the parents pick something up along the way too.

The art in all of Beken’s books has been done by a South African artist, Camilia Prinsloo.

They’ve never met in person but Beken loves the illustrations she does and hopes to one day meet her.

Juliet isn’t just the inspiration for the books, she is also instrumental in making them. Donny is always bouncing ideas off of Juliet and she’s given him plenty of advice along the way.

She even once joined him at a book reading where she signed autographs.

“I want to take over writing Tahoe Tessie books one day,” Juliet Beken said.

As for Donny Beken, he said right now, this is just a hobby but he hopes one day the books are successful enough to send Juliet to college.

His books can now be found in Learning Express and Biggest Little Baby, in Reno and also on amazon. He is interested in selling his books in local bookstores in Lake Tahoe.

Laney Griffo is a staff writer for the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at

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