Duck tale; Edsel Ford junior uses feathered friends to help children face childhood fears

Photo by Sue Suchyta
Ky’la Sims (right), 17, a junior at Edsel Ford High School and a student at Henry Ford Collegiate Academy, shows her recently published children’s story, “Duck’s First Day of School,” written under the pen name K. M. Jones, to EFHS teacher Margaret Kraft, one of the teachers who inspired her and is named in the book’s dedication.

Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN – Duck and his feathered friends help Ky’la Sims’ story take flight as she shows children how to overcome their fear of new situations in “Duck’s First Day of School.”

The Edsel Ford High School junior, a published poet who is simultaneously earning an associate’s degree through Henry Ford Collegiate Academy, has always loved to draw and tell stories. She plans to write more storybooks as she continues to share Duck’s adventures as he learns to ride a bike, swim and bake.

Her book, written under the pen name K.M. Jones, is available online at, and soon through

“Duck is entirely based on my life and my experiences growing up,” Sims said. “I really wanted it to be something that everyone could connect with, so that’s why I really took it from me and what I went through going to elementary school — being
scared and having those feelings. I really wanted to put that into Duck’s story.”

She field-tested her storyline on her brother Marcus, 5, whom she said really enjoyed the story.

“He really helped me figure out and get into a child’s mind today,” Sims said. “That’s what really helped me format Duck and how he was going to be.”

She said the story addresses the fear children have of not finding friends.

“A lot of people don’t like to accept you for who you are, and they are worried, ‘Oh, I might be different, or maybe I won’t fit in with this group because I don’t like that,’” Sims said. “I think what duck shows is you should appreciate the differences of others, and I hope everyone gets that out of this.”

She said two teachers also encouraged her: Paul Bruce, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at Salina Intermediate School, and Margaret Kraft, who taught her honors language arts classes in ninth and tenth grade.

“Being in Mr. Bruce’s class and him inspiring us to write and use our creativity really drove me to create this book,” Sims said. “I felt like being in his class, and also Ms. Kraft’s class really helped to push me to go for my dreams and I really appreciate having them in my life.”

Bruce said he is proud of what Sims has accomplished while still in high school. When she delivered a copy to him at Salina recently during lunchtime, he said his students crowded around and wanted to see her book.

“Her accomplishment is marvelous,” Bruce said. “I’m extremely happy for her and I hope this takes her into a lifetime of writing and illustrating.”

Sims said writing essays and stories for Kraft’s class helped make her writing stronger.

“She pushed me to go above and beyond what I write,” Sims said. “That is actually what helped to push me to create this book. I think the structure on this book would have been off had it not been for her helping me to get there and pushing me to be the best that I can be.”

Kraft said she noticed Sims’ directness, which she said is an asset for a writer.

“She has a way of sifting through everything to the most important thing,” Kraft said. “I think that quality is really important for a writer: to know what the essence is of the writing, and even in that storybook I could feel that essence, that main idea.

“She just gravitates toward that immediately, which I admire, of course, because I am a circular person. I go into circles but she is really direct.”

She said Sims’ tribute to her in the book was very touching.

“That’s a compliment we really don’t get,” Kraft said. “You can teach for 20 to 30 years and never get such a beautiful compliment, and I am very thankful.”

She said she was amazed by the amount of time Sims spent bringing the book to completion.

“She took the time not just to write the book but she and her mom got it published,” Kraft said. “I just think that is so amazing, because I know so many people who write books but they never get them published. I thought that was such a monumental task. It’s so much work to get all that done.”

Kraft has told her students about the book, and Sims said they have been supportive and have bought the book, saying it takes them back, and sharing it with younger family members.

Sims said she encourages other aspiring writers to “go for it.”

“I feel like you can reach your dreams as long as you believe that you can,” Sims said. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and as long as you have that drive for it there is nothing that can stop you.”