Children's book authors detour to Oak Park's Magic Tree Bookstore

In town for ALA conference

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

Oak Park's Magic Tree Bookstore, 141 N. Oak Park Ave., will host a very full house this Sunday, Feb. 1 at 3:30 p.m. with young readers and parents, five children's book authors, an illustrator and a therapy dog.

Illustrator Deborah Zemke; authors Robin Newman, Darlene Beck Jacobson, Marcia Goldman (with Lola the therapy dog); and author and Creston Books publisher Marissa Moss will be in Chicago that weekend for an American Library Association conference. Magic Tree co-owner Rose Joseph said she anticipates the event will be "quite lively."

About 20 years ago no publisher was interested in Marissa Moss' composition notebook-bound, handwritten, fictitious diary as told by a 9-year-old girl named Amelia.

"No one would take it," the Amelia's Notebook author said about her debut diary. Moss called the project "a strange beast," and "too odd" back then.

Diary books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid had not yet become popular among young readers. Amelia was before her time until Random House's publishing program Tricycle Press came along and decided to pick up the series, which later moved to American Girl Publishing Inc.

"I used to get mail from girls saying, 'You're just like me'," Moss said. Now, as the series celebrates its 20th anniversary, Moss said it's still very gratifying to hear from young women who grew up with Amelia.

Random House shut down Berkeley-based Tricycle Press in 2010, which left a void among children's book authors who got their start with the offbeat company. In homage to Tricycle, Moss created Creston Books to "give other authors a chance," she said —  authors such as Goldman who writes about Lola the therapy dog. 

"Lola is little, but she proves that little can be big," Moss said. The Creston publisher said Lola's story is empowering for children.

Other stories from authors in the Creston community include tales about barnyard animals trying to wake up a farmer without Rooster (who is on vacation), a decomposing rotten pumpkin, and a candle passed from family to family for different holidays and celebrations.

"Kids are the most critical readers you could get. I like that kids are ruthless. They keep you honest," Moss said. "If you give a kid a book that's well written they'll plow right through." 

Moss said this is her first visit to Magic Tree Bookstore and she's looking forward to making "new bookstore friends." Even though the Oak Park children's bookstore is up for sale-, Joseph assured local readers that the event is not the bookstore's last hurrah.

As for Amelia, well she's graduating from eighth grade now, and Moss said she can't quite see the character surviving high school.

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