Will Clare, Rachel, Snowball and Puppy put Morristown’s South Street Creamery on the literary map, the way Eloise did for the Plaza Hotel in New York?
Marie Pfeifer, author of her first children’s book, The Mystery of the Missing Chocolate Chips, certainly hopes so.
Her tale of four little friends with a weakness for hot fudge sundaes is set inside the cheery shop, a short walk from her home.
“I chose the Creamery because I love it here. They have great ice cream. And I think this place has heart,” Pfeifer said.
That’s important, according to Rosemary Wells, author of the popular Ruby & Max series.
“She told me: ‘You have to have heart in your books if you’re writing for children.’ I think I did that with all my characters,” said Pfeifer, a grandmother of three who drew inspiration from the early years of her daughter Arlene and late daughter Clare.
One of the story’s stars, Lori, is based on Lori Ann Giardina, who runs the Creamery with her sister.
Although it’s the first book to feature her, “I’ve always been a character!” Lori Ann said.
“Hopefully, this book makes everybody feel more excited about eating ice cream, and the fun aspects of life in the Creamery,” said Carla Williams, Lori Ann’s sister, who is hoping for equal time in a Pfeifer sequel.
For now, Pfeifer said she will be happy to earn back her self-publishing fees, and find an agent and publisher.
While aspiring writers of children’s books dream of emulating the late author Kay Thompson and illustrator Hilary Knight, creators of the Eloise series set in the Plaza Hotel of the 1950s, it’s a crowded field where getting noticed takes as much luck as skill.
A frequent contributor to MorristownGreen.com, Pfeifer co-wrote and narrated the 2014 documentary White Man on a Bicycle, about a Morristown handyman’s humanitarian work in Sierra Leone.
Crazy about kids–she tutors first- and second graders in math at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church — she always fancied writing books for them.
Her Chocolate Chips mystery took more than two years to bake. Much of that time involved finding the right illustrator, Theresa Stites, and going back and forth with her to fine-tune the pictures, explained Pfeifer, who joined the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators for how-to tips.
The sweet spot for children’s books, she learned, is 24 pages. Squeezing a compelling plot into that tiny space is challenging. Pfeifer estimates she did 15 rewrites. Her daughter Arlene and mentor Rosemary Wells critiqued the manuscripts, knowing that kids are the toughest critics of all.
“You’d be surprised what they notice,” Pfeifer said.
CRITICS WEIGH IN
She figured her ideal audience ranges from age 4 and 7. Yet older youngsters also responded favorably to recent readings at The Learning Express and the Creamery.
“You should read it,” advised Addison Rogers, 8, of Morristown. “It’s a good book and has a lot of good pictures.”
Riggins O’Grady, 8, added: “I think it’s interesting because it was talking about somebody stealing the chocolate chips… I like chocolate chips.”
Ella Petillo, 9, of Harding liked the surprise ending. Her sister Darian, 8, enjoyed trying to unravel the whodunnit, and was glad [SPOILER ALERT!!!] that the culprit “told the truth instead of lying.”
Their friend, 8-year-old Laurel Donovan of Bernardsville, called it “a really great book. It’s really funny!”
Asked for her review, Michelle Jenkins, 6 1/2, delivered book jacket gold:
“I would say, ‘Amazing, amazing, amazing!’”
The Mystery of the Missing Chocolate Chips (Mascot Books, 2017), by Marie Pfeifer with illustrations by Theresa Stites, can be purchased at The Creamery, 146 South St., Morristown, and at Amazon.com.