Dec. 18 2013 12:00 AM

Grand Ledge author recommends kids books this holiday season


Books make great presents. “The key to a really fun book for very young readers is it must be enjoyed by the child and also the adult,” said Grand Ledge children´s book author Deborah Diesen. Her advice: When selecting a book as a present, parents and grandparents should keep themselves in mind and buy something they know they´ll have to read repeatedly.

Additionally, she said, it’s a good idea to ask librarians and booksellers for their recommendations. This is an area within Diesen’s sphere of expertise; she has worked as a both a librarian and as a bookseller.

Not many authors can say their grouchy kid was a springboard to getting their first book published. But a kid with an exaggerated pout turned into what has become a franchise for Diesen. “My son was having a bit of a grouchy day and making a pouty face,” Diesen said. She made a face back and said, “We look like a pout-pout fish.”

She scribbled those words down and began working on a children’s picture book. Diesen said she had the first draft within a week. Five years later, in 2008, “The Pout-Pout Fish” was published.

Diesen, 46, had been writing what she calls “elementary poetry” since grade school, but when her kids were born she said it was “like a crash course in children’s literature.”

Following the first “Pout-Pout” book, Diesen wrote another children’s book, “The Bare-Footed, Bad-Tempered Baby Brigade,” in 2010, followed closely by a second “Pout-Pout” book, “The Pout-Pout Fish in the Big-Big Dark.” Another book, “Picture Day Perfection,” about a boy having some fun on class photo day, was published earlier this year.

The “Pout-Pout” series will have two more additions in 2014: “Smile, Pout-Pout Fish” is a board book that will be out in January to be followed by “The Pout-Pout Fish Goes to School” in June.

Diesen went from an unknown to a relative superstar in the children’s book publishing industry since 2008, with more than 1.8 million “Pout-Pout” books in print. This summer her celebrity status was ratcheted up another notch when Kohl’s selected two of her books for their in-store summer promotion, pairing them with three plush critter fish and a Pout-Pout tote bag.

Despite her success, Diesen said her personal life hasn’t changed much, which includes her job as a bookkeeper at the Allen Neighborhood Center.

Following her success, Diesen began experimenting with somewhat longer formats, including writing a manuscript for a quirky young adult book that involves a single mom and a young boy on a road trip with a taxidermied armadillo.

“You can make a book, but it’s just a thing until kids enjoy it,” she said.