The name “Moab” never pops up in the new children’s book “Land of OR.”
But one quick look at its colorful cover art makes it clear that author Katie Mullaly and illustrator Toby Allen found inspiration in the area’s fairy-tale like world of arches, natural bridges and sandstone fins.
Mullaly sets her story in a mythical place that children couldn’t conceive of in their wildest imaginations, she said, although it’s actually rooted in her many trips to Arches National Park and the surrounding area.
The first-time author and Park City resident had already come up with imaginary place names like the “Canyon of Why” that point to her goal of helping young readers make the right choices in life. As she began to map out the book’s topography, she thought back to her experiences in the Moab area and realized it was a good fit for what she had in mind.
While Allen’s images may look familiar, the philosophy behind them is not.
Mullaly describes “Land of OR” as a cross between Dr. Seuss and Dr. Phil; she even tosses in a quote from “The Stranger” novelist Albert Camus for good measure.
Questions about choice are at the center of the book, as its mustachioed, scepter-wielding blue guide takes readers from place to place and they face real-life lessons in the guise of colorful characters and adventurous journeys.
“It’s really about finding your options and filtering them down to the best ones,” Mullaly said.
At one point along their journey, for instance, readers will meet the rascally “Yabbut,” an enabling purple creature who shows up whenever lazy people look for the easy way out and say, “Yeah, but…”
The best choice they can make, she suggests, is “don’t pay attention to what it might say.”
Elsewhere along their route, readers arrive at the “Stream of If Then,” where they must consider that each choice they make comes with an effect – including an outcome that they didn’t expect.
“You must ask of each option that wants to cross now, ‘If I pick you, then what will my future allow?” she writes.
It’s a question that people should ponder, she said, knowing that the decisions they make today will have impacts on their future selves. If a child wants to be a good student, she said, he or she should stay home and study instead of heading off and playing with friends.
It’s heady stuff, but Mullaly said she wanted to write something that is entertaining, as well.
“I wrote it in a fun way that I would want to read it and learn something from it,” she said.
Although she conceived it for an audience of children between the ages of 5 and 10, Mullaly said the book offers lessons that can transcend any age.
“I hope that every adult who reads these books gets something from them, too,” she said.
“Land of OR” is the first book in a series that Mullaly and Allen worked on together.
By day, Mullaly is a public information officer and emergency response coordinator with the Summit County Health Department. Allen is an acclaimed illustrator from the United Kingdom whose “Real Monsters” artwork tackling the stigma surrounding mental illness was recently featured on the Huffington Post’s website.
Mullaly said they have a great partnership and friendship – despite the fact that they’ve never met, and communicate through email.
She hopes that the second book in the series will be out in early December – and that future book events will give them an excuse to meet in person.
“I keep teasing him, ‘These books are going to be huge some day.’ He’s going to have to come over here and meet his fans,” she said.
Copies of the book arrived at Back of Beyond Books last week, and Marcee Nettell said that customers can stop by the shop at 83 N. Main St. to have a look at them.
Park City resident Chris Crowley said he hopes that everyone has a chance to read “Land of OR.”
“I think it’s a fantastic, fun book,” he said. “The images are colorful and rich, and have a lot of depth.”
Don’t take his word alone for it, though.
“More importantly, my 7-year-old daughter loved it,” he said. “She is constantly studying those pictures.”
New children’s book is a colorful lesson in making the right choices
“I wrote it in a fun way that I would want to read it and learn something from it.”
For more information, go to www.landofchildrensbooks.com.