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Literary Scene: Mother’s son inspires children’s book

All children like toys. Tommy likes his way too much.

“The Boy Who Never Threw Anything Out” is a wonderfully-illustrated story of a boy who gets confined by his ever-growing collection of toys and stuffed animals.

His room gets so crowded that he has to have food delivered by toy train and do laundry runs using toy airplane flights.

The book has a happy ending, with a solution for parents who deal with Tommy-like bedrooms.

“The Boy Who Never Threw Anything Out” (22 pages; $29.95, hardcover, $19.95 paperback; Crave Press, 2022) is written in rhyme for children ages five to nine.

“At signings, I often see people buying it specifically for an adult. Adults almost inevitably know someone who never throws anything out. They know a pack rat in their life,” says the book’s author Margie Peterson, who based the book’s character on her son.

“The Boy Who Never Threw Anything Out” has a traditional look with illustrations by Cheryl Bielli. The illustrations were hand-drawn. It will remind readers of a certain age of the books they had when they were children.

“Some of her illustrations took 30 hours. Other illustrators told her it took half an hour to do something similar when they used a computer,” says Peterson in an interview at a church in Emmaus. There are online YouTube videos that show how Bielli did the artwork for the book.

A headless superhero toy makes many pictorial appearances. A chicken appears on every page except one where Bielli forgot to include it. The book includes a page where children can look for hidden objects in a picture.

Says Peterson, “Kids love to look for the hidden things, and they like to finish the rhymes during readings.”

Peterson, who has lived in Salisbury Township since 1993 with her husband, is a freelance writer for newspapers and universities. This is her first book.

She admits to being something of pack rat herself. “Our dining room is all hand-me-downs,” Peterson says. She is resistant to today’s “buy it then throw it away” culture. Her feelings came from her parents, who raised her in Ramsey, N.J.

“My father was from the World War II generation, growing up during the Great Depression. He was frugal, always reusing stuff, and that was passed down to me.

“He said if you didn’t care about getting lots of other things, you could afford to do work that you cared about. It was more important to do what you wanted to do. He wasn’t trying to make a million dollars,” Peterson says.

Her dad, Robert W. Peterson, wrote the book “Only the Ball Was White: A History of Legendary Black Players and All-Black Professional Teams.”

Her mother Marguerite started a local newspaper in their hometown. Peterson remembers her mother doing the layout for the newspaper on the family’s kitchen table.

“In the ‘70s, there was a big push for environmentalism. The Clean Air and Clean Water Acts were passed then.” She connected that with her commitment to recycling. “The combination of those things got me thinking, and the idea came to write this book. I wrote it in a very short time.”

That was 15 years ago. “I got busy with stuff and stuck it in a drawer. Then during the pandemic, my freelance writing slowed down. I took it out of a folder and submitted it, and Crave Press was interested.”

“Cheryl Bielli, who is a teacher by training, agreed to create the illustrations. She was a friend from when we both went to Westminster College.” The college is in New Wilmington, Lawrence County.

The book’s Tommy (Walters) has grown up and is now an owner and video producer at Zipline Media, New York City, where he covers advertising, ballet and Broadway shows. Walters is the last name of Peterson’s husband.

Peterson says that sometimes she mentioned her son in the family column she wrote for The Morning Call for 10 years. “He was used to having his foibles in the paper. He didn’t appreciate it, but it didn’t occur to him that he was allowed to say, ‘No.’”

She says he became a pack rat when he shared a room with his brother Danny.

Peterson says her next book will be about Danny, but it will not be a sequel.

“Literary Scene” is a column about authors, books and publishing. To request coverage, email: Paul Willistein, Focus editor, pwillistein@tnonline.com

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Lehigh Valley journallist Margie Peterson's son inspired her first book, “The Boy Who Never Threw Anything Out.”