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Local man 'sneaks' into book publishing

Roseville's Palitti pens children's publication
By: Michelle Miller, Gold Country News Service
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There's a thief loose in Muskyville and local law enforcement officers are on the case. Of course, you'll have to keep in mind the suspect is an elephant named Emma Featherton and the stolen property is a batch of "Ever-So-Soft, Ever-So-Sweet Chickity, Chickity, Chickity Chocolate-Chip Cookies." So goes the story of "The Pink Sneakers Caper," a children's book penned by Auburn writer John Clark and illustrated by Roseville artist Robert William Palitti. The book is a light-hearted criminal mystery with a huge cast of creatively named characters, colorful pages that abound in detail and a lesson of responsibility for one's actions. "I'm the Emma," said John Clark, a freelance writer who's lived in the foothills for 30 years. "I'm very, 'Let's have fun and enjoy the ride.' This has been a labor of love, but I've had a great time doing it." After his first foray into children's books, Clark didn't pursue publishing another juvenile work for 12 years. "I didn't know if I wanted to take the plunge again after taking such a beating with that novel," he said. Financing, publishing and finding a market for the first story was tough, he said, and the children's book market is brutal with competition. But he knew something was different about "The Pink Sneakers Caper." "I think we have a winner and something that's saleable and appealing, but there are no guarantees," he said. Clark wrote the book 15 years ago, inspired by his then-teenaged and younger daughters. "It was one of those weekends, who knows what we were doing, we kept joking, 'What if an elephant stole cookies?' " he said. "The children have so many of their wonderful ideas in (the book)." He credits his wife, Sandi Clark, with bringing it all together with her editing - not to mention her recipe for "Ever-So-Soft, Ever-So-Sweet Chickity, Chickity, Chickity Chocolate-Chip Cookies," which is included with the book. "She couldn't use me (to test them) because I'll eat anything," Clark said. "But I think she did a bang-up job." Clark said the book was written for the third- to fourth-grade level. One of Sandi Clark's co-workers, Diana Gilbert of Auburn, bought the book for her 7-year-old granddaughter, Ashley Hanaway, and husband, Noel Gilbert, to read together. "They had fun reading in a squeaky voice or a deep voice for the different characters. I wish I would have recorded them," she said. "It gives a lot of room too, so it makes you think. It really kept her attention." The liveliness of the book is no doubt thanks to illustrator Palitti, 33, who brought to life the colorful and detailed town of Muskyville and its furry and feathered inhabitants. Palitti grew up in the arts, from children's theater groups in Napa to hanging out in his grandmother's Happy Patch craft store in Rocklin. Even from an early age, his mother says he drew in great detail - eyes had irises and his hands had the correct number of fingers. Costume designer, make-up artist, video producer and television show creator are among the Del Oro High School grad's titles, although now he mostly works as a graphic designer. Word of mouth connected him to Clark, who was looking for an illustrator. "He called me up and started talking my ear off," Palitti said. "I had to say, 'How about we meet somewhere because I can't hold the phone to my ear anymore.' " After meeting, he agreed to provide the art for "The Pink Sneakers Caper," his first children's book. The pictures were hand-drawn and then scanned into Adobe Photoshop for coloring. Computer imaging also helped him blur background images, creating a depth of field. Palitti also made sure to tuck some hidden stuff into the book, like his wedding cake and the "Meowna Lisa," a feline version of the "Mona Lisa." "Other children's books just focus on what's being said right on the page, but I wanted to fill each page with tons of stuff to look at," he said. "I made sure every doughnut had every single crumb on it. I wanted it to be eye candy because I believe kids nowadays take information in so much differently than we did when growing up." - Michelle Miller can be reached at michellem@ goldcountrymedia.com.