Crystal Lake mom turns Tribune layoff into career as children’s author

Crystal Lake mom Carolyn Starks wants to help your kids love reading and writing. But if her new publishing company’s books just give them a laugh, that’s good, too.

Shown the door by the Chicago Tribune during downsizing, Starks created Storybuilders. Harnessing the creativity of writers and illustrators she respects, the company is creating customized, interactive books that are fun for pre-teens to read. Its first book, by Elmhurst dad John Keilman, Spies Inc. The Adventures of Dash Danger, is reportedly already seeing strong sales online. Storybuilders’ new book, bark. run. nap. repeat., should appeal especially to dog lovers.

“I want them to be books that kids love, books that kids can’t wait to get their hands on,” Starks says. “It’s really important for me to create something that does something good for the world and in this aspect, that might sound sort of ridiculous for a little book. Something that really helps kids in some way, even if that’s just to make them laugh.”

At the same time, she’s found a creative outlet for her writing and editing skills and a job that allows her to be home with her kids, age 9 and 7.

In The Adventures of Dash Danger, a fifth-grade boy is sent on a mission by the school bully to snag a secret cupcake frosting recipe from the lunch lady. He turns to his favorite book hero, Dash Danger, for help. The book is filled with writing prompts to get kids into the story without making it feel like school work.

“I like that it really captures their attention and has a long shelf life,” Starks says.

The book is available for fundraisers, where $5 of every book’s purchase price goes to the fundraiser. “I really think the book is that good. My goal is getting it into many kids’ hands,” Starks says.

Another Spies Inc. book will be out early in 2011.

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