City native releases 1st children’s book

It was a moment of inspiration that Williamsport native Jen Barton held onto until she knew she could get it just right.

When her now 16-year-old daughter was younger, Barton told her to clean her messy food-covered face, which prompted her daughter’s response, “Yeah, but if chocolate were purple, think how fabulous I’d be.”

And that was the seed that began to grow inside Barton’s creative mind. She immediately began thinking of silly things that rhymed for the children’s book she knew she would one day write.

But then another inspiration hit – this time for a young adult fantasy book that featured a character named Fiona Thorn. And so “Fiona Thorn and the Carapacem Spell” was born and Barton spent the past few years working on that book and its sequel, “Fiona Thorn and the Secret of the Ringing Trees,” which she expects will be published early next spring.

Barton, who now resides in Rocklin, Calif., earned an honorable mention in the 2012 Southern California Book Festival with “Fiona” and also was named first runner-up in the America’s Next Author contest for her short story, “Movin’ On Up.”

Now it’s time for her to get people talking about “If Chocolate Were Purple,” the children’s book that features silly images, including roller skates growing on trees, eating rainbows for lunch, round bananas that glow in the dark and fish with hair.

The book was illustrated by Yoko Matsuoka, who also designed the cover of “Fiona Thorn and the Carapecem Spell.”

The 28-page book was published in June by Flickerfawn. It can be bought at her redesigned website, www.jbarton or on Amazon.

She also will have the books available at the Sonoma County Book Festival and the Orange County Children’s Book Festivals in September. She’s planning a trip around the Christmas holiday to Williamsport, where she hopes to have events at the James V. Brown Library and Otto Book Store.

For now, though, she’s been busy reading her children’s book at local libraries in California.

“The reaction to ‘Purple Chocolate’ is so immediate and strong,” Barton said. “Three-year-olds don’t pull punches, you know where you’re at with them and if they like something.”

Barton said that right now there are no plans for another children’s book, but she’s always open when inspiration strikes. “I’ll take whatever the muse brings,” she said.

She also volunteers reading aloud to residents at convalescent homes and recently began reading at a homeless shelter in Sacramento, Calif.

“I’m also taking three days of training to learn to read to Hospice patients,” she said.

What she loves most about the positive reactions to “Chocolate,” though, is that it is another way for parents and children to connect through the power of reading.

“Reading aloud is more powerful than you think,” she said.