Upstate New York Inspires Children's Books

Native Authors share their favorite Adirondack inspirations.

Amy Guglielmo

Amy Guglielmo is a Plattsburgh-native artist, designer and author of the best-selling interactive series for kids, Touch the Art, that aims to expose children to famous works of art. Gugilemo is inspired by the Adirondacks’ natural beauty and sense of community.

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She currently splits her time between the North Country and Costa Rica, but she hopes to live full time in Plattsburgh starting next year. The thing she misses while away, she says, is the winter sports. “I lived in New York City for ten years, and the city is full of energy. I’ve found that I work best with the peace and quiet of nature,” Guglielmo says. “The splendor of the Adirondacks is an inspiration — for an artist, that is everything.” When visiting the area, Guglielmo suggests a trip to the historic Essex, N.Y. “It has great restaurants, shops, and galleries,” she says, “and you can go by boat.” Guglielmo even has a mini itinerary for friends new to the Adirondacks. “I make sure they start the day with an early-morning water-ski on the lake, a Michigan for lunch, a trip to Split Rock for some swimming, and a sunset cruise on Lake Champlain.” (Photo provide by Amy Guglielmo)

Kate Messner

Kate Messner, a former middle school teacher turned award-winning children’s book author, is inspired by the Adirondacks no matter where she travels. “When I travel to speak at conferences and schools, I always show pictures of where I live, and, inevitably, there are oohs and ahhs when those photos come up on the screen,” Messner says. “It feels like the world spins a little more slowly here; there’s more fresh air, more green and more space to wonder.” 

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Messner has written two Lake Champlain historical children’s novels. First, called Spitfire, tells the story of 12-year-old Abigail Smith who disguises herself as a boy and steals a rowboat to join the American fleet on Lake Champlain. Her second historical novel, Champlain, and the Silent One stars the character Silent One, who sets out with Samuel de Champlain, the first European to map Lake Champlain. Messner also has two picture books inspired by the region: Sea Monster’s First Day, a story inspired by Lake Champlain’s legendary monster, and Over and Under the Snow that tells about a father and daughter going cross-country skiing and discovering a secret world of animals living beneath the snow. “ [The story] grew out of a snowshoe field trip I took with my 7th-grade students when I was a teacher,” Messner says. Messner enjoys day trips to Lake Placid with her family.

While there, she recommends a stop by The Bookstore Plus, “an amazing independent bookstore,” and a trip to Copperas Pond, a small hike away from Route 86. “I love sending people to Copperas Pond,” Messner says. “So few people have had the experience of hiking to a real mountain swimming hole.” (Photo provided by Kate Messner)

Gary VanRiper

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 Gary VanRiper and his son, Justin, are the authors of the Adirondack Kids children’s chapter book series and have written one book per year for the past 13 years. VanRiper is also working on a non-fiction project involving authors who have written books set in the Adirondacks. They say they try to revolve their stories around some aspect of the Adirondacks’ history or natural features. The Adirondack Kids series chronicles the Adirondack adventures of three children from hiking up Bald Mountain to a search for Lake Champlain’s legendary monster. “[The Adirondacks bring] unique juxtaposition between the modern and ancient, wilderness and civilization, tourist and native — built-in tension providing great potential for drama,” VanRiper says. VanRiper’s favorite activity in the Adirondacks is hiking. In 2007, he became an Adirondack 46er after climbing all 46 of the Adirondacks’ highest peaks. VanRiper recommends coming during Autumn to see the fall colors peak. “Anything you do from biking to hiking will be that much more spectacular,” he says. (Photo provided by Gary VanRiper )

Issue 1: Summer/Fall 2013

Amy Guglielmo

Photo provided by Gary VanRiper

Kate Messner

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