Molly and the Magic Suitcase
Trained artist Amy Houston Oler long envisioned creating a children’s book series. As Amy was preparing to pack for a vacation to Florida, her one-year-old daughter, Molly, climbed into the family’s suitcase. Molly’s fascination with the suitcase grew. Amy’s husband, Chris Oler, remarked, “Molly and the magic suitcase.” Chris’s off-handed comment provided just the inspiration Amy needed, and so the Molly character came to life in the first self-published book by the Olers, Molly Goes to Rome. The idea developed as a way to provide “education through fun” by sharing the world with children. “We learned that we’d have more success by focusing on lesser-known places. The travel book market has Paris and London books, so we wanted to try other destinations,” said Amy.
Each story in the Molly and the Magic Suitcase series features the main characters, Molly and her brother Michael (a character based on the Olers’ son), embarking on a journey. The kids grab the magic suitcase and are transported to a place wondered about, but yet unknown. To date, the Molly and Michael characters have visited Barcelona and Rome, and plan to visit Thailand in the near future. “In each book, a child greets Molly and Michael and serves as a tour guide. We wanted to focus on the places and sites that would be fun for children, not just museums and historical places,” said Amy.
As co-owners of COLOR Design and Marketing, the Olers make working with one’s spouse look easy. Chris is the president and lead writer, and Amy is the creative director. “We’re used to working as a team in our business, so our book projects really do go pretty smoothly,” said Amy. Both are quick to say their areas of expertise complement each other’s. “I like the research and the writing, and I hate to draw,” said Chris. “And, I’m not a writer, and I love to draw,” added Amy.
After the initial three picture books, Amy hopes to draw two each year while Chris plans to grow the characters into chapter books for older children. “We received feedback from second- and third-graders who might want to move on from picture books,” said Amy. Chris looks forward to writing lengthier books about the characters, possibly moving into the mystery genre. Chris, a former teacher at the International School of Indiana, begins his research based on conversations with friends and former colleagues. “I have contacts in Barcelona, and for the Rome book, Amy had a friend who grew up there,” said Chris.
The Olers enjoy speaking at schools (free of charge), and feature lesson plan ideas for educators on their website. “Initially, it was my niece’s idea to come and speak at her school, and the idea took off,” said Amy.