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Ann Tyler writes first (and only) children's book


After writing about Baltimore in her last 10 books, novelist Anne Tyler has chosen a different setting for her next endeavor. All we know is that the action takes place in "a beautiful golden palace on an island in the middle of a lake."

That's the setting of "Tumble Tower," Ms. Tyler's first children's book, which will be published in September by Orchard Books. It's also the first children's book for the 25-year-old illustrator, Mitra Modarressi -- who just happens to be Ms. Tyler's daughter.

"It was my mom's idea," says Ms. Modarressi, an artist living in Philadelphia. "We had talked about maybe doing a children's book some day. She had looked at my artwork and came up with the story. She kind of handed the book over to me and said, 'I trust you, you do what you want.' "

The book's opening paragraph tells of "a very small princess who was known as Molly the Messy," who is part of an otherwise fastidious royal family.

The quirky humor evident in the 12 novels by Ms. Tyler, a Baltimore resident, is present as well in "Tumble Tower." Molly lives in a tower in the castle, and she keeps it, well, messy. "When she brought food to her room for a snack, she never, ever carried the dishes back to the kitchen," the story goes. "A seed from an old orange had sprouted into a tree beside her window."

But Molly saves the day when a flood hits the castle and family members are forced to bunk with her. Now they can eat oranges from the tree, and read the many books scattered around her room.

Ms. Modarressi acknowledged with a laugh that the story might have its roots in family history. "I was very, very messy," she said over the phone. "And I still am."

Ms. Modarressi says she's at work on a second children's book for Orchard, without her mother's help -- "she said this would be strictly a one-shot deal. She wouldn't do another children's book again."

Ms. Tyler doesn't talk to the press about her work, but a spokesman for her New York agent, Timothy Seldes, said she is working on her 13th novel, with no word when it might be published.

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