MarMooWorks: The Long Jump A Fourth Year Review

When founding MarMooWorks in March of 2012, I never dreamed Christopher Counts The Constellations, the first of five books, would inspire sky gazing among children and adults. "Ms. Mary," a third-grade boy said, "on the way home from hockey, I told my dad I could see Jupiter. He stopped the car and said, 'You're right, that's Jupiter.' I've never done that before, but I'm going to keep doing it.” Nor did I imagine the story and its interactive app would capture the attention of a university animation artist. Together, we enlisted for college interns and co-created a Virtual Reality Learning Program where “players” become Christopher, mount Pegasus, and embark on a galactic journey.

Neither did I think this first book would lead to a collaborative venture with Karen Rzepecki, Founder and CEO of Mason Jars. What began as a conversation in a small office on a cold November afternoon evolved into reCAP Mason Jars Kids Explore kit: a bug jar, magnifier, glow-in-the-dark cap with handle, and the chapter book, Goin' Explorin'. Our goal: to encourage children to step away from the screen and into nature. Like Christopher, Sir SR is an explorer who uses the constellations as his guide when getting lost. Although the book is not about entrepreneurship, it serves as metaphor for two entrepreneurs taking risks: an artist and engineer combine their talents and create, not just a story or a bug jar, but an experience.

In February 2015, the So-Mar Dance Company showcased how “Reading Takes Flight,” the MarMooWorks tagline, when they premiered "Of Heroes, Serpents, and Stars” during theBeyond Words IV Dance Festival, at Mercyhurst University. Their choreography wove together Christopher Counts The Constellations, A Hero at Three, and A Hullabaloo of Hippos: A Lollapalooza of Language from A to Z, the first three books from MarMooWorks. Beyond Words, an annual dance festival in partnership with SafeNet, raises awareness about domestic violence and commemorates the life of Jeni-Lyn Watson, a Mercyhurst University dance student slain by a former boyfriend. I cried at each performance: the young woman’s death; the continual need to raise awareness about domestic violence; professional dancers wanting to use my children’s stories as part of this festival’s repertoire; and seeing the fruition of my belief that reading begins with movement.

Amidst these highs, I have to admit running a small start-up has been a struggle, one that has made me wonder, What in the world were you thinking when you tossed caution to the wind and started a business featuring books and companion pieces? Started a business at the ripe-young age of fifty-six? The Entrepreneurship Interstate route MarMooWorks has followed looks more like a hurdler’s running track than it does a Google or Rand McNally map. The red balloons don’t signify “You are here,” but “This is where.” This is where you’ knocked over the first saw horse and scraped your shins; this is where you winced when cleaning the cuts. The scabs are reminders of my mistakes. In a world where “angel” investors search for gazelles, a.k.a., “Profit Margins,” bursting into speed and leaping tall building in a single bound, what did I do? Try out for The Long Jump.

Despite my studying Plato’s Phaedrus back when enrolled in an Institute of Higher Learning, my Passion to promote literacy, interactive reading, and a love for learning and language at a young age outdistanced Reason. Does that make MarMooWorks analogous to “Divine Madness?” Perhaps. Am I, as Founder, the charioteer desperately steering two horses, of opposite temperaments, towards Enlightenment? Go that right. Promoting literacy assumes promoting learning, education, wisdom. Do the hurdles seem like the Plato’s “black horses” capable of stripping off wings? Most days. On better days, they’re only Clydesdales.

So, in this 4th year, I still need strengthening exercises to generate the same energy, commitment, and passion that drove me to embrace “Divine Madness” and found MarMooWorks. These exercises come in many forms: mentors; jaw-dropping reviews comparing my writing to Shel Silverstein and Dr. Seuss; parents sharing stories about their toddlers saying, “Pip-po-potamuses” and being able to identify Perseus; an Erie kindergarten teacher, while swamped with end-of-the-year duties and testing, taking the time to write: "Your books bring out the best in all the students. The children listen, laugh, are not afraid of the big words — to try to use the big words — and want to read and write more.”

Children are my physical therapists, showing me new ways to strengthen and lengthen muscles. Last summer, while working with the children enrolled in the Reading Literacy Program at the Bayfront NATO Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Center, I watched storytellers emerge from little bodies; express similes through dance; and write their stories. This past spring, grade-schoolers read, reviewed and suggested revisions for When the Camel Sneezed. It is a better story because of them.

In June, Early Connections preschoolers chanted parts of When the Camel Sneezed. They created “beastly” body puppets; danced to Saint-Saëns’s Carnival of the Animals; loved saying, “Henri Rousseau and didgeridoo”; and created a “Rousseau” Animal Kingdom mural. At the end of July, older Early Connection friends will be reading Christopher Counts The Constellations and sections of Goin' Explorin'; gazing at Van Gogh’s “Starry Nights”; dancing to Gustav Holst’s The Planets; writing original stories; and creating their own galaxy.

Although these “exercises” have not raised the Profit Margin, they have reaffirmed my belief in the importance of MarMooWorks. Learning something new involves risks, a daunting task. The same holds true for children faced with decoding symbols to decipher meaning and navigating through fog (or, euphemistically, S.T.E.A.M) to arrive at “Learning.” This is reason enough for sweating out my mission, scrape my shins on yet another hurdle, and work at letting words linger on the tongue, swirl around the mouth, bounce “like spilled rubber balls,” and sneeze Ahh Ahh Ahh Choo!

MarMooWorks is more than a business; it is a culture — a way of life where people encourage, nurture, and celebrate life-long learning; go exploring; imagine possibilities; engage the creative spirit; measure success by attempts taken, not by scores or dollar signs; and, like Phaedrus, learn to practice and master art to lay the foundation for a literate and civilized society.

Mary Arete Moodey/Founder & Creative Director of MarMooWorks
July 2016

MarMooWorks: The Long Jump
Ready to Cartwheel at the Zoo.jpeg

MarMooWorks: The Long Jump is a fourth-year review of the MarMooWorks, a struggling but worthy start-up. In it, Mary Arete Moodey describes her successes and stumbles, from the first product launch to the up and coming fifth book, When The Camel Sneezed.

Call it "Divine Madness" that a fifty-six-year old would throw caution to the wind and drive onto the Entrepreneurial Interstate where Investors, like gazelles, can burst into speed at 60 mph. Or, consider it to be a modern tale of "The Tortoise and the Hare."

MarMooWorks: The Long Jump is a review of the first

Ways of Looking at a Camel

Sam Moodey, illustrator of When the Camel Sneezed,  began sketching the animals in story, he was at a zoo. After watching animals, he'd mosey off, find a bench, and pull his small, leather sketchbook from a pocket and draw.

I've gone to zoos with Sam a number of times, as mother and, this last time, as a collaborating artist. Not a lot has changed over the years; Sam seems to become the animal he's watching. When we stopped at the orangutan exhibit, I thought we might have to leave. An old orangutan clasped his way across a line of rope, sat in a barrel-like bucket, and covered himself with burlap, as if to say, "Just go. I'm old, alone, and weary of entertaining you in these surroundings." For a while, Sam looked old. He put away his sketchbook and walked away. That story is not one you'll find in his illustrations.

Sam not only draws what he sees, but studies the animals' skeletal structures and anatomy. It's when he sets aside his work and returns to it later the magic happens. His animals transform, each having its own personality -- one you'd like for a pal. From draft one of the camel skull to the cover for When the Camel Sneezed is, like the story, quite a whimsical adventure.



Super Hippo

Imagine Dastardly Droll and its various vampires vanquishing Language from all alliterations, hyperboles, imagery, metaphors, personifications, and whimsically onomatopoetic words. Oh, how dire the day when one-syllabic attire is the mainstay. But, perish the thought, and never fear, for the unmasked Super Hippo, Protector of A Hullabaloo of Hippos: A Lollapalooza of Language from A to Z, has appeared. Wrapped in his cape, you'll be kept safe, as he guides you through a walloping adventure of the alphabet that tantalizes the tongue for old and young. Super Hippo is fun for the entire family!

Where Reading Takes Flight: The Tagline

Illustration by Sam Moodey from A Hullabaloo of Hippos: A Lollapalooza of Language from A to Z

Where Reading Takes Flight: The Tagline
In March of 2012, I founded MarMooWorks, but before the official launching, I had to come up with a tagline. Even though I had taught the entrepreneurial course, Mini-Society, to third graders and helped them think of a tagline for their businesses, I found the task daunting twenty-five years later. This article tells the back story, plays with genre, and shows the beauty of daughters. It can be found at:


Hippo Poem

(AP): Hippos Take the Gold for the Holding-Breath Competition: up to six minutes and counting. When they're not submerged in the water, they lallygag about in their H20 Habitat for 16 hours a day.

(AP): Hippos Take the Gold for the Holding-Breath Competition: up to six minutes and counting. When they're not submerged in the water, they lallygag about in their H20 Habitat for 16 hours a day.

Graceful & Graviportal

Gracefully the hippo swims 

with stubby legs, and not sleek fins. 

Hours pass as it floats about

blowing bubbles with its snout.

On land, he’s Graviportal

like the tortoise who can haul

hefty weight with surprising speed:

an irony, we must concede.

Mary Arete Moodey (February 2016)

A Happy Hippo Holiday

A Hippo Day Holiday with A Hullabaloo of Hippos is MarMooWorks latest video. Celebrate the whimsy of the story where whirling words swirling can tangle your tongue whether you're old or young! Smile like a hippo of February 15th!