As Allison Manley and Rob Coleman, owners of Ravenswood-based sustainable marketing firm Rogue Element, watched their son chew on one of his books, they wondered exactly what was in it. The couple completed research and were surprised to find few regulations exist for children’s books.
“My wife and I were talking about all of the ‘green’ things we could get, but there were still so many things we were worried about with our son and exposure to toxic chemicals and other substances,” said Coleman. “We were able to get green diapers, green bedding, green mattresses; we could get the organic food without pesticides, but the one thing that that we couldn’t find were green books.”
As designers, Manley and Coleman were aware of the glues and dyes used to develop products, with the majority produced overseas. They decided to take matters into their own hands and create a safe, sustainable product targeted to infants. The couple also discovered that under the current Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that children’s books were not very well regulated unless they had a scrapable coating.
That’s when they decided to launch Squishy Press and produce non-toxic baby books as a side project of their marketing firm at 4043 N. Ravenswood Ave.
“We wanted to create a baby book safe for letting babies do what they do,” said Coleman. “They chew and tear and everything that they do eventually gets inside their bodies.”
The look and style of these books are unique to the company. The books contain a matte finish made from clay and are quite flexible. Parents who pick up these books will notice that Silly Faces contains no words and that Opposites contains leader words for the parents. Manley and Coleman worked with Lincoln Square photographer Steven E. Gross for Silly Faces and Opposites. All of the diverse children featured in these two books are from the Chicagoland area, chosen via a casting call.
Manley and Coleman continually do their part to contribute to the global sustainability initiative. The couple chose their Ravenswood location not only because of the strong sense of community, but also for its proximity to their home. Manley and Coleman either bike or walk to work daily.
Parents looking to purchase these books can visit the company’s website or stop by the Ravenswood boutique, Hazel, 1902 West Montrose. Those with older children should be on the lookout too: Squishy Press is thinking of expanding into books for older ages.