The book follows the story of Mimi and Milo as they create a garden.
Photos by Rich Schmitt/Staff Photographer

Huntington Resident Hillary Vari Publishes First “Build-Up Book”

By SARAH SHMERLING | Editor-in-Chief

Huntington resident Hillary Vari recently published the first in her new children’s book collection: “Let’s Make a Garden: A Build-Up Book.”

“I wrote and designed the book, and worked closely with an illustrator to bring the words to life,” Vari said. “I had no idea all that would go into the process.”

Vari shared with the Palisadian-Post that at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she wanted to do something creative.

“I recalled a book that I loved as a child with similar die-cut pages that made reading more engaging and fun,” she said, “and I wanted to bring that same feeling of excitement for books to today’s young kids.”

The concept of the book is it takes a scene, and as readers turn the pages, the scene is built upon, finishing with a multi-layered look.

“Build-Up Books are interactive, tactile books made of die-cut and layered pages,” according to the website. “Children play an active role in building each story by, for example, adding plants and animals to make a garden, or adding shelves and toys to make a store. Children ages 2 to 8 will be captivated.”

“Let’s Make a Garden” follows the story of Mimi and Milo as they transform their “barren yard into a garden full of life.” They begin with a yard of dirt, adding vines, bushes, fruit trees, flowers and more—all of which attract different animals to the garden.

A major challenge in designing the book, Vari said, was making sure the die cuts were situated so that each page would layer to hide some elements while revealing others.

“Paper will naturally shift in printing, so we needed to leave room for a margin of error,” she explained. “Finding a good illustrator was key, and I lucked out in connecting with Hailey McLaughlin, who captured my vision of a lush and lively garden that would appeal to kids.”

In order to get the book on the market, Vari started her own publishing company, Speckled Seal Press.

“The process of starting my own publishing company to hitting the market was full of surprises,” she shared, “especially finding out all that was needed that I never anticipated. From getting a library of congress number and ISBN, and applying for a trademark for the brand Build-Up Book to building my own websites, the road was challenging, but it felt good to figure it all out with help from friends—and YouTube videos.”

Vari added that even navigating the Amazon listing process came with its own set of challenges, and she is now trying to figure out social media.

Following the launch of “Let’s Make a Garden,” Vari has written and designed two additional Build-Up Books that she plans to publish in 2023. The two forthcoming titles are “Let’s Make a Store” and “Let’s Make a Party.”

Vari recently appeared at Palisades Branch Library on Tuesday, November 29, to do a reading and signing for the book on the patio.

Vari, who grew up in Mar Vista, has lived in the Palisades with her husband and two boys since 2018.

Anyone interested in purchasing “Let’s Make a Garden” can do so at Amazon or through