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Local brother-sister team releases second book

With only two titles on their resume as children's book authors, Cliff Allen and Amanda Allen have already found their biggest fan.

For the longest time, Amanda's friend would read to her 6-year-old son the first book written by the brother-sister duo, "Even a Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut Now and Then."

Wanting to get her son to bed, Amanda's friend often attempted to shorten the process since avoiding story time altogether was simply not an option.

"She would try to skip pages, and he would know," Amanda said with a laugh. "So my friend was like, 'Amanda, next time you write a book, can you make it shorter?'"

The 6-year-old might be anxious that the former Red Wing residents have released a second story, but his mom is likely even more excited that there's finally a different book to read at bedtime.

On Aug. 19, the Allens came out with "Bad Company Corrupts Good Squirrels," a book that continues to follow the same characters from the initial story but finds them in much different situations.

Learning lessons

While the first book focused on Sam, a messenger bag-toting squirrel, the newest addition brings his baseball cap-wearing brother, Cam, into the mix.

"Cam has been hanging around birdfeeders with chipmunks," Amanda said, explaining that the younger squirrel fell in with the bad crowd after Sam moved away from home.

To rekindle his relationship with his brother and teach him a thing or two about good behavior, Sam comes back home and witnesses the misbehaving for himself. However, Sam isn't alone in observing the birdfeeder loiterers -- a hungry fox has its eye on them as well.

The point of the story is to help teach children the same lessons the now-25-year-old Cliff and 27-year-old Amanda learned from their parents when they were young.

"My dad always said, 'You become like the people you hang around with' and 'Nothing good happens after midnight,'" Amanda explained.

The authors wanted a way to display those messages for children, rather than develop a storyline that had no morals.

"We didn't want to just write fluff," Amanda said.

Sharing responsibilities

While Cliff comes up with all of the ideas for the stories, Amanda helps with fine-tuning and editing as the ideas get polished off.

But a unique kind of teamwork needed to take place in order for the two to write the second book because Cliff lives hundreds of miles away in Texas.

"We did a lot of emailing and mailing," Amanda explained, adding that it was about a yearlong process to get their book written, published and released from start to finish.

Being a recent newlywed and having just purchased a new house in a Twin Cities suburb, Amanda said she isn't working on any more books at the moment, but if Cliff develops a new idea she'd be on board.

"It's been fun -- writing books. I could see us doing more in the future. Maybe Sam will miraculously have a sister," she joked.

"Even a Blind Squirrel Finds a Nut Now and Then" and "Bad Company Corrupts Good Squirrels," which are written for children in grades 1-5, can be purchased at and, as well as at the Best of Times Bookstore in Red Wing.