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A FAMILY AFFAIR: Ex-spouses pen children’s book in honor of their daughter

Zoe LaTour (left) and her mother, Melissa, love board games. Here they play the “Mystery Date Game,” a childhood favorite, at Beaner’s Central earlier this week. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com1 / 3
Zoe LaTour (left) and her mom, Melissa, hold Melissa and her ex-husband’s book “I Spy a Bug.” The book is based on Zoe’s bug fascination as a child. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com2 / 3
David LaTour holds “I Spy A Bug!”3 / 3

At age 2, Zoe LaTour was a mini entomologist with a keen eye for the things creeping and crawling around the Minnesota family’s new home in Atlanta.

Her parents — Melissa and David LaTour — latched on to the fascination and began writing rhymes about bugs. The two-to-three line stanzas were just an in-family amusement.

Now, more than 15 years later, the couple is long divorced — but it didn’t stop them from collecting the bug rhymes, hiring an illustrator and publishing a 32-page children’s book starring a Zoe lookalike armed with a magnifying glass.

“I Spy A Bug” by Melissa and David LaTour was self-published at the end of 2014 and is available on Amazon or from the authors.

“It’s basically Melissa and my gift to Zoe,” said David LaTour, a Duluth native who now lives near San Francisco. “(It’s about) how much we love her and care about her.”

A bug enthusiast

is born

According to the family lore, young Zoe was a bug-enthusiast with a little house she filled with insects she caught in her butterfly net.

At one point in the late 1990s, Melissa LaTour came into the family’s sunroom and found her daughter standing at the window staring at a large bug and saying to herself “A bug. A bug. I see a bug.”

“She was drawn to the bugs, really inquisitive,” Melissa LaTour recalled.

They began using the insects Zoe spotted and the questions she asked as the basis for their ditties.

“I’d come up with one and (Melissa) would come up with one and we’d laugh,” said David LaTour.

Years later, LaTour said he wrote down what he could remember of the rhymes, with the intention of someday turning it all into a book.

Instead, it just sat untouched for years.

DIY publishing

David LaTour recently moved to California to work in software development for Apple and was watching footage of Steve Jobs when something the company’s co-founder said struck him.

The gist was to imagine — then make something where there was once nothing.

“That inspired me to do it,” LaTour said.

He used the DIY route to bring the book to fruition. LaTour found Hungary-based illustrator Lidia Steiner via freelancer.com — after getting about 100 responses to his ad seeking an artist.

He used CreateSpace to publish the books.

Copies of “I Spy A Bug” arrived in Duluth right before Christmas.

Zoe LaTour had seen early versions of the book — she could recite it from memory, she said — but received her own copy on Christmas Eve.

She hadn’t yet read the dedication penned by her parents:

“We dedicate this book to Zoe Noelle, our little bug, who continues to be curious about nature’s little creatures. Love, Mom and Dad,” is printed next to the copyright page.

“It was the sweetest thing I could imagine,” Zoe LaTour said. “I don’t even know how to describe it. I teared up a bit.

“It’s amazing. It makes me feel very happy and loved.”

And it’s the first page Melissa LaTour flipped to.

“I still get really emotional when I read it,” she said.

‘I couldn’t pick a better ex-wife’

David and Melissa LaTour, both originally from Duluth, met at RT Quinlan’s in the mid-1990s and were married at The Chapel of Love at the Mall of America after three months.

Zoe was born about a year later and eventually the trio briefly relocated to Atlanta.

The marriage didn’t work out — David and Melissa were divorced in 2000 — but the relationship has lasted. Both describe the other as a good friend.

“I think a lot of people tend to get very at odds with each other,” David LaTour said. “I have to say — this sounds odd — I couldn’t pick a better ex-wife.

“If you treat each other respectfully and equally, it’s not a big deal.”

Zoe LaTour described her mother as caring, energetic and a little eccentric. Her dad is a kid at heart. Both, she said, are adventurous and eager to try new things.

Even though it’s her reality, Zoe LaTour said she knows the relationship between her parents is unique.

“I’ve always found that fascinating,” she said. “They’re both living completely separate lives now. But they were still able to make this book. I’ve seen my friends who have parents who got divorced and they aren’t good friends. Mine, apparently, can do that.”

There’s a common bond, according to David LaTour.

“We really love our daughter,” he said. “There’s never been a thing where we’ve picked sides, me against (Melissa). It’s more like ‘Isn’t our kid really cool?’ and us both agreeing with each other.”

Bug futures

Zoe LaTour said the publication of this book has come at just the right time.

She graduated from Harbor City International School in 2014 and is now a freshman at the University of Minnesota.

“Starting college sort of makes me feel like a kid all over again,” she said. “It’s all a new adventure. … All of a sudden I’m at this university with 50,000 other people.”

This dose of parental affirmation:

“It reinforces how much I already know they love and care about me,” she said.

These days, she is interested in music and art, and she plans to major in business. But a speck of the bug lover remains.

She’s the official bug keeper on her floor in Pioneer Hall. She’s the one to call if a spider is in the wrong place.

No squash and flush here.

“I go and take them and release them,” she said. “They have lives of their own, too.”

“I Spy A Bug”

Author: David and Melissa LaTour

Publisher: David LaTour

Pages: 32

Price: $8.25 paperback at Amazon.com; $3.49 for a Kindle edition

Looking for a copy locally? Contact: Send an email to ispyabug@edium.com

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