PENNRIDGE — Veronica Mang says she was always interested in storytelling and drawing and took a lot of art classes in school.  

At the time, though, the 2015 Pennridge High School graduate, who attended Guth Elementary and Pennridge South Middle schools, wasn't planning on making a career in children's books.

Then she got a scholarship to and started studying at Parsons School of Design in New York City.

"I knew I wanted to study illustration, but I didn't really know I wanted to do children's books. In fact, I was actually a little bit hesitant about it because it's drawing a lot of the same characters over and over," the now Jersey City, NJ resident said in a telephone interview. 

After taking some children's book classes, she started getting more interested.  

"Secret Spy Society: Case of the Missing Cheetah," which was released about a month ago by Viking Books for Young Readers, started as her senior thesis project at Parsons, Mang said.

"It's kind of a first book that a kid might read on their own, which is awesome. It's really short. It's 96 pages and has three cute little chapters," she said. 

It is classified as being for children ages five through nine, she said. 

Mang did all of the illustrations and writing on the book which is part of what will become the "Secret Spy Society" series.

"There's two more already signed up," Mang said.

"I didn't expect that to happen, especially not for my first book," she said. "I'm in the works on the second one right now, just finalizing the manuscript and then we'll get started on the art."

The book and series are described as being "about three delightfully mischievous young girls and some of the most enigmatic women in history who worked as spies." 

The real life women depicted include Josephine Baker and Noor Inayat Khan who are mentors to the young girls in a story about adventure and an exciting journey, Mang said. 

"It's an empowering story for particularly girls to read," she said, "but I think boys would like it too and I hope that they do like it." 

The book provides a fictionalized version of the true-life women, she said. 

"I've extrapolated a lot of the little details from their life and made them into characters," she said, "but they are real people and their stories are absolutely amazing."

Each of the books will spotlight a different real-life woman, with some reappearing later in the series, she said. 

Mang said "Case of the Missing Cheetah" is the type of book she would have liked to read when she was a kid and other people have told her the same thing.

Along with working on the books she writes and illustrates, she is also a book designer for Macmillan Publishers after having previously worked for Scholastic. 

"I actually got my first job offer to work in book design and the offer for my book deal within the same week, which was crazy," Mang said, "so now I'm doing both."

Since people have heard about her book, some have told her they, too, have an idea for a book, she said. Although it's not easy to get a book published, she encourages those people to stick with it, she said.

When she started on the book, writing was new to her and it made her a little nervous, she said.

"Telling the story seemed like the right thing to do and then it kind of took on a life of its own," Mang said, "and here we are now." 

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