Sheboygan author serves up ‘Wisconsin Cheese’

by Jeff Pederson
of The Review staff

During his 25-year career as a geophysicist and hydrologist with the United States Geological Survey, Sheboygan resident Lee Trotta spent countless hours writing scientific reports on rocks and groundwater.

Although he is now retired from the USGS, Trotta continues to hone his writing craft, albeit in a much different format – children’s books.

In June, Trotta published his second children’s book titled “Wisconsin Cheese,” which is a spin off off his 2016 debut children’s book “Florida Cheese.”

The Kenosha native and UW-Madison graduate has enjoyed the transition from the cold-hard facts of the scientific world to the imagination and wonder of children’s stories.

“I’ve had a pretty diverse background, that’s for sure,” Trotta said. “When I worked as a geophysicist and hydrologist, it seemed like I was always writing factual, scientific reports of one sort or another. I liked that part of the job, but I always wondered what it would be like to step away from that solely factual realm and get a little more creative and playful.”

LEE TROTTA (right) of Sheboygan has published two children’s books in the past two years — titled “Florida Cheese” and “Wisconsin Cheese (above)” — featuring the adventures of three Jewish mice, who live in a New York City bagel bakery. — Submitted photos LEE TROTTA (right) of Sheboygan has published two children’s books in the past two years — titled “Florida Cheese” and “Wisconsin Cheese (above)” — featuring the adventures of three Jewish mice, who live in a New York City bagel bakery. — Submitted photos Trotta, who grew up in Waunakee where his father Dick served as a hall of fame high school football coach, seized an opportunity to show off his storytelling skills with his children, Natalie and Kyle, as they were growing up.

After years of telling original kids’ stories, Natalie and Kyle urged Trotta to write down his creations, which spurred him to develop a set of characters and a potential series, brimming with multiple related storylines.

“The books star three Jewish mice from New York City that live in a wall of a bagel bakery,” Trotta said. “Being mice, they crave cheese, so both ‘Florida Cheese’ and ‘Wisconsin Cheese’ feature storylines where they go out to find new types of cheese to feed their cravings.

“In the first book, they take a vacation to Florida and find plenty of cheese to get into there,” he said. “In ‘Wisconsin Cheese,’ the mice visit Washington, D.C., where they befriend Wisconsin Congressman and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who agrees to allow them to travel back with him to Wisconsin to satisfy their yearning for Wisconsin cheese.”

Trotta finally put the story of the three Jewish mice from the New York City bagel bakery vacationing in Florida from pen to paper and in early 2016, ‘Florida Cheese” was published on Trotta’s own Globetrotter Productions imprint.

Despite the book’s relatively low-budget status as a self-published entry in the high-volume world of children’s literature, Trotta’s debut offering caught on quickly with young readers and their parents resulting in robust online sales.

“Kids really love both books,” Trotta said. “The books have received some nice reviews online as well, which always helps to attract some additional interest and draw more sales. We have gotten up to a few hundred copies sold so far with ‘Florida Cheese’ and ‘Wisconsin Cheese’ is doing just as well now, if not a bit better.”

As you might except, Trotta does the majority of the work on his own, including the original drafts of the illustrations in both books.

“I draw each of the illustrations with pen and ink and I have a friend, who goes by Dace Likethefish, who helps fill in the color on the illustrations with his computer graphics wizardry,” Trotta said. “The books have a pretty unique look to them through the illustration method and there are a number of locations in both books that people will recognize.”

Trotta, who moved to Sheboygan with his wife, Beth, in 2011, is pleased that Wisconsin’s highest-ranking politician agreed to be featured in “Wisconsin Cheese.”

“I took the idea to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and he gave his approval, which is pretty neat,” Trotta said. “I had to find a way to get the mice to Wisconsin and having them travel in Speaker Ryan’s toiletry bag ended up turning out really well for the story.”

In recent months, Trotta has been busy promoting the book throughout the country and abroad, including stops at the International Peace Festival in Fort Erie, Canada and another book festival in Tucson, Ariz.

“I’ve greatly enjoyed the appearances I’ve done to promote the book,” Trotta said. “I get to read the book to kids at these events and see their reactions and responses, which is priceless for me. I typically read the books with a New York accent and the kids get pretty excited about that.”

Trotta, a Vietnam War veteran and recent Honor Flight participant, has several more appearances scheduled in Southeastern Wisconsin this fall, including a book reading during Indie Author Day at the Chilton Public Library on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 10:15 a.m., a book reading and special display at Mead Public Library in Sheboygan on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 4 p.m., the Edgerton Sterling North Book & Film Festival on Saturday, Oct. 28 and the Southeastern Wisconsin Book Festival in Waukesha on Saturday, Nov. 4.

“I am looking forward to doing some appearances closer to home this fall and then I am hoping to book a booth at the Florida State Fair this winter too,” he said.

While he is currently in the midst of promoting “Wisconsin Cheese,” Trotta already has his eye on his next book.

“I have set a goal that I won’t write a book unless the previous book at least covers the set-up and printing costs that I set out to produce them,” Trotta said. “I am delighted to say that ‘Wisconsin Cheese’ has already met my goal and I have started work on my next book, which will focus on California. I am very early on in the process right now with just a few draft illustrations done at this point.

“Now I have 48 more states for the mice to travel to for the series,” he said. “I have my work cut out for me, but so far it’s been so much fun. I am looking forward to keeping this series going for as long as I can.”

Trotta, who is also an onstage performer and backstage assistant with the Sheboygan County Theatre Co., says kids and parents alike can learn a thing or two from reading “Florida Cheese” and “Wisconsin Cheese.”

“Both books have a central theme of teamwork among the mice, which I think is very beneficial for kids these days,” Trotta said. “There is also a little bit of history in there and some details about Washington, D.C. as well.

“In ‘Wisconsin Cheese,’ there are a few details about cheese manufacturing in Wisconsin, which is pretty interesting as well,” he said. “The mice have a little bit of fun along the way and both books have feelgood endings too.”

“Florida Cheese” and “Wisconsin Cheese” are on sale for $5 each at, Book Heads in Plymouth and Lucy’s Roost in Sheboygan, as well as several local cheese factories and specialty shops in the area, including Gibbsville Cheese and Victorian Chocolate Shoppe.

For more information on Trotta’s children’s books, visit the Florida Cheese Facebook page.

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