Kids

By Heidi Sutton

As one of the country’s most beloved holidays draws near, Theatre Three gets into the act with Halloween treats of its own. While the theater thrills and chills on the Mainstage with “Jekyll & Hyde,” its Children’s Theatre offers “A Kooky Spooky Halloween,” the adorable tale of a ghost who is afraid of the dark. Written by Jeffrey Sanzel and Steve McCoy, the musical, which runs through Oct. 26, is the perfect way to kick off the spookiest of seasons.

A friendly ghost named Abner Perkins (played by Steven Uihlein) has just graduated from Haunting High School. With a diploma and a medallion of invisibility in hand, his first assignment is to become the spooksperson for Ma Aberdeen’s Boarding House, famously known the world over for being the most haunted house in Harrison County U.S.A. and for serving the best toast. There are only two rules he has to follow — he can only haunt at night and he can’t lose the medallion or he’ll be seen by the living.

Abner confides to his best friend Lavinda the witch (Michelle LaBozzetta) that he has an uncontrollable fear of the dark and, after a bit of teasing (“That’s like a vampire who’s afraid of necks!”), she gifts him a night-light and promises to assist him with his haunting duties for the first few weeks. When they arrive at the boarding house, they find Ma Aberdeen (Ginger Dalton), the finest toast maker in the land, and her guests in the kitchen stuffing treat bags for Halloween.

We meet Kit Garret (Nicole Bianco) who “just came from a small town to a big city with a suitcase in my hand and hope in my heart” and can’t wait to try Ma Aberdeen’s famous toast. We also meet the Petersons — Paul the periodontist (Andrew Lenahan), his wife Penelope (Krystal Lawless) and their son Pip (Eric J. Hughes) — who have the most curious habit of using words that start with the letter P in every sentence.

When Pip puts on a pumpkin pullover and proceeds to tell pumpkin jokes (see what I did there?), Abner casts a speed spell on the group, making them spin like a top, do jumping jacks and walk like a duck in double time, and then, straight out of a scene from “The Golden Goose,” has them stick to each other “like birds of a feather.”

Just as he is about to undo the spell, fellow graduate and ghost with a grudge Dora Pike (Beth Ladd) shows up and steals Abner’s night-light and medallion of invisibility and hides them in Black Ridge Gulch, the deepest, darkest gorge in the entire world. Now visible, Abner has to convince the boarders, who are still stuck to each other in “an unprecedented predicament,” to help him and Lavinda get his property back. What follows is a hilarious adventure that highlights the power of honesty, determination and friendship.

Directed by Jeffrey Sanzel, the eight-member adult cast embraces the brilliant script and presents a hauntingly fun afternoon both children and parents will love. Accompanied on piano by Douglas Quattrock with choreography by Nicole Bianco, the song and dance numbers are fun and catchy with special mention to the rap “A Need for Speed” by Abner and Lavinda and the group number, “It’s Ma Who Makes the Toast.” Costumes by Teresa Matteson and Toni St. John are spot on, from the Peterson’s black and orange outfits to the spooky white garbs for the ghosts. And wait until you see the special effects!

Souvenir cat, pumpkin, vampire and ghost dolls will be available for purchase before the show and during intermission for $5. Meet the cast in the lobby for photos on your way out.

Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson will present “A Kooky Spooky Halloween” on Oct. 12, 19 and 26 at 11 a.m. and Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. Running time is 1 hour and 15 minutes with one intermission, and Halloween costumes are encouraged. Children’s theater continues with “Barnaby Saves Christmas,” from Nov. 23 to Dec. 28. All seats are $10. To order, call 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com.

By Heidi Sutton

Christmas came early for many little girls and boys as two members of the Radio City Rockettes, Mindy Moeller (left) and Taylor Shimko, stopped by the Smithtown Library’s Main Branch on Sept. 25 to meet their fans and take part in a kids craft program.

Each child took an instant photo with the Rockettes that was placed in a keepsake snow globe. The globe was then decorated with stickers.

Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim presented the two dancers with a proclamation thanking them for their time and “the joyful memories made today with the children and families of Smithtown.”

The day was especially meaningful for the supervisor’s 6-year-old granddaughter Danica (in the pink ballet outfit) who loves to watch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular show and aspires to become a Rockette when she grows up.

Joanna Sanges stars as Dorothy in the Northport production

By Heidi Sutton

The iconic story “The Wizard of Oz” has entertained children for over 100 years. MGM’s 1939 version is regarded as one of the greatest films in cinema history.

Based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 children’s book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the story of a young girl and her dog Toto from Kansas who are swept away by a tornado to the land of Oz and have wondrous adventures with a Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion made a 16-year-old Judy Garland a star. Now the classic tale follows the yellow brick road to the John W. Engeman Theater for a delicious fall treat. The musical runs through Oct. 27.

Dylan Robert stars as the Tin Man

Suzanne Mason directs an adult cast of eight, with each actor remaining true to their characters. The superbly talented Joanna Sanges, last seen on the Engeman stage as Rapunzel, stars as the lovable Dorothy. Her first number, “Over the Rainbow,” is executed beautifully.

Jae Hughes returns as the Scarecrow, a role she can by now play blindfolded. Making his Engeman debut, Dylan Robert steps onto the yellow brick road as the Tin Man and does a great job. Amanda Geraci is a force to be reckoned with as the Wicked Witch of the West as her haunting cackle fills the theater. James Schultz is a terrific Wizard, Sari Feldman has the cool role of Nikko the flying bat and Caitlin Hornik plays Glinda the Good Witch of the North who saves the day.

But it is Bobby Montaniz, in the juicy role of the Cowardly Lion, who steals the spotlight and gives an outstanding performance. His rendition of “If I Were King of the Forest” with all the trills would make Bert Lahr beam with pride.

Bobby Montaniz stars as the Cowardly Lion

The show has become an annual tradition at the Engeman and every year it gets better and better. This year’s performances have been elevated with the addition of a backdrop screen and the lighting has been turned up a notch to make up for the sparse set. Theatergoers are in for a visual treat as they are able to see a black and white movie of Dorothy’s house caught up in the tornado before landing in a colorful Munchkinland and witnessing the arrival of Glinda the Witch in her pink bubble. The stage floor turns different colors as well as the scenes change.

A nice touch is how often the actors come down into the audience on the way to the Emerald City, giving the stage crew a chance to change out the scenery. At one point the Wicked Witch pops up in the middle of the theater with her “I’ll get you my pretty!” making all the children jump. Speaking of children, it was so nice to see so many of them at last Saturday’s opening performance watching live theater and enjoying every minute of it. Don’t miss this one.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for autographs and pictures. Running time is 90 minutes. Costumes are encouraged.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Route 25A, Northport presents “The Wizard of Oz” on Saturdays at 11 a.m. and Sundays at 10:30 a.m. through Oct. 27. Children’s theater continues with “Frosty” from Nov. 23 to Dec. 29 and  Disney’s “Frozen Jr” from Jan. 25 to March 1. All seats are $15. To order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Photos by Jennifer Collester

‘Photography helps people see’ ~ Berenice Abbott

By Heidi Sutton

Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack revealed the winners of its 26th annual Photo Contest at an award ceremony and reception on Sept. 18. The highlight of the evening was a traditional slide show of the winning selections from this and previous years. Project Assistant Phyllis Barone handed out the awards for the evening.

Sponsored by the Tiffen Company for the 13th year in a row, this year’s competition drew almost 800 entries from amateur photographers across the country. Of those submissions, 46 photos were chosen to be enlarged, framed and hung on permanent display in the nursing home. The breathtaking images will be on exhibit in the Helen and Nat Tiffen Gallery for a year and will then move up to the resident units.

The innovative event is the brainchild of Dennine W. Cook, chief public relations officer at Gurwin who came up with the initial idea in 1993 as a way of “making [Gurwin’s] bare walls worthy of a smile.”

“Your beautiful photography does more than just decorate the nursing and rehab center; it creates an ambiance that feels like home. It inspires people. It comforts people. It brings joy to people, not just our residents but our staff and visitors as well, every day,” said Cook. ”There aren’t that many things that you can do in this world that have that kind of sustaining impact.”

“This a favorite event of ours,” said President and CEO of the Gurwin Healthcare System Stuart B. Almer before thanking Cook for coming up with the contest and for “beautifying our hallways.”

This year’s winning photos are presented in a modern and stylish wooden frame provided by The Frame Center in Smithtown, as opposed to the silver metal framing of previous years, after Almer suggested the change “to enhance the photos even further.” All future contest winners will have the same frame “so the building looks nice and uniform going forward” he said.

Cook went on to speak of the profound impact these incredible images have made on residents of the 460-bed facility “to whom they mean so much.” She spoke of Debbie, a 60-year-old traumatic brain injury survivor at the facility. “She’s writing a book, she’s committed to getting back out into the world to compete in her second Iron Man. She’s feisty, she’s focused, she’s fierce, and she gets some of her inspiration from your photos on the wall.”

“This contest, although competitive and a great achievement for you as a photographer, is really about the people who get to see your work once it is chosen,” explained Cook.

The annual contest does not accept digital entries, only 8 × 10 prints, which are not returned. However, Cook was quick to assure the audience that all of the submissions will be put to good use. “[The residents] use them in art therapy as painting and drawing inspiration and in crafting classes. It’s become a great resource here at Gurwin and everyone is very grateful.”

This year’s judges, Christopher Appoldt (Christopher Appoldt Photography) and Tony Lopez (Tony Lopez Photography), were given the difficult task of choosing a grand prize winner along with honorable mentions for 12 categories as well as Best in Show, which this year was awarded to Bryan Ray from Half Moon Bay, California for “The Great Migration,” a stunning image of hundreds of wildebeest attempting to cross a river in Africa during a migration to greener pastures. Five additional photos were chosen as Resident Selections.

Added Cook, “All the selections, whether they be Honorable Mentions, Grand Prizes or Resident Selections will be judged, discussed and enjoyed by so many appreciative eyes for years to come and to me that’s the real honor — that your photos will hang for decades here in our resident’s home.”

Entries for next year’s photo contest will be accepted between Feb. 15 and April 15, 2020.

2019 WINNING SELECTIONS

BEST IN SHOW

“The Great Migration” by Bryan Ray

ACTION/SPORTS CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Drive to the Net” by Elise Rubin

Honorable Mention

“Skater Boy” by Carolyn Ciarelli

Honorable Mention

“Shake It Off” by James Napoli

ALTERED/ENHANCED CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“View from Governer’s Island” by Susan Silkowitz

Honorable Mention

“Captain America Caleb” by Deidre Elzer-Lento

Honorable Mention

“Working in the Fields” by Jan Golden

Honorable Mention

‘Unisphere After Dark” by Leon Hertzson

CHILDREN’S CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Serenity” by Ashley Tonno

Honorable Mention

“Four of a Kind” by Donna Crinnian

Honorable Mention

“The Friendly Forest Fairy” by Sarah Wenk

LANDSCAPES CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Glade Creek Grist Mill” by Mike DiRenzo

Honorable Mention

“Tufted Landscape” by Jeff Goldschmidt

Honorable Mention

“Horseshoe Falls, Niagara” by Barbara McCahill

LONG ISLAND/NEW YORK CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Melville Pond” by Jeff Goldschmidt

Honorable Mention

“Croton Dam” by Ellen Dunn

Honorable Mention

“Never Forget” by Carol Milazzo-DiRenzo

NATURE CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Solitary” by Jo-Anne Bodkin

Honorable Mention

“Under Angel Oak” by Carol Goldstein

Honorable Mention

“From Bud to Bloom” by Meryl Lorenzo

Honorable Mention

“Night Dreams” by Carol Milazzo-DiRenzo

PEOPLE CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Balancing Act” by Alan Sloyer

Honorable Mention

“Ballerina on Malecon, Cuba” by Roni Chastain

Honorable Mention

“Waiting for Sunrise, Death Valley” by Ellen Dunn

PETS CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Little Miss” by Lora Ann Batorsky

Honorable Mention 

“Callie” by Jill Fanuzzi

Honorable Mention

“What’s for Dinner?” by Dan Greenburg

STILL LIFE CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Silk Threads” by Jo-Anne Bodkin

Honorable Mention

“Pink Rose” by Ellen Gallagher

Honorable Mention

“Mailbox, Italy” by Sondra Hammer

Honorable Mention

“Sunflower in Window” by William Hammer

TRAVEL CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Balloon over Bagan” by Alan Sloyer

Honorable Mention

“Starry Night in Rome” by Mike DiRenzo

Honorable Mention

“Lofoten, Norway” by Debbie Monastero

Honorable Mention

“The Dolomites” by Bobbie Turner

WILDLIFE CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“Snowy Flies” by Janis Hurley

Honorable Mention

“In Flight” by Adina Karp

Honorable Mention

“Mama Duck” by Carol Goldstein

STUDENT CATEGORY

Grand Prize

“The Vessel” by Alex Horowitz

Honorable Mention

“Cake Pop” by Chloe Catton

Honorable Mention

“Lost in the Green” by Stephanie Clarfield

RESIDENT SELECTIONS

“Cousins” by Howard Antosofsky

“Letchworth” by Rachel Perks

“Tufted Titmouse” by Michael Danielson

“Tall Ships Visit Greenport” by Barbara McCahill

“Harbor Seal” by Jacqueline Taffe

No sour pickles here! The Greenlawn-Centerport Historical Association hosted its 40th annual Pickle Festival at the John Gardiner Farm in Huntington last Saturday. Hundreds of visitors enjoyed the last weekend of summer eating pickles on a stick, riding the Lollipop Train, navigating a corn maze and enjoying a tractor ride. The event also featured many vendors, live music, fried pickles, roasted corn and, of course, pickles for sale!

The cover of Jungle Bob's first book.

Reviewed by Heidi Sutton

Above, author Jungle Bob with the inspiration for his first book, a legless lizard.

Robert “Jungle Bob” Smith’s lifelong passion has been to learn everything he can about reptiles and amphibians. With a wealth of knowledge he has made it his mission to educate the public about these fascinating but mostly misunderstood creatures. The owner of Jungle Bob’s Reptile World in Selden and Oakdale presents hundreds of educational shows on Long Island every year and has a healthy following on YouTube.

Now the entrepreneur and educator can add author to his resume with the release of “Lenny … A Most Unusual Reptile,” the first in a series of children’s books with an anti-bullying message that teaches us that “our differences are what make us so unique.” Resembling a comic strip, the paperback also doubles as a coloring book with illustrations by Steve Sabella. I recently had the opportunity to interview Jungle Bob as he prepares for a book signing in Huntington on Oct. 3.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My family is from Hells Kitchen in Manhattan, but I grew up in West Babylon, which is my alma mater. I currently live in Islip Terrace.

When did you realize you had a special love for animals, especially reptiles? 

It was when I first moved to West Babylon at age 6. Being from Manhattan everything was new to me, even grass and trees, but it was the wildlife that I couldn’t get enough of. West Babylon was more rural back in those days.

What was your favorite place to visit as a child?

My favorite place to go as a child was the pond down the block from my house, Beaver Lake. It was there that I encountered reptiles, amphibians, fishing, ice skating and first experienced the outdoors in general.

What was your favorite children’s book?

My mom was always reading to me as a child and there were many, but “Curious George” sticks out. Reading to my three kids, “Good Night Moon” was a favorite.

Aside from operating your pet stores, what else do you like to do?

Jungle Bob has performed over 1,000 educational shows in the area since opening 10 years ago. That has kept me pretty busy! I love the outdoors. Long Island has so many great places to hike. In the summer you can find me on any of the South Shore beaches, playing my favorite game Frisbee, which I am quite accomplished in. I am also a traveler with over 50 trips overseas, all in search of unusual wildlife and the outdoors.

What is your favorite animal?

A snake. Hands down. The first animal I ever captured was a garter snake in my front yard. I had been in the neighborhood for only a few days and didn’t connect with the local kids yet. One day I heard a scream from the other side of the hedges and this snake came slithering through to my side. I inexplicably picked it up just in time for all the locals to see as they had circled around the hedges to follow it. I was an instant celebrity. Then it bit me, and I was instantly cool. Luckily garter snakes aren’t venomous but I had no idea what species I was holding; it just fascinated me in the way it moved. It didn’t blink, it was smoother than it looked, and the kids were mesmerized. My dad was a WWII veteran and a NYC cop and he ran for his gun! My mother was praying in Italian! They had all the fake facts about snakes. I have been hooked ever since.

Did you have many pets growing up?

We had cats mostly, as my mom liked them, but in the basement I always had snakes, turtles and frogs.

What inspired you to write this book?

Reptiles truly suffer from fake news. Myths associated with them have survived for centuries, all the way back to the Bible in fact. And I saw this misinformation then seep into children’s books. Why are they always creepy, crawly and up to no good? I correct those misnomers in every lecture but then decided to go one step further and make a factual children’s book to reinforce the truth. Lenny was born.

How long have you been working on it?

Ten years! This book has been on my things to do list for a decade! I decided to just finish it in 2019 as a New Year’s resolution.

What is the book about?

Although the goal was to paint reptiles in the proper light, the book is about anti-bullying. We use animals instead of people to point out how wrong it is to make fun of someone else because they are different and acknowledge that not only is it okay to be different … it may work out to your advantage!

Tell us about the main character, Lenny. What kind of lizard is he and where does his species live?

Lenny is a reptile known as a legless lizard. There are many species of these around the globe. Steve and I modeled the drawing after the Russian/Eastern European legless, but the story takes place in more familiar turf: Florida. There are legless lizards there too.

What other creatures are represented in the book? 

There are snakes, who are the antagonists to Lenny; a tortoise who is wise and helpful; a raccoon and an owl who are the “bad guys,” more appropriately predators; and another legless lizard named Lena who befriends Lenny and sets him straight about who he is.

Why did you pick the topic of bullying?

It wasn’t the forethought 10 years ago, but it clearly emerged as the topic after my many many edits over the years. I watched kids get bullied in my youth and no one ever stepped in to help. It’s a horrible thing to do and this is just one more way to reinforce how wrong it is.

What message do you hope to pass on?

I hope that all aged readers (parents for sure) learn something new about our natural world, like the differences between snakes and lizards, and that all these unusual animals aren’t evil in any way and that reptiles are often the victims of mammals and birds, not the other way around.

How cool that you decided to make it a coloring book also.

We figured they would just sell in the stores and the kids could bring in their work to show me! We are making individual sheets of certain pages for that and plan to hang them on the walls of the stores.

What kind of feedback have you gotten?

Of course it appeals to all reptile enthusiasts but every parent who picked it up has said something positive about the anti-bullying message, the quality of the drawings, the coloring book aspect, etc.

Is the book self-published?

Yes it is. It was fairly painless actually, once we understood the limitations of printing something in a short run and the costs involved in general we got it done fairly quickly.

What advice would you give to someone who is writing their first book?

Get it done! Make time away from all other daily interruptions. My excuse is running a retail business with live inventory for 10 years. It distracted me to say the least.

Who is your target audience ?

This book is geared for 3- to 7-year-olds plus parents and grandparents, who tend to know the least about reptiles.

What will your next book be about?

It’s a secret, but anyone who has seen my shows knows the cast of characters I travel with! Castro the Cuban iguana, Jabba the African bullfrog, Rosie the tarantula and a dozen more should all have a book about them.

“Lenny … A Most Unusual Reptile” is available at Jungle Bob’s Reptile World in Selden at 984 Middle Country Road, in Oakdale at 4130 Sunrise Highway, online at www.JungleBobsReptileWorld.com and at Book Revue, 313 New York Ave., Huntington. Meet Jungle Bob along with Lenny the Lizard and friends at a book signing event at Book Revue (631-271-1442) on Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.

Please note: This article has been updated to reflect a change in the time for the book signing.

The community came out in droves for the 5th annual Culper Spy Day on Sept. 14. The interactive self-guided tour of the Three Villages and Port Jefferson celebrated the members of Long Island’s courageous Culper Spy Ring who helped change the course of the American Revolutionary War. The event featured tours of historic homes and churches, Colonial cooking demonstrations, military drills, children’s activities, blacksmith demonstrations, book signings and more.

More than 40 organizations took part in the historical event which was hosted by Tri-Spy Tours, the Three Village Historical Society, The Ward Melville Heritage Organization and The Long Island Museum.

Photos by Anthony White

Photo from SBU

Photo from SBU

Join Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook for CommUniversity Day at the Academic Mall on Sept. 21 from noon to 4 p.m.

Enjoy sports demonstrations, hands-on activities, duck races, health screenings and giveaways, patriotic crafts, farmers market, SBU Marching Band and more.

Free admission. All are welcome. Visit www.stonybrook.edu/SBUCommUniversity for more information.

Seaweed on a stick? Not for Alex!

By Heidi Sutton

It’s been 14 years since the world was first introduced to Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo in DreamWork’s computer-animated comedy “Madagascar.” Since its release, there have been two sequels, a spinoff (“Penguins of Madagascar”) and more recently a stage adaptation.

The latter opened at the Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts last weekend in the form of “Madagascar A Musical Adventure Jr.,” a show for kids performed by kids, and the end result is a fabulous afternoon of live theater. Sitting in the balcony during last Saturday’s performance, I was quickly reminded of just how clever and funny and entertaining this story is.

Living the good life at the Central Park Zoo, Alex (Hunter Pszybylski), Gloria (Gianna Oppedisano) and Melman (Jacob Christie) help Marty (Thomas Lau) celebrate his 10th birthday. When asked to make a wish, Marty wishes he can go back to the wild (aka Connecticut). Moments later he escapes with “cute and cuddly” penguins, Rico (Ari Spiegel), Kowalski (Hannah Waller), Private (Laurie Kratochvil) and Skipper (Max Lamberg) who are determined to get back to Antarctica “where we belong, on the ice.”

When Marty’s friends go looking for him, the entire group is cornered in the halls of Grand Central Station by the zookeepers and tranquilized. When they awaken, they find themselves in crates on a ship headed to a wildlife preserve in Africa. When the penguins escape their confinement and seize the ship, their antics cause the crates to fall overboard and the four friends wash up on the shores of Madagascar.

There they are met by King Julien (Zachary Podair), his sidekick Maurice (Emily Warner) and a tribe of ring-tailed lemurs who hope that Alex can protect them from the terrible foosa, cat-like animals that “are always trespassing, interrupting our parties and ripping our limbs off!” However, when Alex’s stomach starts rumbling and the lemurs can only offer him seaweed on a stick, things take a turn for the worse.

Expertly directed by Tommy Ranieri, the young cast (19 in all) do an excellent job bringing the personalities of these zany characters to life in this musical about the importance of friendship.

The songs are executed perfectly with special mention to “Relax, Be Cool, Chill Out,” “Best Friends,” “Steak,” and the big dance number “Living in Paradise” with fresh choreography by Ryan Cavanagh.

Costumes are simple but cleverly designed by Ronald Green III with the outfits matching the zoo animal’s colors with an orange wig for Alex’s mane, while his monochromatic friend Marty sports a mohawk. The set, used from the current main stage production, features panels that change to reveal different scenery and the show uses fog and incredible sound effects in telling the story.

The finale, a rousing rendition of “I Like to Move It” led by King Julien himself, is the icing on the cake. Meet the main cast in the lobby after the show for photos and autographs.

The Smithtown Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. Main St., Smithtown, presents “Madagascar Jr.” through Oct. 27. Up next is a main stage production of “Annie” from Nov. 9 to Jan. 20 and then children’s theater continues with “Shrek the Musical Jr.” For more information, call 631-724-3700 or visit www.smithtownpac.org.

All photos by Courtney Braun

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Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Barbara Lynn Greif

Barbara Lynn Greif has spent her whole life creating art in varying forms and used her skills to launch an award-winning advertising agency here on Long Island. Greif also earned accolades in 2012 when she wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, “Born From the Heart,” about her journey to adopt her first daughter, Victoria, from China. Since then, the Huntington resident has adopted a second daughter, Gianna, whose kind spirit inspired Greif to write “Gianna’s Magical Bows,” an imaginative and sweet rhyming story about helping others.

Were you always artistic?

Yes, my father, who also had artistic talent, taught me how to paint at age 6, and we discovered that I had a real gift for it. From that point on, all that I could think about was painting and drawing, and I was empowered to excel as an artist.

You have a background in fine art. What did you hope to do for a career?

I had a childhood dream of becoming a cartoonist and painter. I even created my own cartoon strips, which I envisioned would someday appear in newspapers across the country.

I carried all of these artistic aspirations from elementary school through high school. It led me to go to one of the best design colleges in the country, the renowned Parsons School of Design in New York City. At Parsons, I was able to explore all of my options for a career in art and design. I chose to study communication design and earned a bachelor’s of fine arts degree.

I had to face the reality that painting would not be a lucrative career direction to take. My studies in communication design helped me to refine my skills and become a graphic designer in the advertising field.

After graduating college, I had a variety of jobs in Manhattan — a graphic designer, a product and package designer, a toy designer and an art director. After gaining all of this experience, I was ready to pursue my dream of opening my own full-service advertising agency on Long Island, which I called The Sketching Pad.

How did writing fit into your life?

Writing played a big role for me working in advertising. I was the copywriter for all of the ads created for my clients at my agency — I wrote the text for all of the print ads and television commercials.

What inspired you to write for children?

I dabbled in the effort to write a children’s book during my time running The Sketching Pad, but I didn’t actually pursue it until after my husband and I adopted our first child, Victoria, from China in 2003. The experience of traveling back and forth to China and the whole adoption process was so heartwarming, and it inspired me to write and illustrate “Born From the Heart.” The process of telling Victoria’s story created a new passion in me for creating children’s books.

When did you decide to write this book?

I decided to write and illustrate “Gianna’s Magical Bows” a few years after my husband and I adopted our second child, Gianna, from China. We adopted her at age 3 in 2012. When Gianna saw that I wrote and illustrated a book for my older daughter, Victoria, she told me that she wanted me to write and illustrate a book about her, too.

Gianna is a very caring and giving person who loves to wear a bow in her hair every day. She loves to help people in need — her kindhearted nature is magical. I wanted to base the story on Gianna’s desire to help people out of the goodness of her heart. If she had magical powers, I know she would help everyone in the world.

What is your creative process like?

First I write the story, then I illustrate the pictures. “Gianna’s Magical Bows” took me three months to write and two years to illustrate. When writing a children’s book, I only write in rhyme. It comes very naturally to me, and once I start the writing process it seems to flow very easily. When I’m done with writing the story, I picture in my mind what illustrations would look best for each page, then do rough drawings before working on the final illustrations. I like my illustrations to be bold and colorful.

What message do you hope to pass on to the reader?

I hope children who read “Gianna’s Magical Bows” will strive to be helpful to others and to get along with people, no matter what race, color or religion that they may be.

Is there an ideal age for this book?

The book is meant for ages 6 and up, but I hope that adult readers will enjoy it, too.

Do you hope to continue writing?

Yes, I hope to continue writing and illustrating children’s books. It is one of my passions. I look forward to getting started on my next book soon.

Where can this book be purchased?

The book can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Xlibris Publishers. It is available in print and as an e-book.