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Children’s Book

Reviewed by Sabrina Petroski

Beth Rosiello

Have you ever wondered what it was like inside the womb before you were born? In Beth Rosiello’s first children’s book, “Inside Mommy’s Tummy” (Dorrance Publishing), you can find out! With fun anecdotes from the point of view of the baby, and colorful photographs and animations, this book is a wonderfully creative way to get the inside scoop.

“Inside Mommy’s Tummy,” meant for children ages 3 to 8, transports the reader into the world of the baby before they are born; what they hear and who talks to them. Since the story is based on her family, Rosiello includes pictures of the parents, siblings, grandparents and even the family dog! We follow the pregnancy from start to finish, finding out the gender of the baby, what the nursery looks like and the experience of birth.

In a recent interview, the Centereach author gave some insight on how the book came about and the process of getting it published.

Tell me about yourself. 

I’ve been married to my husband Frank for 32 years. We have two boys, Matt and Steven, and two grandchildren, Sean and Brianna. I’m into a lot of different things creatively speaking — crocheting, crafting, sewing, reading and writing and I love spending time with my family and friends. Currently I am semiretired.

What were your favorite books growing up? 

I would sit for hours reading all kinds of books but my favorite were the Nancy Drew mystery series.

Why did you write this children’s book?

I have always wanted to write children’s books but just never had the time. I wanted to do something special for my granddaughter and that’s how this came about.

How did your family react when you told them you had an idea for a book?

My family was very supportive of my book. I actually wrote it first and then told them about it. They all loved the idea and were very proud of me.

Why did you choose to write a story from the point of view of a baby ?

I didn’t so much choose this as it just came to me. I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea and thought it would make a great book from the baby’s point of view.

Are the people in the story based on real people? 

Yes, it was written around my granddaughter, Brianna, but it incorporates my whole family.

How did you go about getting the book published? 

I sent the book to a couple of different publishers — I never realized there were self-publishers as well as regular book publishers. I should have done more research. I apparently went with a self-publisher, so it did cost me a lot to get it published, but I’m still glad it’s out there.

What was it like working with a publisher? 

The process was easy; they helped me every step of the way, answered my questions and were there if I needed them.

How did you come up with idea to use real pictures? 

The drawings just weren’t working out. I even tried using an app to convert the pictures to drawings, but they weren’t working. 

What was it like receiving your first copy of the book?

It was totally amazing. I was in heaven and so proud of the book. 

Where is the book available?  

The book is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to write a book?  

I would say go for it if you have a bucket list and writing is on it. I did and I couldn’t be happier. It is very satisfying to do something like this even if you only do it once. At least you can say you did it and got it published. Not everyone can say that.

By Beverly C. Tyler

Telling stories about the men and women of the Culper Spy Ring and portraying Setauket spy leader Abraham Woodhull has been one way for me to bring local history to life for both residents and visitors to this area. Reading about the Culper spies is also important, so I have written a number of articles and recommended books that tell the story. I have recently read and enthusiastically recommend “Kayleigh & Conner Detectives Inc. and King The Spy Dog” for children of all ages.

The cover of Dana Lynn Zotter’s first children’s book.

Written and illustrated by Dana Lynn Zotter, this 174-page soft-cover book tells the story of two children, Kayleigh and Connor, who spend their last week of summer vacation visiting their great-grandparents in Stony Brook who live in a historic house that holds all kinds of secrets. 

When the children find a gravestone with the name KING engraved on it in the roots of an old tree, their great-grandfather tells them that there was once a legendary spy dog named King in the area who has appeared as a ghost. The siblings meet a local boy and, as detailed on the back cover, “Three children search for the truth about ghosts, legends, and Long Island’s Culper Spies.”

Zotter has woven a delightful tale of a family and their experiences in the Long Island communities of Stony Brook, Setauket and Port Jefferson together with an accurate portrayal of the men and women involved in the Revolutionary War Culper Spy Ring. This well-crafted story vividly transports the reader to the historic hamlet of Stony Brook where the children explore their great-grandparents’ Colonial-era home and the shoreline of this picturesque community.

As Kayleigh and Connor explore, they discover mysteries connected with the house and the community, including an appearing and disappearing black dog named King. Agreeing to become detectives and follow the clues, the children discover how the Culper spies operated and how King the spy dog became an important member of the Culper Spy Ring.

Their travels take them along West Meadow Creek and as far as the Village of Port Jefferson where they meet General Lafayette on a recreated 18th-century French warship, which actually visited Greenport in 2015. At one point the children are mysteriously transported back to the Revolutionary War and join the Culper spies and King the spy dog on a brief spy adventure.

The Setauket Presbyterian Church and cemetery

“Kayleigh & Conner Detectives Inc. and King The Spy Dog” features 22 illustrations, including a recipe for invisible ink and a spy code, along with a list of historic places to visit. The drawings, including one of the Setauket Presbyterian Church and cemetery, help bring the story to life without taking away from the writing, allowing readers full use of their imaginations. I enjoyed the story and easily identified with the characters. 

Dana Lynn Zotter, who describes herself as a gardener, poet, artist and finder of four-leaf clovers, has crafted a wonderful story that will delight children and make historians smile.

“Kayleigh & Conner Detectives Inc. and King The Spy Dog” is available at the Three Village Historical Society’s gift shop, 93 North Country Road, Setauket. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-751-3730 or visit www.tvhs.org.

Author Beverly C. Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and pens a biweekly column in the Village Times Herald titled History Close at Hand. 

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Pictured from left, author Virginia McCaffrey, Allyson Konczynin, Bob Scollon, Will Konczynin and Brian Ehlers. Photo from Virginia Ehlers

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Virginia McCaffrey, an 11th-grade special education teacher at Ward Melville High School in Setauket, has brought her childhood memories to life with an imaginative new book for kids. “Chased by a Bear,” McCaffrey’s first book, honors the memory of her late grandmother, Jean Scollon, who loved telling her grandchildren vivid bedtime stories. I recently reached out to McCaffrey to ask her about her newest venture.

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Ward Melville High School special education teacher Virginia McCaffrey is pictured with the children’s book “Chased by a Bear” she authored. Photo courtesy of Three Village school district

I am one of five children, one girl with four brothers. I was born in Lake Ronkonkoma and our family moved to Setauket when I was in ninth grade. I loved growing up in a big family as there was never a dull moment. As a child, I never really dreamed of becoming a writer, although I did think of it occasionally, not sure what direction I should take. The answer only came to me at the passing of my grandmother, Jean Scollon, three years ago.

Why did you decide to write a children’s book specifically?

My grandmother was such a large part of our lives. My own children knew her well and have always loved hearing stories of the terrific times my brothers, cousins and I had with her as we were growing up.

One night I was telling them about our many sleepovers at Nany and Grandad’s house. The four of us would climb onto the bed in the guest room at the end of the hall, then Nany would squeeze in with us to tell us a story before going to sleep. As I grow older, I fondly remember taking turns adding to the story, but specifically remember thinking that Nany had an incredible imagination. She always seemed to be coming up with great scenes, characters and situations, as well as games for us to play.

After sharing these stories with my own children and sending them off to bed, I decided to sit down and write a “Nany-type” story for them. At first, it was meant to simply be for them, but the more I worked on it, I began to dream of sharing the story of this wonderful grandmother with other children and turning it into a book; I found a way to honor my grandmother and share her with others.

How did your family respond when you told them you had an idea for a book?

I didn’t tell the family about my project until it was complete and I could present it to my grandfather, Bob Scollon, at a family dinner.  The only exception was my mother, who was sworn to secrecy. It was probably the hardest secret I have ever had to keep.

To say my family was surprised is an understatement. They appeared to be completely shocked. All four of my brothers told me how proud they were, my nieces and nephews all asked if they could share it with their classes, and my grandfather was speechless. He immediately sat down and read the book cover to cover while the rest of the family chatted about how surprised they were. Their reactions made keeping it a secret for so long all worth it.   

What is the book about?

The cover of Virginia McCaffrey’s first book.

“Chased by a Bear” is the story of four young children and the magical adventure their grandmother is able to make them a part of through her bedtime stories. No one but the five of them know where Nany’s stories take them each week during their sleepovers, making the adventure so much more special for them. They find themselves in a dangerous situation but use teamwork to resolve the problem.

Why did you choose a story about a bear for your first book?

I chose to use a bear story for the book because so many of Nany’s stories involved a bear in the woods. It was her favorite theme to her stories. Looking back I think those were always my favorite ones to hear.

Are the children in the story based on real-life people?

My younger brother (Brian Ehlers), two cousins (Allyson and William Konczynin) and I are the youngest of seven grandchildren and the characters in the book.

What was the publication process like?

Once I decided to write the children’s book, the process took about 18 months to complete. I decided to self-publish, and ultimately took the advice of my illustrator as to which company to use. The result was a very smooth process.

How did you find an illustrator?

I found the most challenging effort was to find an illustrator to capture the characters in the book: my grandparents, cousins, brother and myself. After a great deal of research online, I found an illustrator whose artwork not only connected with the personalities and descriptions of all of us but was exactly what I would hope for in a children’s book. Robin Bayer’s style is so uplifting and colorful. She made my story come to life. I sent her pictures of the four of us as children, as well as pictures of Nany and Grandad. She totally captured the look I wanted.

What was it like seeing the illustrations and receiving the first copy of the book?

When the first sketches were sent to me, I found it incredible how someone who didn’t know us as children and never had the opportunity to meet Nany was able to read a story I wrote and look at pictures I sent and completely capture my childhood and my vision of how my book should look. The story seemed to come to life more and more as additional illustrations were created and color was added to the pages.

When I received the first copy of the completed book to proof, I was in love with it. Once the book went public, friends sent me pictures of their children reading my book. I’ve saved every picture they’ve sent. I love hearing what their children and grandchildren think of the story.

What is the target age for the book?

The book was written on a second- or third-grade reading level. However, it was intended to appeal to many ages as it can be read aloud. 

What do your students think?

My students have expressed excitement at the idea of their teacher writing and publishing a book. They make me feel proud when they mention it. Recently, I was invited to read to the class of one of my daughters. The students had many questions about the writing process and becoming an author. It was wonderful to see the awe and excitement on their faces.

Do you plan to write any more books?

I would love to see this turn into a series of Nany Bedtime Stories … and maybe even let the rest of my family have some input.

“Chased by a Bear” is available for purchase on Amazon.com.

By Alex Petroski

“The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley,” directed by Kristen Digilio, began a nine-show run in early February at the Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at CM Performing Arts Center in Oakdale, starring Luke Rosario as Stanley.

Above, Luke Rosario stars in ‘The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley.’ Photo by Kristen Digilio
Above, Luke Rosario stars in ‘The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley.’ Photo by Kristen Digilio

For those who are unfamiliar with the series, Flat Stanley celebrated his 50th anniversary in 2014. The hero of children’s books was created in 1964 by author Jeff Brown and is now the subject of an exchange program that allows children to mail paper cutouts of Flat Stanley to other participants around the world. The cast and crew of the live action show for kids bring the two-dimensional fan favorite to colorful, musical and three-dimensional light.

In the Flat Stanley books, Stanley Lambchop becomes flat when a large bulletin board falls on him in his sleep. In the musical, Stanley and his younger brother Arthur Lambchop, played by Matthew Surico, dream of doing something amazing that the world has never seen before as they sit in bed prior to falling asleep. During the first act the two sing “I Wish I Were,” a song about aspiring to be great like Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter. Dreaming big and reaching for the stars is the constant theme of the musical, though others are introduced along the way as well.

The show features 13 musical numbers, performed by the cast of just five. Katie Ferretti, Ronald R. Green III and Jessica Ader-Ferretti fill out the small cast. Only Rosario is restricted to just one role. Costume changes along with strategic wigs and stick-on facial hair allows the other four cast members to introduce additional characters. The group displays an undeniable chemistry with dance steps and song lyrics meant to dole out life lessons to the young theatergoers. 

Ferretti plays Mrs. Lambchop, Arthur and Stanley’s bright red-haired mother. Green, who plays Mr. Lambchop, joins her to perform “The Funny Sunny Side,” a song about embracing the things that make someone unique, a message directed at Stanley when he is faced with the reality of going to school as flat as a piece of paper.

To make Rosario appear flat, he wears an orange-topped, purple-bottomed prop over the front of his clothes that resembles a yoga mat. Green was also the costume designer. He did as fine a job as Mr. Lambchop as he did designing Flat Stanley’s appearance and delivering his diagnosis as Dr. Dan, the mustache-clad pediatrician who sadly has no answers for the Lambchops about unflattening their son.

Eventually Stanley embraces being flat, and at the end of Act One he is convinced by mail carrier Mrs. Cartero, played by Ader-Ferretti, that he could travel the world by mail for just the price of postage. When Act Two begins, Stanley has arrived in Hollywood where he is met by a talent agent who sees potential in the flat kid.

Also played by Surico, the talent agent convinces Stanley to do some more traveling and gain life experiences before he pursues a career in show business. Surico, Ferretti and Ader-Ferretti team up for an impressive number called “Talent,” where they show off vocal range and choreographed tap dance steps to convince Stanley that Hollywood is for him.

Encouraged by his friend Samantha, who lives in California, Stanley travels to the Louvre in Paris, France, where he helps thwart an art thief. After that, Stanley travels, again by mail, to Honolulu, Hawaii, for his movie debut as a surfboard. Despite his success, Stanley realizes that he is homesick, and traveling the world and doing amazing things isn’t quite as special without family and friends around to share it.

Rosario’s performance carries the show. His singing ability and enthusiasm draws eyes like a magnet, though he is definitely not alone. Green and Ferretti serve as perfect compliments to Surico during the musical numbers. Surico is at his best delivering one-liners as Stanley’s talent agent. Ader-Ferretti is the “glue” to the production and shows versatility in filling a handful of different roles.

The show is a feel-good hour with a brief intermission between the two acts. Music, dancing and smiles make the delivery of important messages for kids of all ages very easy to absorb. The young minds in attendance are instructed to step out of their comfort zone to achieve fulfillment and reach potential, while remembering what success is all about: enjoying it with loved ones and taking pride in being unique. 

The Noel S. Ruiz Theatre at the CM Performing Arts Center, 931 Montauk Highway, Oakdale, will present “The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley” through March 5. Tickets are $12. To order, call 631-218-2810 or visit www.cmpac.com.

The entire cast of ‘Junie B. Jones, The Musical’ performs at the Engeman Theater. Photo by Jessie Eppelheimer

By Rita J. Egan

“Junie B. Jones, The Musical” opened at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport this past Saturday to an audience filled with young children eager to see their favorite literary characters in the flesh, and with a fun, lively show, the cast did not disappoint.

The musical, based on the children’s book series by Barbara Park, follows the adventures of Junie B. Jones as she tackles life’s little obstacles she finds along the way in first grade. Among the many challenges she faces are losing her best friend, Lucille, to twins Camille and Chenille, finding out she needs glasses, and being unable to participate in the big kickball tournament. However, with the help of her family and friends, and jotting everything down in her Top-Secret Personal Beeswax Journal, the endearing redhead figures everything out and learns that when life hands you lemons you make lemonade.

Kate Keating is youthful and charming as the main character, Junie. As lead on many of the numbers, her clear soprano voice is perfect for revealing the story through song, and she easily draws the young audience in as she talks directly to them in a number of scenes.

Playing the role of mother, as well as fellow first-graders Grace and Sheldon, is Suzanne Mason whose stage presence as always is a strong one. The actress especially shines as the awkward, stuffy-nosed Sheldon, and she elicited loud giggles during a scene where Sheldon, ready to play the cymbals at the kickball tournament, experiences stage fright. Mason convincingly delivers the song “Sheldon Potts’ Halftime Show” as if she were a child herself.

Kate Keating stars in Junie B. Jones The Musical at the Engeman Theater through March 6. Photo by Leila Scandar
Kate Keating stars in Junie B. Jones The Musical at the Engeman Theater through March 6. Photo by Leila Scandar

Joshua Cahn plays Mr. Scary, Daddy and Gladys Gutzman, and it’s as Gutzman, the cafeteria lady, that Cahn takes center stage. The way he delivers the role is reminiscent of Edna Turnblad from “Hairspray,” and with funny lines and a cute dance number with Keating, he received well-deserved laughs and giggles from the audience members.

Michael Verre tackles dual roles as Junie’s new friend Herb and one of the twins, Chenille. While Verre is sweet as Herb, particularly during the number with Keating, “You Can Be My Friend,” he is hilarious as Chenille, where he good-naturedly dons a wig and dress, and gracefully sings and dances along with Camille and Lucille during the number “Lucille, Camille, Chenille” to the delight of the audience.

Jennifer Casey as Camille and Jose, Allie Eibeler as Lucille and Lennie, and Alyson Clancy as May and Bobbie Jean handle their role changes seamlessly, and no matter what part they are playing, effortlessly add to the fun and high energy of the musical.

Written by Marcy Heisler, with music by Zina Goldrich, “Junie B. Jones” features upbeat, fun-filled numbers that are perfect for a musical geared toward young children. Stand out songs in the first act include the opening number “Top-Secret Personal Beeswax” where Junie tells the audience all about her new journal, and at the end of the act, “Now I See,” where, with the help of her friends, Junie begins to like her new glasses. Act 2 also features the heartwarming number “Writing Down the Story of My Life” that will inspire little ones to record their adventures.

Directed by Jennifer Collester Tully, “Junie B. Junes, The Musical” is a journal-worthy theater experience for the whole family. The set is colorful, the actors are energetic, and the story is a relatable one for children. Most of all, the delightful story will warm the hearts of young and old.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Junie B. Jones The Musical” through March 6. Tickets are $15 each. For more information, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

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