Reviewed by Melissa Arnold
As a mother of four busy children and a full-time speech pathologist, Kimberly Marino of Miller Place is constantly thinking about kids. In particular, she’s passionate about engaging children in conversation, interaction and learning. In May, she published her first children’s book, “Sloths Are Slow.”
Marino has crafted an entertaining and accessible rhyming story about a sloth named Lento (which means “slow” in Spanish) and his rain forest friends. Along the way, readers will learn some interesting facts about sloths while practicing counting, gestures, following directions and more.
The book is visually stunning as well, featuring artwork by Mariya Stoyanova. It is the perfect pick for sneaking some developmental skills into story time.
Were you a creative child? Did you always want to be a writer?
I never really thought much about writing as a kid, but I was always creative. I liked to draw. My mind is always working and I’m always coming up with ideas. My friend and I actually invented a language game for kids that we were able to sell, so there is definitely a creative spark inside of me.
What did you study in college, and where did you end up working?
I went to school for elementary education at a small school in Pennsylvania called Lock Haven University, and then I got a master’s in speech from Hofstra. I now provide speech services through a company called Metro Therapy. I also work with children from birth through age 3 through Suffolk County Early Intervention.
What inspired you to write a children’s book?
I’ve had the idea in the back of my head for a long time. Being a speech pathologist means I’m always thinking about language and helping kids develop their language acquisition skills. When my kids were little, they loved a Sesame Street book called “There’s a Monster at the End of This Book.” The main character was [the furry blue Muppet] Grover, and it was very interactive. I knew I wanted to do something like that, to teach parents how to read a book with their kids in an interactive, engaging way. You can learn to be interactive not just with this book, but with any book. There really aren’t a lot of tools out there that teach those skills. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from parents who tell me their kids are more excited about listening to the story because of its interactive features.
Did you have any reservations about writing the book?
Honestly, no. Once the idea was in my head, I said to myself, “I’m going to do this.” And that was it.
My daughter, Katie, has always had a deep passion for all creatures, down to the tiniest bugs. She’s really into sloths, and is always sharing random facts about sloths with me. I thought it was interesting and would make for a fun story.
What was the publishing process like for you?
I started by hiring an illustrator to create the pictures that would go along with the text. My sister-in-law is a graphic artist and editor, basically a jack of all trades, so she was able to help me get the book published on Amazon. It was an easy process for me, but only because I had her help — I wouldn’t have known where to start without her! Getting the first copy was super exciting. I couldn’t believe it. When I started to write the story, I didn’t know what Lento would look like. To see him and the story brought to life in such a beautiful way was amazing to me.
What is the target age for this book?
I would encourage parents to introduce the book when their child is 1 year old by reading it to them and performing the interactive parts themselves. That’s how they learn — by watching you model behavior. But the target audience is for kids ages 3 to 6.
What is GiGi’s Playhouse of Long Island, and what is your connection to the organization?
Working as a speech pathologist has put me in touch with a lot of people that have Down syndrome, and you’ll often hear their families refer to themselves as “the lucky few.” There’s nothing down about having Down syndrome, and I wanted to be able to support and give back to the local Down syndrome community with this book.
A few local moms are in the process of forming a Long Island chapter of GiGi’s Playhouse, a free center that provides speech, language, arts and life skills classes to help people with Down syndrome achieve their goals and function as typically as possible. The centers are run by volunteers who are passionate about the Down’s community, and a portion of the proceeds from “Sloths Are Slow” will go to the national GiGi’s Playhouse organization to support the upcoming Long Island center. They’re looking to open in the spring of 2020.
You dedicate this book to Thomas Scully. Tell us about him.
My friend, Debbie Scully, unfortunately, lost her son Thomas to brain cancer several years ago. I never met him, but the Miller Place community has worked so hard to honor his memory and legacy. Mentioning Thomas and the foundation in the back of the book is just my small way of showing my support for the family. You can learn more about Thomas and the foundation at www.thomasscullyfoundation.org.
What’s next for you?
I actually have another book in the works called “Cows Don’t Belong in Houses,” inspired by a funny conversation with one of my young clients named Jackson. In his honor, I would want proceeds from that book to benefit cleft palate organizations. I’m also thinking about writing stories based on the other characters you meet in “Sloths Are Slow.”