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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Ron Italiano Publishes a New Children's Book

By Jennifer Ersalesi

TIR: Congratulations on your new book. This book was inspired by stories you used to tell your nieces. Your son also used the main character, Choppy Wow Wow, to communicate with you. Can you tell us where the idea of Choppy Wow-Wow came from?

Ron Italiano: The idea of the stories just came from me trying to entertain my nieces when they were young. Trying to entertain four girls, you tried everything. So, I just made up funny stories to teach them kindness, positivity and spark their creativity. They loved it. Then, when I had my boys I did the same thing but having no idea the impact it would have on my older son to communicate with me. For some reason he could collect his thoughts, visualize and communicate using Choppy Wow Wow as a medium.

Ron and his nieces

TIR: Last April, This is Rutherford interviewed you about the amazing volunteer work you do coaching children with special needs. You’ve made a lasting impact on so many children. This new book series is just another way that you will continue to inspire and make all children feel included and important . With this first book in the series, how did start introducing the characters and engaging readers?

RI: I always had these stories in my head but just had to put them on paper. I knew I needed an origin story for the characters. So one night I just got to it and wrote the rough draft in twenty minutes. My wife woke up the next day, read the draft, and said, you have to do this. So after a couple of edits and proofreading from my wife the story was done.

I have a lot of plans in my head and on paper about engaging readers but just don’t have the time. But getting the word out is a little easier in today’s world of social media. So just a couple of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts and the book was launched. The feedback has been amazing. People sending me pictures of their kids reading the book, people reading the book to their dog, seniors reading the book to their grandchildren, special needs students reading to younger typical classrooms. It is really heart-warming, inspiring and I am so proud of the impact. Last month I did my first school reading and the children were great and had so many good questions. We talk about the book, special needs, autism, inclusion, and off course their pets. I walked out of that school feeling my boys will be alright in the future knowing this younger generation is kind, caring and understanding.

Jessica Rogers

TIR: Your niece, Jessica Rogers, did all of the illustrations. How did you end up collaborating with her on this project?

RI: From an early age Jess was always a great artist. Whether it was drawing landscapes or characters, she just had this nature artistic talent. Being so close to my boys Jess was very aware of the Choppy Wow Wow stories. Years ago I told her, if I ever write a book Jess, you have to illustrate it. Flash forward years ahead, it was days after I wrote the story we were having a family function at Jess’ house. I brought the story over to see what she thought. Jess went in a separate room to read it, emerged from the room with tears in her eyes and said “Uncle Ron we have to do this”.

"When Uncle Ron first put the story on paper and I got the chance to read it I got emotional because it hit close to home. I was more than excited to bring the characters to life and the process of editing and troubleshooting was actually fun considering it was a family collaboration," explained Jessica Rogers.

TIR: Your cousin, Nicole Mazur, did the art direction and layout for the book. How did this collaboration come about?

RI: As a graduate from the School of Visual Arts, my cousin Nicole has been in the industry as a design manager, art director and creative director. I knew if anyone can put my stories with Jess’ illustrations together it would be Nicole. I called her up one day, explained my vision, sent her the story and Jess’ first cut illustrations. Without hesitation she was on board.

TIR: What are you most excited about sharing now that this book is available?

RI: The thing I am most excited about is that the book is just another avenue to bring education and awareness about the special needs community. All special needs parents worry about the future, what is going to happen when we are not around. If this book helps create that understanding it will only be better for my kids and the whole special needs community.

Jessica Rogers told TIR, "During the time I was illustrating the book I was also doing internships through my school occupational therapy program at local elementary schools for kids with special needs. With that said, my favorite part about illustrating the book was modeling some of the characters after these children and making the most diverse and inclusive characters as possible. I have learned through my occupational therapy program that incorporating different learning tactics, exposing children to various types of media, and finding time to encourage social interaction and mental stimulation can improve the health and well-being of these populations. Also, diverse representation on TV, media, and books also provides a sense of inclusivity among underrepresented or misrepresented populations. With that said and considering that the moral of the story for each book in the series will promote inclusivity, educate about special needs, and encourage kindness... this book and its purpose is important to say the least."

Justin Italiano

TIR: Who is helping you package and ship the books as they are purchased?

RI: My boys do all the packaging while my wife does all the shipping. I print out the orders, my boys take each book, load them in the mailers, and seal them. My wife then takes the daily trip to the post office to mail them. My boys love packing the books!!!

Aaron Italiano

TIR: Where can people purchase your new book, The Special Adventures of Choppy Wow Wow: One Special Dog?

RI: Currently it is for sale at our website. In the near future, we are hoping to expand to more on line platforms and brick and mortar stores. But if you order from our website my boys will gladly pack your book for you.

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