Written by Lyn Dobrin Thursday, 22 May 2014 00:00
Mineola’s Linda Napoli, a retired reading teacher, draws inspiration for her children’s books from the people around her. The seed was planted for Sailing Away on a Rainy Day, her first book, published in 2012, from a chance comment she made to one of her students, Jessica, a tiny third-grader. It was a windy day and Napoli joked to the girl, “Don’t let the wind blow you away.”
In the story, illustrated by Raynald Kudemus and published by Xlibris, Jessica is carrying a bunch of balloons to give to her friends and gets swept up in the air, which carries her over shops, the zoo and the park. The wind settles down into a gentle breeze and Jessica floats down at the door of her school, just as the bell rings.
The inspiration for Wild Vegetarians, her book published this year, also illustrated by Kudemus and published by Xlibris, was her 6-year-old nephew, Joseph, and 4-year old niece, Sofia, who are being raised as vegetarians. Napoli says the two children are always asking “why” and so she imagined the conversations that might take place between the brother and sister when they’re a little older, “trying to put myself in the minds of the children.”
In Wild Vegetarians, Sofia asks her older brother why they are vegetarians. He says, “Mom and Dad believe it’s wrong to kill any animal or fish so we can it eat.” Sophia wonders if her family is the only family that thinks that way, and Joseph tells her about other people who are vegetarians and names some wild creatures such as squirrels in the backyard that don’t eat meat, and then tells her about giraffes and elephants in Africa, pandas in China, caribou in Canada and tortoises in South America.
Even dinosaurs make his list of wild vegetarians. The book combines drawings and photographs of wild animals. “I thought including photographs would make it more interesting and different,” says Napoli.
Napoli says she tried to put herself into the minds of the children who would encounter meat-eating children in their schools. Following practices that are not part of the mainstream is something that the Napoli family has encountered personally. The Napolis raised their three sons,
who are now adults, as Ethical Humanists, a religion that emphasizes ethical behavior and helping others to achieve their best.
When her children were young, Napoli became very involved in the Ethical Humanist Society of Long Island, in Garden City, and put her teaching skills to good use as the director of the Sunday School.
“Finding out that there were others who identify as humanists was important to the development of my sons,” she said, “and they received a solid foundation in comparative religion and ethical behavior as well.”
Napoli says she has no immediate plans for another book.
Her two books are available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Xlibris.