By Cheryl Conway
Halloween monsters most likely have been put away for the season but for those that still linger the year through, these two sisters have written a book to help children face their fears.
Whippany natives Angela Pirone and Donna Pirone Bauer have teamed up to write “Along Came A Monster, The Monsters Transport,” a fictional soft-cover children’s book for ages three to eight filled with colorful, award winning illustrations. After four years of writing and creating, tweaking and perfecting, the sister authors started their own indie publishing company – Grain House Publishing – to publish their book this past summer.
Published Aug. 14, the 32-page book is available at www.alongcameamonster.com and Amazon. Cost is $29.99 and includes a whole kit. The shrink-wrapped monster kit includes the story, a Magical Monster’s Transport Box and a window sticker/cling.
“From our parenting toolkit to yours, this book/monster kit will help your little one eliminate their fear by going into rescue mode,” the sisters write in their book’s synopsis. “Through the award-winning vibrant illustrations and lovable characters, many kids have even grown to love their monsters. The kit includes everything you need to send your child’s monster home. This story will not only enhance your quality time with your child, it will help to smooth the way through that age-old rite of passage—the childhood fear of monsters!”
As a summary: “It seems nothing can stop Brian. Adventures and messes are some of his favorite things, but when bedtime arrives it’s monsters that stop him in his tracks. Follow Brian along on his adventure as he discovers that monsters aren’t all that they seem. Brian is charged with the task of finding a way to get his monster back home. He accomplishes this through clues he gets from a dream where he meets his monster, learns why his monster is in his closet, and how to help get his monster home.
The message that the two sister authors are trying to get across in their book is that “Monsters don’t have to be scary.”
Idea For Book
Presented with the reality that children have a common fear of monsters, Bauer came up with a solution years ago to help her own daughter deal with her childhood fear. Years later, Pirone brought that idea out of her closet and motivated Bauer to co-write a book to help other children facing the same fear.
“I thought it’s time to do it,” says Pirone of Morristown who works for 20 years as a small business owner of AGT Battery Supply in Whippany. “Who better to do it with than with my best friend in the world, my sister;” the two are just 14 months apart.
“As far back as I can remember I always wanted to write a book but I’ve never been a big reader,” says Pirone, who has a bachelor’s and master’s in psychology. “I always knew I’d write a book. I’m a psychologist at heart. If asked ‘what do you want to do before you die?’ Pirone would say ‘write a book.’”
As an educator for the past 25 years, “I tend to write for my job,” says Bauer. “I never thought of writing a book.” But as things changed, as a widower and her children growing up, Bauer started to heed to her sister’s nudge to put her idea on paper and co-write the book.
“I approached Donna and told her to do it,” says Pirone. “Donna said she had too much on her plate. She said I really don’t want to.” So she reminded her “of the box and her child’s fears” of long ago.
Bauer actually came up with the idea 30 years ago when her daughter Kristin was five. The synopsis of the book did indeed come from a “real life experience,” says Pirone.
“I lived it,” says Bauer, whose daughter was afraid of monsters. To help her daughter with that fear, Bauer says she “tried those wacky things” like checking under the bed, turning on the lights and even spraying something in the air but “she just never bought into it. I kept telling her she was making it up in her head and not validating it.”
So she decided to take a gift box, decorate it and said to her daughter “We are going to catch some monsters. When she went to sleep I put the box in my car and said ‘I caught the monster, you never have to worry again.”
Shortly thereafter her relative’s son would not go downstairs to play his video games. With her brand new pair of shoes in a shoebox in her car, she brought the shoebox to the basement to capture his monster, and started to do this with other people too.
“All these years Angela was saying Donna you have to write a parenting book,” recalls Bauer.
Adds Pirone, “Donna is the go to” person when it comes to parenting advice; she often comes up with solutions to parents’ problems. “Everyone goes to Donna; she does give good advice, she does it fully in a humble way.”
They realized and agreed, “We wanted to do this project because we wanted to help other kids with this,” says Pirone.
“We actually sat down from pen to paper four years ago,”
says Bauer, in 2014. “It took about four and a half years to evolve” with “a lot of tweaking and perfecting.”
Graduates of Whippany Park High School, the sisters began with a creative approach.
“We wrote it in rhyme first,” worked with two editors and presented the initial draft, says Pirone. “They said ‘we love what you are doing,’ but didn’t like it in rhyme,” so suggested that they rewrite it. “They said there’s a lot of books about monsters but no one has taken the approach that we did. The editors said it was very creative and very clever. We are acknowledging the monster exists; other solutions say there are no monsters. We say there is a monster and tell them how to get rid of the monster. The fear goes away and then they go into rescue mode.”
The sisters also held some focus group sessions with friends, family, strangers, children and even mommy groups.
“We wanted to make sure we did it right,” says Pirone, whose married but never had any kids of her own.
“We worked on this consistently,” says Pirone, adding that they got together every single weekend since weekdays were hard with their full time working schedules.
They also had to learn about book publishing, the legal aspect as well as copyright, ways of printing and styles of illustration.
Pirone handled more of the business side while Bauer did more of the research and creating.
“None of us had an inkling on the mechanics of this,” says Pirone, but she did not know about batteries either when she decided to make a business out of it, she says.
“We had to do a lot of work; it wasn’t just the writing, it was everything else we had to do,” she says. “It was a lot more than just the writing. We had to research, get on the internet. We were very, very particular until we got it right. That’s why it took four and a half years.”
As a business owner and a teacher, they admit they had no idea about book publishing.
“We got involved with something we knew nothing about,” says Pirone. Rather than going to a publishing company or self-publishing, they decided to start their own publishing company two years ago on Feb. 24, 2016.
“We were getting advice from people in the industry,” says Pirone. “I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I wanted us to have this as our business. We knew from day one it wasn’t going to be just one book. We wanted to own this and make it ours.”
The sisters actually have plans to make their book into a series with more books to come.
For “Along Came A Monster, The Monsters Transport,” Bauer explains, “We published our own ISBN, did own copy. We didn’t want to hand it over to some conglomerate” who may have wanted to change their ideas. While the book is an integral part of this, the magic box and window sticker are equally important.”
They currently have two additional books “in our minds” but have not started creating them just yet, says Pirone.
“We won the Mom’s Choice Award!” announces Pirone. “We were thrilled. So outside of informal reviews and commendations, we have now received recognition from two of the most prestigious awards in this industry.
Some of Along Came A Monster’s illustrations were selected and featured at the Bologna Italy Children’s Illustrations Book Fair, 2018. Lorraine Dey of Toms River is the illustrator.
Bauer had researched the work of multiple illustrators and says she picked Dey because she “liked her work.”
“Along Came A Monster, The Monsters Transport” has been named among the best in family-friendly media, products and services.
While young readers definitely benefit from the tale, the book has been highly valued by parents too.
“If you want to get a good night’s sleep again, try this!” says Pirone.
The target market for this book is for parents, aunts, uncles, friends and grandparents.
“With the holidays coming up, this makes a great holiday gift,” says Pirone. “It also makes a great baby shower gift so the mom-to-be has it in her parenting kit.”
So far the book has been sold in many states in the country, with sales to schools, organizations, parents.
“Grandparents are loving this,” says Pirone, as “they like to be the heroes in solving their grandkids” problems. “The responses we are getting are so overwhelmingly positive.”
The book has been read in day care centers; parents have read the book in their child’s classroom; and some libraries are considering adding the book to their shelves in the near future. The library at Salem Drive School in Whippany, where the two sisters attended school when they were children, has the book available for students to read.
The sisters also noted that the book and the kit passed all U.S. safety standards, using safe ink and is 100 percent made and produced in the U.S.
“I’m loving every single solitary second of it,” says Pirone, especially when they hear from readers how impactful their story and monster kit really is.
“They have this enthusiasm,” says Bauer, “this wide eye” look when they are reading the book “It’s very cute.”
The book can be purchased on our website: www.alongcameamonster.com or on Amazon, just type in “Along Came A Monster The Monsters Transport.” For those reading this article digitally, the Amazon link for the book is: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07JWGMJJW.
Also visit Grain House Publishing LLC at www.grainhousepublishing.com or call 973-975-5313.