By: Emily Pirrello
As the celebrated saying goes, “grandparents hold our hands for just a little while, but our hearts forever.”
Robin C. Di Leo-Banta was very close with her Great Grandmother Maria “Nanny” Mollica, she treasured her time with her great-grandmother and decided during the COVID-19 Pandemic shutdown that she wanted to create a literary legacy dedicated to her dear Nanny. Robin’s award-winning debut children’s novel, “Giuseppe, My Mischievous Goat!” is a heartwarming homage to her Nanny, Maria.
This captivating tale follows the story of an Italian grandmother, Nanny Maria, who awakes one morning to discover that her beloved goat, Giuseppe has gone missing.
“When the mischievous goat Giuseppe goes astray, his Nanny, Maria, must leave her mountaintop village to find him. On her journey, she discovers a community of people who help her along the way. Unbeknownst to her, little Giuseppe has all his needs met by the generous people along the way who help him until he is reunited with his Nanny.”
When asked what she hopes her readers will take away from her story, Di Leo-Banta shared, “the importance of family.”
“These memories I’d like to share with my kids, and someday with their kids, all the times she spent teaching me skills I carried throughout my life. And of course, a warm homage to our Italian heritage.”
Like many during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Di Leo-Banta found herself reflecting on her life and what she valued most in the world, her family.
“During the shutdown of the COVID-19 pandemic, I sat daily listening to the news awaiting our fate as a nation. I started thinking about my Nanny Maria and what she meant to me as a child.”
Di Leo-Banta continued to share about her own childhood with her Nanny, Maria, “I would assist her in cooking family meals as she taught me at an early age to make meatballs. I could barely reach the table and would stand atop the highest step of her rickety old stool. She seasoned by hand without measure and always cooked with love.”
During the uncertainty of the shutdown, Di Leo-Banta felt her beloved great-grandmother encourage her to write.
“She guided me on this journey, she was my voice of reason in a time of chaos. ‘I envelop you with my love’ I would hear her say in the middle of the night. What a comfort knowing how loved I was by her. ‘Write,’ she said to me…. ‘Just write.’”
Di Leo-Banta went on to share that she didn’t know where to begin or how to start but she knew she wanted to create a story to pass on the wisdom of her cherished Nanny Maria.
“Her generosity as a human being and the time she devoted to me as a child is a standard which we all should live up to.”
As many would agree, family heritage and traditions are so very important.
Di Leo-Banta reminisced to some of her favorite childhood memories, “We’d gather every Sunday after church and eat together with our large family. I’d run to the local Italian store to pick up the fresh ricotta and Italian bread for our weekly gatherings. Now my kids’ favorite treats they request every Christmas Eve.”
While writing, Giuseppe, My Mischievous Goat!, she wasn’t quite sure where the story was headed— “As I struggled with an ending, my Nanny came to me again and said, “this story ends where yours began, in church!”
She went on to share her initial wariness about this, “I was uncertain about keeping this part in the book. I didn’t want to exclude anyone, but again, this is who I am, and my fondest memories are of those we spent as a family every Sunday after church. These memories I’d like to share with my kids, and someday with their kids.”
Di Leo-Banta valued “all the times her Nanny Maria spent teaching her skills as a child,” and she has always “carried them throughout her life.”
Although this is Di Leo- Banta’s debut novel, she shared that she’s always enjoyed writing. “I used to write riddles or quick little poems as teaching points for my kids when they were young.” Admirably this charming children’s book has already received an Honorable Mention award from Writer’s Digest.
Don’t worry young readers! This is not the last you’ve seen of Giuseppe. Robin shared that she’s currently working on her next Giuseppe adventure, “Giuseppe Chews My Shoes”. As Di Leo-Banta playfully shared, “My Nanny taught me about well-made shoes too.”
Giuseppe, My Mischievous Goat! is available on Amazon and online at Barnes and Noble. Don’t forget to also keep an eye out for Giuseppe’s upcoming journeys!