This is so exciting for me! This is the first time ever that I was offered the chance to not only review a book, but do an interview with the author!
I’m a MN native, I’ve always lived in the state of 10,000 lakes. But guess what I’m extremely terrified of? Water. I cannot stand being in water deeper than I am tall. It completely terrifies me not knowing whats below me. A huge fish? Yucky seaweed? Or what if it’s a shark?!
Okay, maybe I’m being overdramatic, we all know that sharks can’t live in fresh water but it’s still an irrational fear of mine. But, just as Cascio’s book encourages, I’ve always tried to conquer my fear of water by swimming in it. I may hate every. single. second. of it but at least I’m trying, right?
That’s what Cascio’s book pinpoints – you must try to understand your fear, not shy away from it. That’s what I love most about this children’s book, it inspires little ones that anything is possible for you to overcome as long as you put your fear aside and look at the situation from a different point of view.
This important lesson is also something that I want my little Finley to grow up believing. No matter what he comes across as a toddler, an elementary school student, all the way to his own parenting days, he will be able to defeat the terrifying thoughts as long as he looks at the situation from a different perspective – trying to understand this fear with a changed outlook.
Now, lets get to know the author. Let me simply start out by saying, what a great guy he is! Michael Cascio is an Italian-American living in NY. When I Was a Child I Was Never Afraid was inspired by his father’s wise words. Cascio made it his mission to make sure his own children never dismissed the oppurunity to embrace their own fears.
But, wait? Why hear all of this from me when you can hear it from the source himself?! Here’s my interview with Michael Cascio, author of the children’s book When I Was a Child I Was Always Afraid:
What inspired you to write a children’s book about conquering fears?
As a young child I did not learn to read until I attended fourth grade at St. Joseph Patron School in Bushwick, NY. There, a kind teacher named Josephine Pilla, a recent graduate, took it upon herself to teach me to read. Her books of choice, to get me interested in reading, were Dr. Seuss books. In a short period of time I went from no reading level to a 6+ level at the end of my fourth grade year. The love of reading and poetry she instilled in me has stayed with me throughout my life. When my brothers were young, I am the oldest of three; I would make up stories to entertain them. When I liked a girl, I would find it easier to write a poem to her than to say the words. When my wife Stephanie and I began raising our children, we decided that one of the most important things we could do for them was to instill a love of reading at an early age. We would play word games on long car rides and read many books together. As for my writing, I used it as a tool each time the children would come to us with a problem or a fear. I would make up a rhyme that they could remember so that the fear would go away or at least be understood. My current book was the culmination of a series of these rhymes that I one evening realized were piling up on my desk. Unable to fall asleep, I decided to compile the rhymes into a long story, written in rhyme in the style of my hero Dr. Seuss. I must add that as a small child, growing up in a bad part of town, I had many fears of my own which my dad insisted I face head on. He always said, “If you are afraid now of the little things, you will always be afraid.” Trying as it sometimes is in life to overcome things, I have always found a way to stay on my feet and wish the same for my children and all children out there.
By the way, I am trying to locate Ms. Pilla, she’d be about 68 right now as far as I can deduce. I am hoping something in an article or interview will be read by someone that can tell her about me. I truly owe her so very much and want to personally thank her.
What’s your favorite thing about writing children’s books?
My favorite thing about writing a children’s book is the audience it is intended for. Children are the greatest treasure on earth. I truly believe that the book’s message, of helping children overcome their fears, is addressed in a sensitive enough fashion which allows and encourages the child to open up about the things that terrify them. Many children will not speak about, nor bring scary things up; instead, they bottle them inside and as a result spend too much time worrying. By addressing fear and anxiety at an early age, children can learn the tools to overcome them and move forward. I kid that I want to be known as the Sicilian Dr. Seuss J :). The other truly humbling and rewarding thing is to be asked for my autograph. Being a tax accountant, I sign my name over a thousand times a year; contrary to those signatures, the ones I write in my books are so much more meaningful to me.
What were your fears when you were a child?
The dark, loud sirens of police cars and fire trucks were the scariest. We lived a few houses away from a police station in a pretty tough part of town. The images of the Vietnam war on TV also frightened me as I often thought my dad would have to go fight in the war. As the oldest of three boys, I always was very protective of my younger brother Joe, fearing something could happen to hurt him. My other brother Anthony came after we moved to Queens and I had already turned twelve. In a way, being the first educated in America, I was relied upon by my parents to teach my brothers, set a good example as well as helping them translate letters, pay bills etc. Finally I was afraid of bullies, although once dad taught me to fight back and stand my ground, that fear seemed less threatening. I absolutely think bullies are one of the scariest things children encounter and also feel it is a very difficult thing to address. Our emotions, much like my dads, rest his soul, tell us to fight back, our more sensible side tries for a more peaceful solution. I am trying to write another story centering on bullying, but have found it difficult to get just the right angle on it.
Did your children have any fears as they were growing up?
Yes, and many of them make up the pages of the book. Shadows, sounds in the night, the dark basement and even the spooky attic.
What’s the background story behind your father coming to America from Italy? Did he face any of his fears during his journey?
I am currently translating his memoirs which he wrote in his native Italian. One theme throughout his early life, prior to coming to America, was that he was bored, he always wanted to do more, for himself and eventually for the family he desired to create and raise. One day he decided to leave all behind and come to America. He was excited but also a little afraid. Inside he knew his work ethic would result in his realizing his dreams but as we often all do, he worried about the journey, more so for my mother and eventually us, than for himself. He was a very hard-working caring man and wanted only the best for us; as a result he often sacrificed his own dreams to ensure our dreams would come true.
What’s the main message you want children to learn from your book as their parent’s read it to them?
We are here for you; we all have fears, let’s talk about it. Most fears exist because we do not face them and understand them. Parents, together with teachers and older siblings can teach the little ones how to handle the scary things in their lives. It all begins by talking about it.
It was a treat to not only get to know Cascio as I interviewed for his new children’s book, but also have the chance to read it to my little Finley!
If you’re looking for a great, new children’s story to read to your little one’s before bedtime, I highly recommend, When I Was a Child I Was Always Afraid.
You can find it on Amazon as well as Mascot Books (links listed below):
You can also connect with Michael Cascio on Facebook and Instagram: