If you go
What: Rhonda Brazina and Ida Margolis reading from their book, "Carrots for Charlie," and a book signing
When: 11 a.m. Nov. 3
Where: Classroom Plus. 650 Goodlette Road N., Naples
Ida Margolis's dream to write a children's book came as a eureka moment one day in 2011 when she saw a TV segment on a morning talk show about a children's diet book.
Now, two years after moving to Naples from Princeton, NJ, that inspiration is a reality with the newly released "Carrots for Charlie; A Tale of Health, Fitness and Happiness," an illustrated children's book.
"I could not believe it." said Margolis as she recalls the morning a year and a half ago that started her journey. "That morning on television they were saying that a new diet book, ("Maggie Goes on a Diet" by Paul Kramer) for kids gave the wrong message about body image because the character Maggie gets popular only after she becomes skinny."
This concept upset Margolis so much, she says, that she immediately raced from her home in the Vineyards right over to the home of her friend Rhonda Brazina, in Pelican Marsh.
That summer morning in 2011, Margolis and Brazina discussed the controversial diet book about to be released and determined they needed to do something fast to get a different message out to kids.
"We both had our childhood and adolescent struggles with weight and self -esteem, and as educators, we love children," said co-author Brazina, who like Margolis is an educator, and also a writer of teacher's materials.
"We knew right away that we had to write a book with a different message. A positive message," said Brazina, who moved to Naples from Columbus, Ohio with her husband three years ago.
"Carrots for Charlie," a 40-page illustrated paperback, is the product of their collaboration. Its setting is Naples, and, in the end, a united effort of many people who live here. Sixth grade children at Pine Ridge Middle School contributed healthful recipes for the book, such as peanut butter banana wraps and fruit kabobs.
Even Naples Mayor John Sorey got in on the production.
"When the ladies came to me with the manuscript," said Sorey from his office, "I immediately saw the importance because of the problems we have in our country with childhood obesity. I support their efforts 100 percent."
Sorey read the manuscript and guided the authors through some practical corrections, explaining, for example, that dogs are not allowed on the beach in Naples as was in the original manuscript. "I wanted to make sure the book represented everything about Naples responsibly."
When the two finally did a reading for Naples City Council, they brought an appropriately healthful snack: pita chips and carrots, rather than cookies.
But that was only part of a long story. Margolis enlisted her longtime teaching colleague and friend, artist Virginia Mulford of South Jersey, to illustrate the book with original watercolors using a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel and scenes in Naples. They flew Mulford down to paint the illustrations while Margolis culled the hundreds of hours of research, and the three women met daily to discuss the book.
Margolis and Brazina wrote. And rewrote.
"We went to a writer's conference, and it helped so much to hear that Dr. Seuss's first book was turned down by 25 publishers before it made print, and he rewrote the manuscript 100 times," said Margolis. The inspired and determined duet rewrote the Carrots for Charlie manuscript 52 times, and Mulford re-illustrated many times as well. Until they got it just right.
"As we progressed," said Brazina, "Ida started going out into public places and doing readings. She would go to Chick-fil-A and just go up to a table and ask the adults permission to read some of the manuscript to the children. And the children responded with ideas."
Margolis and Brazina have donated 20 copies of their book to each of the Golden Gate-area elementary schools because of what they felt were needs for healthful nutrition there. During a presentation recently at Golden Gate Elementary School they even passed out bags of carrots supplied by Grimmway Carrots in California, who sent a generous 264 bags.
They are also working with other children's organizations, including the Boys and Girls Club of America, and with Paula DiGrigoli of the Safe and Healthy Children's Coalition, K is for Kids and FGCU students.
"Carrots for Charlie; A Tale of Health, Fitness and Happiness" is available at Barnes & Noble at the Waterside Shops, www.barnesandnoble.com, www.Amazon.com, and Classroom Plus at 650 Goodlette Road N. The cost is $9.95 or Kindle edition for $6.95.
Margolis and Brazina are doing their first public book signing at 11 a.m. Nov. 3, at Classroom Plus.
Charlie isn't finished after his carrot question. The two are eyeing the idea of plush Charlie stuffed animal and a future interactive "Charlie's Challenge." And, of course, a Charlie sequel.