New children’s books enliven evergreen lessons for life
Children are both a gift from God and our future, so writing for them is no small undertaking. It takes a special talent to translate the world into a simpler, more innocent place full of possibilities. For two Legates, Chuck Ormsby and Anthony DeStefano, writing children’s books is a labor of love in which they impart character-building, evergreen lessons.
Godly insights for everyone
Anthony DeStefano and his wife Jordon are members of the Jersey Shore Legatus Chapter. He has worked successfully in politics and business, and is a member of the board of directors of Priests for Life and Rachel’s Vineyard. He has also been an EWTN television host and appeared on many national television and radio programs.
And through it all, he writes.
Stefano is an award-winning, best-selling author of 20 books for adults and children. His first book, A Travel Guide to Heaven, (2003) has been published in 15 languages and in 20 countries. Another book for adults, Hell: A Guide, will be out in June.
DeStefano’s latest children’s book released in October, The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted, is the retelling of Jesus’ parable of the seed in verse, beautifully illustrated by Erwin Madrid, an animator on the Shrek franchise. The story is about a seed wanting to stay in a cozy drawer rather than get buried in the ground. Faced with his biggest fear, the seed undergoes a transformation into a beautiful tree that nurtures the creation around it. It imparts the lesson that no matter how small or scared we may be, God has plans for us more wonderful than we can imagine.
Speaking specially to Catholics
This new book is his first with a Catholic publisher. “Now is the time to start writing Catholic books with the Church,” he explained. “I’ve had the sense over the last three years—and I think all Catholics have had this sense—that the Church is going through troubled waters. I’ve had a conviction that instead of focusing on the general market where I’ve had a lot of success, I should write for a Catholic-specific audience.” It also helped that DeStefano had met the publisher of Sophia Institute Press, Charlie McKinney, and was very impressed. Sophia will also publish his next two children’s books: Our Lady’s Wardrobe in April and The Grumpy Old Ox next Christmas.
DeStefano’s stories, which reflect Godly values and insights, have attracted readers across denominational lines and even no denominations. The Seed Who Was Afraid to be Planted, he explained, is also a message that applies to everyone.
Facing the universal phobia – fear
“I believe the biggest problem that people face—not just children—is fear,” DeStefano said. “People are afraid about their money, and job, and families, and health, and most of all they are afraid they don’t have what it takes to overcome their problems.” Unless we help children deal with their fears, he said, it can manifest into much bigger problems that could last a lifetime.
The idea for the book came to DeStefano during adoration while reading the parable of the grain of wheat that fell to the ground and had to die in order to grow. “It hit me like a bolt of lightning; Why not retell the parable of the seed from the perspective of the seed?” he explained. “The message is about trusting God and allowing him to transform your fear into something wonderful.”
Taking the worst, pulling out the best
It is a message that relates to Christ himself, according to DeStefano. “Jesus is the best example of the seed who was planted,” he said. “He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, and He died and was buried in the earth. It was the worst evil that ever took place in the world: the murder of God by His own creatures. But three days later, the Resurrection represents the greatest good that could ever happen. The gates of heaven were thrown open and all of us can receive everlasting life. If God can take the worst thing and pull out the best thing, He can pull good out of our life.”
Imparting such a vision can transform a child’s whole life, DeStefano said. “It can help prepare children to understand other deeper truths— including the love God has for us, the beauty of creation, the temporary nature of bodily death, the meaning of resurrection, and the joy of heaven.”
Far-reaching love for kids
Attorney Chuck Ormsby, member of Pennsylvania’s Bucks County Chapter, also has deeper messages in his whimsical children’s books. They reflect his own commitment to God and children alongside his full-time work at his law firm, Semanoff Ormsby Greenberg & Torchia, LLC. He has specialized in corporate law for over 30 years alongside raising three children with his wife, Linda, and building schools in Uganda.
“I went on my thirteenth trip there this past Halloween,” he said. “Previously we built a school in the jungle where a genocide took place,” Ormsby said. It all began in 2007 when Ormsby accepted an offer from visiting priest, Father Joseph Sserugo, to visit Uganda. He came to build a primary school on a one-square-mile piece of land that had been a place of genocide, thereby turning it into a blessing. Pope John Paul II high school was later built and is currently educating 600 students.
There is also a vocational school begun by Ormsby with another 150 students. Students can be sponsored at the Pope John Paul II High School, to defray yearly tuition. And there are also opportunities for covering their room and board at the local university (go to bridgetouganda.org to learn more).
Out of the mouths of babes
Ormsby’s foray into writing children’s books as a hobby has a humbler beginning. “We were driving in the car and one of the kids asked, ‘Why is Dad’s head ‘shaped like that’ —round and bald,” he explained. “My wife said, ‘So water runs off. If it had a dent in it, water would well up and he’d have a problem; puddles would form, birds would come drink and trees would grow.’” Thus was born Mr. Puddlehead, published in 2016 by Archway Publishing.
The brightly animated story in verse is reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. The moral behind the silly story is: accept the way God made you, and see the puddles in your life as a blessing.
Life lesson from grandma
On another day, Linda came home from pushing a grandchild in the stroller with a sticky mess on the wheel that had picked up a napkin and a cigarette. From that came the story of Mrs. Sticky Wheel. She is in too much of a hurry to clean off the mess so ends up coming home with a dog, a cat, a duck and a pig stuck to the stroller.
On the first page of the second book, Mrs. Sticky Wheel marries Mr. Puddlehead. On the last page is the moral:
“She learned a lot from this haul
Address your issues when they’re small
Or better yet so not to stall
Avoid your problem after all.”
A third book is in the works. When his oldest of five grandchildren, Tiernan, recently explained that his superhero power is never getting tired, Ormsby envisioned his next book – a story where the villains are such a pest, while the superhero needs no rest.
PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.