A tax accountant has recently fulfilled a lifelong dream by publishing his own children’s book as an homage to his late father and all the life lessons he was taught while growing up as a first-generation Italian-American in Ridgewood during the 1970s.
Growing up in Bushwick in the late 60s, and later in Ridgewood in the 1970s, Michael Cascio learned a lot from his father on how to stand up for himself, how to work hard and take care of his family, and most importantly how to face his fears.
Cascio reminisced about the times his father taught him how to deal with bullies, and to face his fears head on.
“Ridgewood was really a beautiful place, everybody was really close. We all looked out for each other and had each other’s back,” Cascio said. “My memories of Ridgewood are great because it was that go between from being in a scary place to being in Long Island now.”
Although Cascio works as a tax accountant at Ramusevic, Cascio & Kaplan, CPAs PC in Elmhurst, he has always had a passion for writing ever since his fourth grade teacher, Joan Pilla, really taught him how to read and encouraged him to be a better student.
“Fourth grade rolls around and it was one of those special moments in life where the right person comes along,” Cascio said. “She realizes early on that my reading isn’t really up to standards, and she realizes also that I was probably pretty smart. And for whatever reason she took a liking to me … and she pulled out a Dr. Seuss book and started teaching me how to read. She basically launched my desire to be a good student. I owe a lot to her.”
Pilla sparked a love of writing in Cascio that has stayed with him throughout his life.
As time rolled on and Cascio started his own family and moved to New Hyde Park, he began noticing that his children were afraid of things like noises from the attic, or sinister-looking shadows from a tree branch. So, just like his father did, Cascio began helping his kids with their fears by making up little rhyming stories that they could say and remember that things aren’t always as scary as they appear.
Eventually Cascio had a desk full of Post-It notes with these rhymes on them, and came up with the idea of putting them together into a little poem. He was then invited to his son’s school to read some Dr. Seuss books and his own poem.
To his delight, the students loved the poem and his son’s teacher encouraged him to get his story illustrated at published. And in January 2017, Cascio had his book “When I Was a Child I Was Always Afraid.”
“This always meant a lot to me because it’s my children’s story. It’s a story I wrote for them based on lessons that I learned from my dad. Based on their experiences, some of my own experiences,” Cascio said. “I was that little kid that would hide under the covers at night in the Bushwick apartment. To me it is more of a story of three generations than just something I wrote down. The thing that I love the most about it is that it’s something I wrote from my heart for my kids to share with my kids, and any time I get to share it with other kids, it’s fantastic.”
When Cascio reads his book to school children they love how the story helps them look at things differently and be brave enough to face their fears.
Cascio also has another book in the works based on his childhood, and is thinking about writing a story about bullying in the future as well.
“When I Was a Child I Was Always Afraid,” is available on Amazon and on the publisher Mascot Books’ website. Customers can receive 30 percent off their purchase of the book at Mascot Books until Aug. 21 by just typing the code “30” at checkout.