Having witnessed his father’s battle with disease, Frank Nardelli II knows the tribulations that children face when their parent is not well.
The children’s author, educator and father of two also knows a little something about communicating with youths.
So it’s no wonder the GIST Cancer Awareness Foundation turned to Nardelli, a Plattsburgh native now residing in Michigan, for help with its efforts to reach children living with a sick parent.
The result, “Stand Tall,” is Nardelli’s third book and aims to support kids growing up with a mother or father who is ill.
In writing it, the author drew from the difficult emotions he experienced while watching what his father, Frank Nardelli of Plattsburgh, went through before dying of cancer seven years ago.
He also used what he knew about his 9- and 6-year-old daughters’ perceptions of the world to help him understand how a child might feel in a similar situation.
“I kind of felt that there was a gamut of emotions that kids could experience,” Nardelli said.
“Stand Tall” attempts to address all of those emotions, he continued, in an effort to let young readers know they are not alone with their feelings.
“I wanted to show kids who were angry and kids who were sad, and I wanted to show kids who were just confused,” Nardelli said.
‘I GET REALLY MAD’
For example, one anonymous character in the book is upset with his or her mother for getting sick and not being able to cook and help with homework.
“Sometimes I get really mad because I want macaroni and cheese for dinner, but she doesn’t feel good, so we have to make sandwiches again,” the character says.
“Stand Tall” is intended to validate the emotions that young readers may be feeling, Nardelli noted, but also to remind them they are loved and can draw on the support of their families.
“It’s OK to cry sometimes,” the book tells readers. “But after you cry, you need to rise ... live your life in a way that will make you proud.”
Nardelli was careful not to address any one specific disease or ailment in the book, so it would be of help to any child with a sick parent, regardless of the particular illness.
“I really tried to write the book in a way that was timeless and open,” he said.
To bring his words to life on the pages, Nardelli teamed up with Plattsburgh illustrator and graphic designer Kelly Chilton.
“I really asked him to try to be able to bring out those emotions with the pictures that he drew,” Nardelli said.
The color scheme, he explained, gradually shifts from cold hues at the start of the book to warm hues by the end, as the message becomes more encouraging.
The author also advised the illustrator not to use visuals that would exclude any races or ethnicities. For that reason, many characters in the book have unconventional skin colors, including blue and purple.
“I just couldn’t be happier,” Nardelli said of Chilton’s work.
Also included in “Stand Tall” are resources and suggestions for helping children cope with having a sick parent.
SALES AID GIST
Nardelli recently donated five copies of the book to the CVPH Medical Center’s FitzPatrick Cancer Center, where his father received treatment, as a token of his family’s gratitude for the care the center’s staff provided the elder Nardelli.
The author hopes those copies will help children whose parents are being treated there. He would also like to make “Stand Tall” available at cancer centers across the country.
The goal, Nardelli said, is to get the book in the hands of as many children who could benefit from it as possible.
All proceeds from its sale go to the GIST Cancer Awareness Foundation to fund research and support efforts.
Nardelli, whose other literary works are “We Love the Dove” and “After High School Comes College,” added that he is honored to have had the opportunity to write “Stand Tall” and did so in memory of his father and in honor of his mother, Anna Nardelli, a retired educator who lives in Plattsburgh.
“I found that it was really therapeutic for me,” he said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston:firstname.lastname@example.org