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Shorewood resident turns family memories into an engaging children's book

Shorewood resident fictionalizes life in an Italian village during World War II

SHOREWOOD – Throughout her married life, Ann Rubino of Shorewood heard stories about life in Italy during World War II.

These were mainly reminiscences of her husband’s grandparents, aunts and uncles. Some were from her husband, who was 12 years old when he left Italy in 1948.

About five years ago, Rubino, who said she once worked as a consultant for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, began writing those stories down. She wanted their children and grandchildren to remember “Grandpa’s stories.”

Realizing these stories were of interest to other people, Rubino decided to publish them.

Her book, “Peppino, Good As Bread,” although fiction, is a compilation of those personal accounts woven into one young boy’s story. Rubino said she enjoyed pulling those memories out of her husband, Paul, and arranging them into one story.

Rubino will discuss and sign copies of her book April 26 at the American Italian Cultural Society in Crest Hill.

During her teaching career and while on the board of Science and Children Magazine, Rubino said she wrote a lot of nonfiction and book reviews. Fiction seemed the next logical step.

“It kind of just evolved,” Rubino said of her writing.

Rubino also said she and Paul learned a lot about each other during that time. His retelling of memories tended to stir others, she said. He shared one story of scavenging discarded cigarettes as a kid to resell the tobacco.

“Just one of the harsh realities of a wartime economy,” Rubino said.

Rubino geared the book to middle school readers, her favorite group to teach. She finds children at that age eager to learn. Her background as an educator provided her with insight into the interests of children and how they learn.

Overall, Rubino believed that age group knew very little about World War II. During her research to ensure dates and times were correct, Rubino said she also discovered that, although there is a lot of information about World War II, not much has been written about the lives of regular people.

“People who were profoundly affected,” Rubino said, adding that her book is “not just stories, but a teaching tool, as well.”

Working some of the stories through the main character’s point of view was challenging, Rubino said, since he could not have witnessed certain events. So Rubino arranged the story so that the character either overhears conversations about what has happened, or someone explains what’s going on to him.

New York artist Robert Cimbalo illustrated Rubino’s book. Cimbalo also spent part of his childhood in Italy during that era and translated his own recollections into his drawings, Rubino said.

Despite the research, Rubino still is learning. For instance, publishing the book has been an education all its own.

One surprise is that the print version of “Peppino, Good As Bread,” has sold more than its digital counterpart. Rubino now understands something about certain readers.

“People still like to hold that paper copy,” Rubino said.

Rubino also now understands why traditional publishers keep a large potion of a book’s selling price. Paper and printing costs, editors, illustrators, publicity and shipping are all costly. That’s all before addressing marketing.

“Publicity is a ton of work,” Rubino said.

Holding a book signing for “Peppino, Good As Bread,” at the American Italian Cultural Society brings Rubino’s interests full circle. Rubino is also co-founder of the society’s book club.

Originally formed to read books on the American-Italian experience, the club has since moved to a more eclectic mixture of books. Open to members of the society, their nine members meet once a month at a local restaurant.

Rubino said her family is proud of her accomplishments, even though delving into fiction-writing is new for her.

“They are a little surprised by grandma’s new project,” Rubino said.

Rubino is not stopping with one book. Her second, “Emmet’s Storm,” set in Northern Iowa during the blizzard of 1888, is due out shortly.



WHAT: Presentation on “Peppino, Good As Bread

WHEN: 4 p.m. April 26

WHERE: American Italian Cultural Society, 1918 Donmaur Drive, Crest Hill

ETC: Author Ann Rubino will discuss the back story of her book and sign copies.

CALL: 815-725-7450

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