Children's book authors visit City Center; raise awareness for a cause
PLYMOUTH — How many children have an imaginary friend who is a pig? Authors Chip Gilbertson and Gina Restivo use a pig to tell the inspiring story of a boy who learns to believe in himself in their first book, “Fly, Danny, Fly.” Behind the sweet narrative and colorful illustrations, however, is a real cause.
A portion of the proceeds from the book will go to the Danny Did Foundation, a non-profit founded by Mike and Mariann Stanton of Chicago after their 4-year-old son Danny died in 2009 from Sudden Unexplained Death in Epilepsy (SUDEP).
“(The book) has personal touches in it that would speak to friends and family of Danny,” said Gilbertson, who explained that the book is not really about Danny Stanton, but a sort of memorial for him.
He pointed out two examples: the boy in the story wears a red shirt with the number 19, one of Danny Stanton’s favorite shirts. Also, a tree in one of the pictures has a carving that reads, “DS is here.”
City Center News and Books in downtown Plymouth will host Gilbertson and Restivo Saturday, July 30 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for a book signing. The authors will do a reading of their book if children are present at the signing.
The two friends were both new to the book publishing business, but had always wanted to write a book together. Having a great cause, said Gilbertson, turned their desire into action.
“(The Danny Did Foundation) kind of gave us the inspiration to complete the project, and take it in the direction we did,” said Gilbertson.
After receiving the Stanton family’s blessing, Gilbertson and Restivo wrote and self-published “Fly, Danny, Fly” which was released in May. Although it is still early in the book’s life, it seems to have the makings of a possible franchise—a song has already been added to the book. Laura Forney, a 19-year-old Columbia College student, wrote a song titled “I Am Me” inspired by the book. Forney sent the song to Gilbertson and Restivo, and the catchy tune, re-recorded professionally, will be included with the book as an online download.
“What we hope to do first of all is continue to help the foundation and support the foundation,” said Gilbertson. “We’ve got other ideas for a series.”
Although both Gilbertson and Restivo are first-time authors, they formed a publishing firm especially for “Fly, Danny, Fly” called Pig Up Station in order to be able to control how the book turned out. During the writing process, said Gilbertson, he would often call Restivo and ask, “Is your pig flying today?” The phrase was eventually shorted to “Pig up!” as an encouragement, and the name for the publishing firm was born. Gilbertson said that while people tend to use the phrase “when pigs fly” to represent an impossibility, their “Pig up” mantra meant the opposite.
Now that the book is out, Gilbertson and Restivo are on tour—doing book signings in Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, and Texas—and in Plymouth, Indiana on July 30.
“It’s been a very grassroots kind of effort—we hope that it continues the momentum it’s been on,” said Gilbertson.
Gilbertson’s connection to Plymouth is his daughter, Grace, who lives in Plymouth but spends summers with her dad in Illinois.
For more information about the Danny Did Foundation, visit www.dannydid.org. For more information about the book, “Fly, Danny, Fly,” visit www.pigupstation.com.