CRYSTAL LAKE – Anita Borgo of Crystal Lake estimates she has taught over 1,500 children in her District 47 teaching career. And with the publication of her new book, “Operation Hopper and Other Tales: Nature, Magic, and the Oakland Acres’ Kids,” a few more will quickly be added to that total number.
Geared toward children ranging in age from second grade to fourth, the delightful collection of 12 short stories combines life lessons with problem solving, as well as subtly combining literacy lessons from author’s voice to onomatopoeia that any teacher would welcome.
Borgo has even provided a separate discussion and activity guide with Common Core standards and reading levels. Each story is a stand-alone, easy-to-read, four-to-nine-page gem, attractive to both girls and boys (refreshingly treated as equals), with themes readily identifiable. And I have to admit I learned quite a few things about ladybugs, chorus frogs, and seine nets while giggling overs idioms such as “sadder than two frogs in a dry mud hole” and visuals such as “mom’s already said no expression.” Best of all, there’s a flair for humor present that children of all ages will appreciate.
Borgo was fortunate in that the magazines she had earlier published her stories in allowed her the copyrights in obtaining them back, but she was stymied by their refusal to allow the accompanying illustrations as well – that is until a certain student’s penchant for doodling and illustrating popped into her mind: Victoria Mankowski.
Her engaging line drawings and illustrations complement and add clarity to each story; there’s a little bit of whimsy and expression captured as well, whether it’s a garter snake, yodeling parrot, or parading family of raccoons. Mankowski and Borgo met when Borgo tutored her in second grade and their friendship has flourished over the years.
Both women graciously acknowledge the support and encouragement of their families in this publication endeavor. Borgo dedicates “Operation Hopper” to her son, Jack, and Mankowski credits her mom’s enthusiasm and critiques, as well as Glacier Ridge art teacher Pat Carbone’s support.
Does Borgo, who has been writing since she was a little girl, have more books in her future? Funny I should ask – another one is already in the planning stages with the same elements of fantasy and backyard settings. The pandemic has given Borgo the time she needed – “time fell in my lap” – for the next book. And she already writes for “older kids,” aka adults, in her blog “A Few Choice Words by Anita” at afewchoicewordsbyanita.com. Suffice it to say, you’ll be hooked; let’s just hope Borgo continues to write a few more choice words for kids of all ages.
WHAT: “Operation Hopper and Other Tales: Nature, Magic, and the Oakland Acres’ Kids” by Anita Borgo
WHERE: Paperback at Amazon, plus separate discussion and activity guide
COST: $5.50 and $7, respectively