“A local author is using his experience as a teacher, and as a father, to craft interactive and customizable books for children. Mike Sposito, of Columbia, recently self-published his second book, Zagg & the Planetary Defenders, geared for ages 9-12. The book features an interactive storyboard design — the words are written, but readers are tasked with creating the illustrations. In the book, Zagg, a pilot who lives on the planet Zorax, must stop the evil Dr. Zenith and his powerful robot dinosaur. The book has blank drawing pages for kids to make their own illustrations, as well as resour-ces to further explore drawing skills and art.”
He materializes before us. He’s holding a bright green backpack and his dirty feet are jammed into a pair of tired flip-flops. A razor has not touched his face in weeks and a sad desperation shrouds his eyes.
“Nope. Sorry my man.”
“There’s rain on the streets.”
We nod without stopping.
“Joe!!” he yells. He accentuates his frustration with a loud stomp on the cold wet street.
“Poor guy, he’s obviously off his meds.”
I nod but move us forward. My time in New York City conditioned a ‘keep-walking’ mentality along vacated streets that is hard to shake.
“Where is everybody?” I ask for third time.
My wife zips her jacket a little tighter and pushes her hat against her ears. She shrugs.
Main street. Buffalo, New York. Ghost-town on a Saturday.
It’s a shame. The city has an old-time sense of beauty. Art-deco buildings thrust into the grey sky and intriguing architecture differentiates one building from the next. The streets are clean and wide and straight. No sirens pierce the air and the closest we come to witnessing road rage is a polite beep met with a short wave of apology. We are alone and it is quiet in a once thriving city.
It isn’t quite the start to our tenth anniversary vacation I had envisioned.
The sounds and smells of the Anchor Bar (home to the original “buffalo wing”) are a welcome respite from our chilly walk from one end of the city to the other. It is the day before Monday Night Football, our beloved Bills hosting that dark winning machine from Massachusetts, and the atmosphere has a buzz to it.
Bills paraphernalia hangs from every inch of the restaurant and waitresses deposit an endless supply of pizza and wings, dressed in jerseys and tee shirts of their favorite players.
We indulge in a beer to quell the fire from our wings, and laugh at a crying child behind us. The dad is new and starts negotiating. The kid is winning and my wife looks at me, “She’s trouble,” she says. I agree. It takes a little effort to stop myself from saying “You’re doing it wrong,” in the smug tone of a veteran parent. Instead we cheers our bottles and take a selfie. There is something deliciously satisfying about vacationing without kids, and watching new parents fail around you.
“I miss the boys,” we say simultaneously.
We spend the morning of gameday at Niagara Falls. I fill my camera with slo-mo video of the falls, trying, and failing, to capture the power and magnificence of this natural wonder. I lean against the railing and watch millions of gallons fall hundreds of feet to the river below as an endless mist rises to the heavens. Raging waters upstream and calm waters downstream, it is a paradox of nature that mirrors the human soul.
I’m glad we stopped.
After a quick nap and a trip to the store for some tailgating essentials, we head to the stadium.
It is hard to encompass the tailgating scene outside New Era Field. Music and sizzling meat from thousands of grills, fills the air. Flags snap in the breeze, and though their red white and blue is injected into the shape of a charging buffalo, and not the stars and stripes, they are undoubtedly American.
Everyone appears happy and no shortage of ‘cheers’ or high-fives exist. Strangers welcome strangers and positive energy vibrates through the gravel of sprawling parking lots.
This is Buffalo.
Standing at our seats, watching the game unfold, shoulder to shoulder with strangers, the stadium roars. This is what is great about being a die-hard fan of a 2-6 team.
Every third down stop, every first down, every catch, every sack says, “Something is about to happen, something magical. This is where we turn it around.” The heart of the team thrums through your chest as people bang on aluminum seats and whoop until their throats are sore.
Opposing fans live on a knife-edge of fear. They do not revel in a win, just relieved they haven’t lost to a lesser opponent. As the game continues they become desperate to crush the soul of the hometown fans. It’s a team they just do not understand. How can you love something that breaks your heart again and again? How can you cheer when your team is down? How can you hold-on when the season is tossed about like a cheap raft on the Niagara river?
Heart and magic.
I can’t think of a better place to celebrate our anniversary.
Owner Spowerks LLC
I watch the ink-black stream arc towards the oil pan. It misses and splashes down onto the garage floor spreading out like a stain of incompetence.
I scramble to move the oil pan over, which is difficult as I am laying on my back under the truck. I can’t turn over, and the only movable part of my body is my right arm. I sweep it between the bottom of the truck and the concrete floor pushing the plastic pan into position with a panicked expletive.
“Are you ok Daddy?”
I look across the floor to a pair of blue and green rubber rain boots.
The three year old. I forgot he was there.
“Yup! Just fixing the truck buddy!”
His cute face hangs upside down as he looks at me.
“Can I help?”
“Umm sure! In a minute we have to clean the garage floor. It’ll be fun!”
The feeling of guilt at duping my son is short lived. After burning myself with hot oil while changing the oil filter, and a sweat inducing feat of balance during funnel-meets-five-quart-container-of-motor-oil, I roll the truck back and set to work cleaning my mess.
Ben is a great worker and it makes him happy. I can’t blame him. There is something to be said for a fall day with grease on your hands and some bonding time in the garage. In fact, he’s done such an adequate job, I don’t even feel the need to tell my wife about our (ok my) mistake.
So, still feeling productive and proud of ourselves, we head to the nearby Harvest Moon Festival in Hebron. My two sons and I zig-zag through a sidewalk filled with little Obi-Wans, astronauts and Paw Patrol characters. A food truck depicts a bull holding a pig in one hand and a chicken in the other, his eyebrows furrow and steam jets from his nostrils. My son laughs, but I am left to wonder, Why is that bull so mad at the other animals? Aren’t they all going to be eaten? Local vendors sell soaps and hand woven garments. A tower of jack-o-lanterns stand as a beacon, and a one-amp guitarist strums folk versions of hard rock.
The streets are lined with painted chairs from local artists.
The atmosphere is strange and magical, exactly the way it should be a week before Halloween.
The boys float along on a sugar high and we visit my wife and her mom selling their Norwex cleaning wares to passersby.
We drive home talking about werewolves and vampires.
“Dad are you scared of werewolves?”
“No. I’m terrified of them.”
“Me too!” he yells in relief.
“Me too,” says the baby as his head lolls to the side of the car seat and he drifts off to sleep.
The next day we stroll through one of those deliciously horrifying seasonal Halloween stores that occupy the vacated bodies of recently failed businesses. Spooky visages stare down at you from lofty perches, and dismembered appendages hold buckets of candy. It is the first time my son wants to be something scary and a part of me feels an intense sadness.
I flashback to a picture of us when he was four; him in a batman costume and me in a Robin costume. We stand, hand on hips, in the kitchen, ready to fight crime together. At the houses, he would get his candy, turn on the steps and jump off with a, “Hup!”, his cape rippling in the wind. He would land in a squat, one hand back, one hand on the ground. It was the classic superhero pose repeated at dozens of houses. At home, giving out candy, he would yell to retreating trick-or-treaters, “Good-bye! Happy Halloween! Thanks for coming to the BatCave!”
We get home and Mike puts on the white mask and looks at himself in the mirror. “Don’t worry Dad, I already have the black clothes and a plastic knife, this is all I need.”
I frown then smile and tousle his hair under his mask as I walk over to the sliding glass door. It looks out over our backyard. My wife’s garden is starting to lose blossoms in the cold weather. The leaves are changing and falling, and the afternoon sunshine ebbs away in that beautiful melancholy gold of late October in New England.
To my right is the kitchen where we took that picture five years ago.
When the bite of a cold, crisp, blue sky stings your cheeks and brings a tear to your eye, you know it is autumn in Connecticut.
Owner Spowerks LLC
The sound of pounding hooves reverberates through the earth.
Two champions race towards each other, each led by the point of a lance.
The horses beneath them charge with muscles rippling and nostrils wide. Their fear replaced with a duty for destruction.
A glint of sun from steel armor pierces through the shade of the tree as we watch, transfixed, by the spectacle before us.
The gap narrows and I throw a quick glance to my wife. My face says, “This is fake right?”, but she is too intent on the scene to respond.
I look back in time to see wood splinter on shield and an eruption of “Huzzah!” to my right.
I hold the turkey leg in my mouth to clap as my sons wave their wooden swords in the air.
This is the joust.
This is the Renaissance Faire.
And if you ever need a break from reality…
We walk across the parking lot that held a Monster Truck Rally mere weeks before. A cheap wooden wall separates the sea of minivans and Jeeps from the reconstructed medieval village. The experience begins immediately after you pay (it’s hard to envision the Dark Ages where ApplePay is present), and a strange intriguing world assaults the senses.
Jesters sell ice cream, blacksmiths pound the anvil and gypsies tell your fortune. My sons immediately want wooden swords and shields and their battles extend the length of the dusty paths crisscrossing the grounds.
Corset mashed bosoms spill at every turn.
I can’t help but be impressed by the dedication of the actors. The day is hot and they stay in character though velvet capes drape from their shoulders and chain-mail hangs from their chests.
Maybe this is why feudalism died. There had to be a knight or lady-in-waiting that was like, “We must cast offeth these sweltering garments from May through early October!” #ladygodivamayhavejustbeenwarm
My son has me hold his wallet. He wants to use his money to buy something good, and he’s squandered many a birthday twenty. There’s certainly a lot to choose from and the merchants are ruthless, especially to easily swayed eight year olds.
We pass by bows and homemade arrows. Horns hang from straps aching for lip and lung to produce their call for battle. Elixirs in ornate glasses catch the sunlight just so, and the smell of grilled meats hangs in the air. I, myself, run a hand over a few leather bound journals with more than a bit of longing. He’s tempted several times, but holds on, waiting for the perfect memento.
“I’ve got just what you’re looking for young sir,” says the man.
The pendant twists in the sun from the end of a long chain. It looks like the tooth of a metal dragon, curved and covered in runes.
Mike approaches the tent, not in the mad rush of a kid with money to burn, but in the measured hypnotic steps of a thief coming face to face with a jewel of legend.
“You see, young sir, this necklace is magic. Open it up and whisper your wish inside. It will keep all of your secrets safe, just don’t let anyone else open it.”
Mike cups his hands and raises them to the dangling bauble. Are his fingers trembling? I can see in his eyes that this is the prize we will leave with.
The price almost wipes out his wallet, but the exchange is made and the merchant disappears with a flourish.
I hold back a scoff as I look over the purchase. I know it will be broken by the end of the week and the plastic “gem” on the top is one little-brother-grab away from disappearing beneath the couch.
Still, I don’t dare open it, lest the magic be true, and Mike seems content as he places it around his neck. He doesn’t say a word.
We throw axes and watch Benny knock a lady off a log with a pillow. “Huzzah!” he yells to the delight of the actors. I pay for Mike to “Smite the Knight!” and take a long boring video of him taking swings with a padded stick. Mike sticks his head in the pillory and Ben pretends to chop his head off. It’s dark, but it makes for a great photo.
We feel the sunburn of late September and money is running low. It’s time to go.
We make it to the car and I’m grumpy. I can’t put my finger on why until I look in the rearview mirror. Mike is holding his necklace and staring at it. He’s transfixed by cheap jewelry and the lies of a cunning salesman. I look back into the mirror and see myself. I look angry. “What do you think these people do in their real jobs?” asks my wife.
When does it happen?
When do the costumes start to look cheap? When do we stop believing the man on the horse is an actual knight, or that dragons exist?
I miss the days of magic and the suspension of my disbelief. Will I ever get it back? Will I ever hear the ring of sword against sword and feel the call to adventure and the unknown?
“Dad, whatever you do, don’t open this. You heard the guy.”
I throw him a wink in the mirror. He clutches it hard to his chest. Ben is almost asleep in the chair next to him. He’s still holding his shield.
A sad smile crosses my face. The magic isn’t gone. It’s simply been passed on.
Owner Spowerks LLC
New Book Encourages Imagination, Storytelling and Art
In the interest of helping kids explore imagination through storytelling and art, local author and educator Mike Sposito presents Zagg & the Planetary Defenders, the second in a series of Spowerks Storyboard books. Prose and poetry combine in this new book designed for kids ages 9-12, who are charged with the task of creating the illustrations themselves.
Zagg & the Planetary Defenders tells the exciting story of a pilot who lives on the planet Zorax, and his quest to stop the evil Dr. Zenith and his powerful robot dinosaur. The book, written under the pen name C.S. Moon, includes instructions for both kids and parents, and suggestions for illustrations on set-aside blank drawing pages, as well as resources to further explore drawing skills and art.
Sposito has worked in education for over a decade. His love for writing, teaching and learning inspired him to start Spowerks Storyboard in 2016. Its first publication, A Horse Named Thunder, was featured at a special Connecticut Farmland Trust event in October 2017 and has been a big hit with kids at local libraries and bookshops ever since.
“My sons love the books,” says Sposito, who is inspired daily by the adventures of his two children. His blog regularly features their adventures and lessons learned, including recent articles about September 11th, comic books, fishing, and nature exploration.
“As a parent and a former teacher, I can tell you how meaningful stories like Zagg and Thunder can be for children,” he explains. “They stay in your imagination long after you’re done reading and inspire you to think creatively about the world around you.”
Spowerks books are active learning tools designed to promote inspiration, creativity, literacy, and reading comprehension. They challenge the young reader to take clues from the text to determine setting, character traits and plot; all essential to creating quality illustrations. It’s an opportunity for kids to interact with text, have fun and be creative at home, in a classroom setting, or in extracurricular groups.
To schedule an activity-based author event or reading please email email@example.com.
Both Zagg & the Planetary Defenders and A Horse Named Thunder may be purchased online from the Spowerks Storyboard website, click here, and from local and online retailers.
Thank you to all who attended my first event. It was a huge success! Thank you to CT Farmland Trust and Mitchell Equine Retirement for making this a special day. Thank you to the families and kids who did a fantastic job! Hope the kids enjoyed it!
Columbia resident Mike Sposito has worked in education for over a decade. His love for teaching and learning is brought to life in his new book, A Horse Named Thunder, hitting bookshelves in October. But this is not your typical book — half of its pages are blank.
Half of the pages in A Horse Named Thunder are blank because this is more than just a storybook. It’s designed to encourage kids to think about what they’re reading then practice their drawing skills on a corresponding blank page. “Kids love to draw and they love good stories,” says Sposito, who writes under the pen name C.S. Moon. “I have written the story and now kids are asked to create the illustrations.”
Inspired by his own son, the book combines his two favorite things: reading with his children and watching imaginations run free. “As a parent and a former teacher, I can tell you how meaningful projects like these can be for children,” he explains.
A Horse Named Thunder is an active learning tool designed to promote literacy and fluency, reading comprehension, focus, and sharing. It challenges the reader to take clues from the text to determine setting, character traits and plot; all essential to creating quality illustrations. It’s an opportunity for kids to interact with text, have fun and be creative at home, in a classroom setting, or in extracurricular groups.
The official launch party for A Horse Named Thunder is scheduled for Saturday, October 14 from 1:00- 3:00 p.m. at Mitchell Farm in Salem, CT and is being hosted by the Connecticut Farmland Trust. The event includes a book reading with author C.S. Moon, a farm tour, and a chance to meet the horses who reside at the Mitchell Farm Equine Retirement sanctuary. The event is free and open to the public.
Connecticut Farmland Trust (www.ctfarmland.org) is a statewide nonprofit organization working to protect farmland from the constant threat of development. Keeping land in farms helps to establish a local, sustainable food system, supports our economy, and contributes to improving the quality of land, air and water. Our goal is to make working lands available to Connecticut farmers for the indefinite future.
Copies of A Horse Named Thunder may be purchased from Lulu, at local booksellers and online wherever books are sold. The book is published by Spowerks Storyboards To schedule a book reading or event, or for more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello! I am looking forward to October 14, 2017 for my launch event at Mitchell Farm Equine Retirement in Salem, CT! This farm will provide the perfect backdrop for my story about a young cart horse named Thunder. There will time to meet the horses, take a tour of beautiful Mitchell Farm, and a book reading by yours truly! It should be an awesome, family-friendly, fall day in Connecticut. Thank you for your support!
Saturday, October 14, 2017
1:00 pm – 3:00 pm
300 East Haddam Road (Route 82)
Salem, CT 06420
Please call (860) 247-0202 x223 or email email@example.com to RSVP. We need a head count for snacks and for books to pass out to children.
Family-Friendly Children’s Book Reading and Launch Party for A Horse Named Thunder
Connecticut Farmland Trust is pleased to offer a book release party for the agriculturally-focused children’s book, “A Horse Named Thunder,” with co-host Mitchell Farm in Salem, CT.
There will be snacks, a chance to pet real horses, and a farm tour. This is great for ages 6-12.
1:00pm – Event start. Meet the horses.
1:30pm – Book reading with author C.S. Moon.
2:00pm – Farm Tour with Dee Doolittle.
Parents and kids will get to meet and pet horses with the farm’s director, Dee Doolittle, as she explains the history of her farm and talks about the lives of the horses. How better to enjoy a fall day with the kids?
During the book reading, C.S. Moon (a Vice-Principal in Enfield) will start by introducing the concept of the book with the kids, activate some prior knowledge and talk to them about creating “mind movies” to get their imaginations pumping and, in the end, pass out the books and set them to work drawing some pictures.
Mitchell Farm Equine Retirement is a sanctuary that promotes a safe and dignified life for all equines. They care for and provide a comfortable retirement alternative for aged and infirm horses to live out their lives and to offer educational opportunities on equine welfare. The non-profit organization was founded 2004 by Dee Doolittle.
Mitchell Farm has been a protected farm since 2009, when Connecticut Farmland Trust collaborated with The Nature Conservancy to purchase an easement on 206 acres of the Marvel and Mitchell Farms. Today, the farm has ample fun and learning events all year round.
Connecticut Farmland Trust is a statewide not for profit organization working to protect farmland from the constant threat of development. Keeping land in agriculture helps to establish a local, sustainable food system, supports our economy, and contributes to improving the quality of land, air and water. Our goal is to make working lands available to Connecticut farmers for the indefinite future.
Since 2002, Connecticut Farmland Trust has partnered with organizations throughout the state to procure agricultural easements on 42 farms. So far, we’ve ensured that over 3,300 acres of farmland will remain farmland forever, and we’re constantly working to save more. For more information about CFT, visit www.ctfarmland.org.