CLIFFSIDE PARK, NJ — Cliffside Park sixth grade teacher Michael Ryan helped three former students self-publish a book on a fictional family dealing with PTSD.
“We wanted to write something to honor these veterans. Mental issues are still not seen as real issues,” said author Angela Kohout, who wrote the fictional novel with fellow 12-year-old Madeline Murillo and 10-year-old Elizabeth Sagi.
It originally started as a classroom assignment. After Memorial Day, the trio changed their focus from bullying to PTSD. Once the project developed, Ryan and others saw its potential. He sought help from veterans with the American Legion Post 126, faculty, and others like Tony Frato, a Cliffside Park resident self-published author.
“Angela - her descriptive language was really impressive. Elizabeth creates characters that you can really fall in love with and connect to, and Maddie has a way of linking it all together,” said Ryan. The three often worked simultaneously in Google Docs. They conducted their own research, spent two days in the summer taking pictures for the book, and worked on revising the text.
"The most challenging part was correcting all of the errors," stated Elizabeth Sagi in an email. "But the hard work paid off," she stated.
They were inspired by a relative’s friend who had similar experiences but they wanted to bring forward a story of hope.
"Math and science are so structured, but (Ryan) took them out of the classroom. I saw the joy and excitement in his eyes. They got it done because of him," said Frato.
Local Korean War veteran Richard Allen of the Cliffside Park American Legion Post 126 loaned the group his Purple Heart so they could photograph it.
“They not only have to deal with everything during their time serving, but they have to deal with the scars after they serve,” Ryan said.
“When I gave my dad - a Vietnam veteran - a copy, he smiled at me and he read it again,” said Ryan.
The book went live on Amazon.com on Oct. 16. They sold 150 copies for $11.99 each, and ordered another 100 more. All proceeds go toward Cliffside Park Elementary School No. 3.
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