A former Chautauqua County resident has published her illustrations as part of a new children’s book.
Cheryl Bielli illustrated “The boy who never threw anything away” which made its national debut on September 6th. Bielli grew up in Erie and went to school there. From the age of 12 she spent her summers in Point Chautauqua. She also lived in Fredonia and worked for the Dunkirk OBSERVER from 1986 to 1988. She also bikes in Chautauqua and spent several summers at the Chautauqua Institution. Bielli currently resides in the Adirondacks region.
The book, “The boy who never threw anything away” by Margie Peterson, focuses on Tommy, a young boy who becomes emotionally attached to everything in his room and never throws anything away. This causes everything to pile up in his room and Tommy experiences many misadventures until no living creature other than bugs can get into his room. This eventually leads to his parents convincing him to recycle and donate all of his items, which then leads to Tommy finally cleaning his room.
For Bielli, illustration and children’s books have always been a part of her life, so illustrating a book was something she always wanted to do.
“I have three kids who are all grown now, but we used to go to the library when they were little and got a ridiculous amount of books.” said Belle.
“I always picked some because I liked the illustrations and the children’s books in general. So illustrating one has always been on my wish list.”
Bielli said she wrote her own books as a child and sometimes made and illustrated some for friends as an adult. Bielli was previously a teacher until she left that job in 2020 during the pandemic, and the opportunity to illustrate this book arose in the fall.
“I felt like I wasn’t being efficient as a teacher.” said Belle. “So in the fall I got a call from the author and it seemed like perfect timing.”
The book will be published by Crave Press, a start-up publisher, said Bielli, who also happens to be in the same area — Berks County, Pa. – according to the book’s author, Margie Peterson. Peterson was writing freelance for Crave Press at the time and sent the idea for the book to the publisher, who then accepted it. Peterson and Bielli were friends for a while and she approached Bielli to ask if she could illustrate it.
Bielli agreed to illustrate, saying that she thought many people could relate to the book.
“I think it’s very understandable for people.” said Belle. “In every house there is a hoarder. I’ve done things like that. My kids did stuff like that.”
In her illustrations, Bielli added elements that stood out to her and that she thought others would notice. Two examples are a headless superhero toy and a chicken that would now be a vintage toy coming out around Easter that the main character, Tommy, kept well past Easter. The chicken appears in every illustration but one.
At the end of the book, Bielli also added a Hidden Image page on the penultimate page and a Discussion Questions page on the last page, asking questions about things in history as well as art. Bielli said parents are often interested and can also find items on the hidden picture page.
“During some readings I’ve done, the parents and grandparents bring their kids in and the kids can find one group of objects and the parents and grandparents another group.” said Belle. “It’s usually the same group every time. It’s a universal thing, which is super interesting.”
Since the release of “The boy who never threw anything away” Bielli has been approached by many people, via social media or otherwise, with requests for copies or ideas for her own children’s book. Currently in the works with Bielli “Henry wasn’t listening” and “Norton, Newton and the Nose Fairy”. Peterson is also considering writing another book about Tommy’s younger brother.
Bielli said she had a lot of fun working with Peterson on this project and was very easy to work with.
“I had fun,” said Belle. “I learned a lot about my own work ethic. (Peterson) was a great cheerleader and supporter. Her vision was very clear and I had a lot of freedom. Overall it was great working with her. I’ve illustrated and worked for newspapers for a long time, but I’ve never done anything like this before.”
Bielli also makes semi-annual trips to the area and hopes to return in May to do some potential readings at the Chautauqua Institution.
“The boy who never threw anything away” is available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indie Books and other bookstores.