Friday, March 8, 2013
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Last Updated on Tuesday, March 05, 2013 02:49 amWRITTEN BY STEVE PRISAMENTTuesday, March 05, 2013 12:00 am
GALLOWAY – Probably the hardest part of writing children’s stories for Mrs. D – Olga D’Agostino – is making her characters’ lives as interesting as her own.
“I was born in West Ukraine in 1959,” she said. “I grew up on a farm in a village nestled in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains. As a child, I was surrounded by nature and the real world - without TV and toys. I learned to read by the age of four, and books then became a huge part of my life.”
Growing up during the post–World War II recovery she ran after the truck delivering bread; ice cream trucks did not exist in her part of the world.
She shared these times with more than a dozen readers at the Galloway branch of the Atlantic County Library Saturday, Feb. 23.
“To escape the harsh reality of everyday hard farm labor, I created my own imaginary world populated with characters from books,” D’Agostino said. “Once you enter the world of books, you can be everywhere and everyone; you just have to imagine it.”
She learned early the importance of getting a good education.
“Everything else can be taken away from you, but education will stay with you forever,” D’Agostino said. “It is your investment for life. I studied hard, and at age of 16 I finished high school near the top of my class and entered business college.”
According to her husband, Patrick D’Agostino, she became a nutritionist and then a factory manager where she was feeding 3,000 people a day.
“The Soviet Union was breaking up in 1992,” he said. “The ruble was over 100 times devalued. She wanted to get to America – and finally did through Catholic Charities – with the coats on their backs and a couple of hundred dollars each.”
She came to this country with two small daughters.
“Not knowing the English language and not having children’s books to read, I created my own stories,” Olga D’Agostino said. “At bedtime, I told those stories to my children. Unfortunately, we did not write them down, and they disappeared from our memories.”
Five years later she met her future husband, Patrick.
“We met in ’97 at a benefit for Ukrainian doctors coming in,” Patrick D’Agostino said.
“She was the interpreter. She speaks four languages fluently.”
D’Agostino owned Bagel Gourmet in Smithville from 1989 to 2006.
“I speak a few languages fluently, but was always terrified to write in English,” Olga D’Agostino said. “However, I love to write, so last year I decided to learn how to write in English. I decided not to take any courses or go back to school. I did it fast, like a surgeon - painful but curing.”
Her two-finger typing on her daughter’s old computer was corrected by her husband and daughters.
With a lot of encouragement from her husband, D’Agostino finally was able to write well in English.
Carlo the Mouse fell unexpectedly into Olga D’Agostino’s lap.
“To be accurate, it fell into the trunk of our car,” D’Agostino said. “It was a sunny day when my husband and I visited my father in a Florida hospital. Leaving the hospital, my husband pulled his car in front of the entrance and started packing our belongings in the trunk. While I waited, I stood on the sidewalk and, shading my eyes with my palm, looked out at the coast, which was bathed in brilliant light.”
Suddenly, a little mouse slid down the canopy that covered the hospital entrance and fell inside their trunk.
“Stunned, I closed my mouth with my hand,” D’Agostino said. “My husband looked at me in disbelief. Before we knew it, the unwelcome guest had disappeared between our luggage. Laughing, I could hardly believe my good luck. A story about a hospital mouse was unfolding in front of my eyes.”
They tried to scare the little intruder out by making noise and moving the luggage, but the sneaky mouse disappeared without a trace.
“Upset, Mr. D, who is highly allergic to any hairy creature, opened all the car doors and unpacked the trunk,” D’Agostino said. “Watching him, I saw an opportunity for a story.”
The story of the hospital mouse that decided to go on vacation became “Carlo the Mouse On Vacation.”
“With no other choice, we drove back to New Jersey with the mouse in our trunk,” D’Agostino said. “Watching my husband traveling for 18 hours with a mouse inside our car is another story. Someday I will make a comic book about a shrewd mouse and the annoyed Mr. D.”
Her husband jumped at the slightest noise.
“Besides being allergic to animal hair, my husband was also apparently scared of mice,” D’Agostino said. “Sneezing nonstop, he finally made it home. As he parked in the garage, he opened the trunk and left our car and its hidden occupant to the cat.”
The next day, Olga D’Agostino found Carlo sitting on the edge of the car trunk staring at their cat, Nyda, who was lying on top of the car.
“They appeared to be having a pleasant conversation,” D’Agostino said. “I quietly walked away.”
And began the process of giving birth to the Carlo the Mouse 10-book series.
“After I published ‘Carlo the Mouse on Vacation,’ some readers wanted to know what type of life Carlo lived in the hospital before he fell into our trunk,” D’Agostino said.
That led to six more Carlo books – a series still growing.
Three new Carlo the Mouse books will be released soon: “Too Many Rules for One Little Mouse,” “Now We're Talking!” and “What's Going On?”
Also coming soon are “Who Is Most Important in the Fridge?” - three fun rhyming stories, and “The Mysterious Life Inside a Closet.”
D’Agostino loves reading, writing, gardening, and traveling. Her children’s books are available in print on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and as e-books for most popular devices.
The D’Agostinos live in the Smithville section of Galloway with Nyda the cat. For updates on Mrs. D.’s books, see her websites, www.mrsdbooks.net or www.mrsdbooks.com.