‘Abby’s Tails: The Quest Begins’

Local author pens children's book inspired by a girl's special connection to animals

COURTNEY HAYDEN/Sun-Gazette Michael Anthony Cillo, of Montoursville, recently published his book, “Abby’s Tails: The Quest Begins,” the first of a five-part series.

“https://s3.amazonaws.com/ogden_images/www.sungazette.com/images/2018/02/01115158/04cillo2-333×500.jpg” alt=”04cillo2″ width=”333″ height=”500″ class=”alignnone size-medium wp-image-743579″ />Michael “Mike” Anthony Cillo, of Montoursville, is a teacher and an author. He has been teaching physical education for 37 years and is currently working with elementary education.

Cillo recently has published a book called “Abby’s Tails: The Quest Begins,” that is inspired by his real-life relationship with Abby, a girl with autism, but this is not his first book. He also has published a science-fiction book, “The Sound of Fear,” and has been working on a sequel.

Cillo’s current passion, though, lies in children’s novels. “Abby’s Tails: The Quest Begins” is the first part of a five-book series, and each will have two stories inside that describe the adventures of Abby. Abby has a unique ability to connect with animals and nature, which allows readers a glimpse into her fantastic world.

This book series is illustrated by Amanda M. Emig, a graphic designer at the James V. Brown Library, 19 E. Fourth St., and owner of Wistart Studio, 2693 Wistar Road.

Abby was inspired by one of Cillo’s close friends, Dean Stroop, who passed away in 2014 from brain cancer, whose daughter also is named Abby.

Abby had “fascinated me with her command with animals. She would know the neighbors houses not by the people but by their dogs. ‘I’m going over to Copper’s house or ChiChi’s house,’ and they would let her walk the dogs,” Cillo said.

Abby has high-functioning autism, but she is “very knowledgeable about anything with the computer and finding things out about animals,” Cillo said.

Her parents and grandmother, Gaga, “treat her like all special needs folks should be treated; brought into a world that we give expectations and we help them when we can,” said Cillo. “Her expectations are wonderful and it’s made her quite more independent.”

Abby is a 10th grader now, but Cillo and her started collaborating four years ago.

Cillo would sit down and talk with Abby while Stroop was battling cancer as a way to pick her up. In an interview between the two, Abby would talk about the things she liked, such as horses, or the people and animals in her life. “The animal characters … some of the names are of folks who were real to life, so it was easy to write about their mannerisms in the first book,” said Cillo. “I kept her in the process, even in the sketches, letting her see it and she was thrilled!”

“Abby’s Tails: The Quest Begins” contains two stories inside — “The Story of the Cricketts and Critters” and “The Story of Quincy’s Surprise Birthday Party.”

“Abby is an adventurer with Queen Owl Whistleby, but she is a problem-solver, too,” said Cillo. “They are problem-solving, bringing people together and they get a pretty good ending and have a party at the end of that story.”

In the book, Abby “is a delight to every animal, so knowledgeable in the animal world and the animals trust her,” said Cillo. “Within the book, I want to make it that she is a hero, and the animals are heroes, too.”

Abby bonds with her sister and “invites Maggie into the story and the magic, into this whimsical world to communicate with animals,” Cillo said.

In the future, Abby will be having more adventures, from diving into the sea to interact with new, underwater friends, treasure-hunting for sea glass and finding a secret wooded area where sequoias are growing.

“Abby’s Tails: The Quest Begins” is being adapted into a screenplay format that can be used for a stage play for teachers or directors. It will be adapted for special needs, and feature characters will be the animal characters, Abby and Gaga. This will be available in the next few months. One of Cillo’s sons, Garrett, who works at the New York Film Academy and is a filmmaker and a member of the band, Them Fangs, is assisting him in this process.

“Abby’s Tails: The Quest Begins” also is Accelerated Reader-established and is perfect for readers in grade 2 up to grade 7 or 8.

Growing up, Cillo had an adventurous childhood between climbing pine trees, camping with his brothers, mom and dad and being involved in athletics. Cillo’s roots have made him who he is today.

Debbie, his wife, and Cillo have been married for 37 years, and their children are now adults, but they “go on adventures all over. Some of the future books will be about what we do, where we go and we will take Abby along with the characters,” Cillo said.

Throughout Cillo’s writing career, he has pulled from his own adventures, inspiring some aspects of “Abby’s Tails.”

As a teacher, Cillo wanted to integrate his students into the writing process. “I like to take a paragraph and let one of my classes help,” said Cillo. “They will develop a paragraph that I’ll use in one of my next stories.”

“For me, this isn’t about money, never was,” said Cillo. “But if it does generate, I want to be able to give. My wife and I have what we would want but we want to give more.”

Cillo will have 12 or more book signings. He recently was at the Muncy Public Library, 108 S. Main St., Muncy. In the future he will be at the James V. Brown library, 19 E. Fourth St., and the Konkle Memorial Library, 384 Broad St., Montoursville. For more information about upcoming events visit http://www.abbystails.com/.

For more information or to buy “Abby’s Tails: The Quest Begins” visit http://bookstore.dorrancepublishing.com/abbys-tails/.