They hung on to every word she read. Excitedly they crowded around 16-year-old Kayla Ham, who leisurely read the new book, “JR and the New York Pizza” to a group of elementary school children after school in Freeport.
“This is a good story,” said eight-year-old Katerina Rivera from Westbury as she pointed at the pictures on the page Ham was reading.
Though the book has been out close to a year, Freeport author, ML Green is excited to finally get to share her book with Long Island. Originally from Rainbow City, Panama, a community near the Panama Canal, Green immigrated to the United States with her parents as a teenager. She graduated from Hampton University in Hampton, Va. with a degree in sociology and minor in psychology. She has lived in Freeport for 30 years.
Green is proud of her Central American roots and though Freeport is home, she still reminisces affectionately of her family and friends in Panama. Though it is unknown if Green is one of the first Latina-American writers to come out of Freeport, she hopes through her new book she will be able to bring families together, especially parents and their children for story time at bedtime.
“It’s been a long process to get here, but I am excited,” Green said.
Green wrote the first excerpts of the book the summer of 2001 while on a road trip to the west coast with her husband and son.
“We were at a diner in Nebraska,” she shared. “At that point, we had read all of the books we brought with us and with no new story to read to my son on the drive or a bookstore insight, I started scribbling a story in my notepad.”
After jotting down a quick story, about a raccoon whose family stumbles upon a New York City pizza box in a trash can and the adventure the raccoon would encounter trying to get his taste buds on another slice of pizza, she was ready to tell her son the impromptu story.
“He loved it and over the last 10-15 years, he asked me about it randomly,” she said. “I kept the notebook, but the story just sat at home.”
After the road trip, Green went back to work as a field parole officer with the New York State Division of Parole. Devoted to her family and her work, Green didn’t revisit the story until last year after retiring. In efforts to keep busy, she picked up the notebook with the early drafts of the story and wrote a children’s story about acceptance, generosity and love through the eyes of a raccoon.
Her goal, she says, is to foster more reading with children and their parents. When asked if she would consider getting the book translated into other languages, she said it was a possibility.
“I really want children to read. I wrote a story about friendship,” Green said. “In the story, there is a raccoon, an eagle and a cow that are friends. They’re different characters that mirror how life is.”
Green will be doing a reading on Oct. 23 in Bayshore.