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Hewlett High School alums combine to write ‘The Way It Used to Be’

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Two Hewlett High School graduates decided to try to spread joy amid the turbulent times of the coronavirus pandemic, teaming up to write and illustrate a book that aims to help children understand the health crisis.

Class of 2014 alumna Elissa Candiotti is the author of the book “The Way It Used To Be” that was released on May 25. Longtime friend and class of 2008 grad Amanda Mas Dorin illustrated the book. The two grew up on the same Hewlett street and have known each other for more than 20 years.

The story is narrated by a family that looks to find hope amid the crisis. Proceeds from “The Way It Used To Be” will be donated to Direct Relief to help support health care workers on the front lines.

“Amanda and I both have so many family and friends who have little kids struggling to understand how difficult this time really is,” Candiotti said. “We thought of this as a two-fold mission, helping families cope with and understand the trying times that we’re going through. The second part is raising funds for the heroes on the front lines who are helping us tirelessly everyday.”

She said that roughly $800 has been raised from the book’s proceeds, as of press time.

A younger relative inspired Mas Dorin’s artwork. “When Elissa told me about the book, my inspiration for the character and the book was my nephew,” she said. “The character on the cover looks just like him. He was so scared at first that he didn’t even want to leave his house.” 

Candiotti has received feedback on the book from her home community and readers in other states. “We thought this book could be such a wonderful thing for everyone as we have people across the country buying it,” she said. “We have received texts, emails and phone calls from a lot of different people that said the book is helping them find a sense of comfort that their families have been struggling to find.”

Blair Roberts is one of the non-Five Towns residents who purchased the book. The Norwalk, Conn. resident said it is a great read not for just children, but also adults. 

“This book is going to be super important when we are some day allowed to return to the classroom,” she said. “It discusses coping mechanisms and is designed to help kids understand the changes in our world due to the pandemic.”

No matter how many people purchase the book, Mas Dorin already considers the books one of her favorite projects. 

“Out of all the projects that I’ve ever worked on, this is the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done and it could make me tear up thinking about the difference we’re making,” she said. “For the kids especially, they’re innocent and confused. This book helps the parents who needed that little push to help explain the situation to their children.”

The book can be purchased on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2z3w6q8. Candiotti added that a drive-by book signing will be held in Hewlett sometime in June.