Young readers learn value of collaboration as friends help a skunk find his stink
By ROGER MOONEY
It’s a sad day for a skunk who loses his stink, especially when the skunk is the sheriff, and his stink is his way of keeping the locals in line.
Ah, but that is the plight of Señor Olor.
When Bandido the raccoon is seen robbing the grocery store, the sheriff arrives to save the day.
“Put your paws up, or I’ll spray,” shouts the sheriff.
Bring it on, says Bandido.
The sheriff spins, raises his tail and …
“What’s wrong, Señor? Cat got your stink?” shouts Bandido, as he makes off with his ill-gotten booty.
So begins the tale of Señor Olor, the hero of “The Skunk Who Lost His Stink.”
Published in late-December of 2018, the children’s book aimed at readers pre-K-to-second grade, was coauthored by Jessica Sergiacomi and Jacquelyn Covert, both 32.
Sergiacomi taught first grade at Miami Shores Presbyterian Church School, a K-5 school that accepts Step Up For Students scholarships. (Beginning in August, Sergiacomi will teach third grade at Miami Country Day School in Miami Shores.) She received the Exceptional Teacher Award in February at the Rising Stars Event, hosted by Step Up.
“She’s so creative,” said Emily Ashworth, whose son Wesley is on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum and attends Miami Shores Presbyterian on a Gardiner Scholarship, administered by Step Up.
So is Covert, who attended The Benjamin School in Palm Beach and is now a Realtor living with her family in Charleston, S.C.
The two became friends in 2005 during move-in day of their freshman year at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.
They began writing books together during their junior year and have written close to 15. All are children’s books with a strong message.
“The Skunk Who Lost His Stink” is the first to be self-published.
The idea, Sergiacomi said, came from her dad.
“It was a few years ago, and my dad said, ‘Baby skunks don’t spray.’ I thought, ‘Oh, that would be a cool title, ‘The Skunk Who Lost His Stink,’ and it went from there,” Sergiacomi said.
It took them an hour to write the first draft.
“We cracked up the whole time,” Covert said.
That’s because they mix humor with a storyline of collaboration.
“Having friends who help. Having friends by your side,” Sergiacomi said.
Ivanna the Iguana, Aramis Dillo the armadillo, and Quill the porcupine join Señor Olor as he journeys to meet the wise grey wolf.
They believe wise grey wolf will help the sheriff find his stink.
Spoiler alert: She does.
She suddenly howls and scares the, um, stink out of the sheriff.
That part causes quite the stir when Sergiacomi and Covert read their book to children at schools and libraries.
“We do get a lot of giggles,” Covert said.
The children howl along with the wise grey wolf, and Sergiacomi, dressed in a skunk costume she bought on Amazon, pretends to find her stink.
“This is why (Sergiacomi is) so great,” Ashworth said. “She really gets into the minds of these kids and figures them out. It’s the perfect lower-elementary school level humor, and they think it’s hilarious.”
But there is more to “The Skunk Who Lost His Stink” than some potty humor.
Sergiacomi wants to learn Spanish, so she and Covert sprinkled Spanish words throughout the book.
Señor Olor translates to Mr. Stink.
The Bandido (bandit) robs La Basura (the trash), which is the local grocery store. The characters live in El Pueblo de Animales (The Village of the Animals).
To give their young female readers a strong female character, the coauthors made the wise grey wolf a female.
There is also a social emotional learning (SEL) theme to the book. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning defines social emotional learning as the process where students learn how to manage and understand emotions, act responsibly, maintain positive relationships, achieve goals and display empathy.
Patricia Handly, the former curriculum director at Miami Shores Presbyterian, taught Sergiacomi how to teach social emotional learning.
“It’s really the key,” Sergiacomi said. “It’s a big part of my motivation for teaching. I feel very passionate about SEL, and I incorporate it in my daily lessons. I am the teacher I am today because of (Handly).”
While it took Sergiacomi and Covert an hour to write the story, it took them nearly four years to get it published. The biggest piece was finding an illustrator. They used Richard Kenyon, Sergiacomi’s friend from elementary school.
The two authors are already working on a sequel with an anti-violence theme.
“We’ll find out the raccoon is not so bad at all,” Sergiacomi said. “He’s stealing food to feed his cousins. Everyone has a little good in them. He’s trying to help his friends.”
There is talk of a prequel, a story of how Señor Olor became sheriff. If you pay close attention to the illustrations on the first page of the text, you’ll notice photos hanging on the wall of Señor Olor’s home of the sheriffs in his family. One is a female.
“These are just ideas floating around,” Sergiacomi said.
The coauthors want to continue this series before moving on to some of their other unpublished works.
“It’s a start,” Sergiacomi said. “The goal is to have a whole bunch of these books with social emotional learning themes.”
Roger Mooney, marketing communications manager, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.