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Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Guest Post: Marie Unanue, author of The Adventures of Phatty & Payaso

The Adventures of Phatty & Payaso: Central Park 
By Marie Unanue 
August 24, 2018 

Phatty the cat loves nothing more than spending his days balanced atop his favorite chair gazing out his windows at Central Park below. Everything is simply fan-tabby-lous until one day when the meanest hawk in the park lands on his terrace and makes a terrifying announcement that he is coming for Phatty and his furry little friends. When Phatty decides he is tired of being a scaredy-cat, he jumps into a laundry bag and escapes to Central Park to stop Crawler the bully hawk once and for all. But his unplanned operation goes horribly wrong when he finds himself alone and lost in the park. When his best friend, Payaso, realizes his partner in crime is missing, he teams up with several animals to find Phatty. As the band of furry pals set out on a hilarious journey, they quickly realize that if they put aside their differences and work together, it might just be enough to save a lovable undercat—and each other. In this animal adventure novel, a cat on a mission to stop a bully hawk must face his fears all alone in a scary park while a group of unlikely friends attempts to rescue him. 

Writing Minorities as Majorities 
By Marie Unanue 
For too long writers have stopped short of challenging boundaries set by society about who the hero or heroine could be in our fairytales and children’s stories. In fact, up until the box office smash “Frozen,” I can’t think of many popular stories where two women saved the day. Can you? I can’t help but think that part of the reason why “Frozen” was an incredible success is because it depicts two young ladies conquering their fears and insecurities without a man coming to the rescue. It wasn’t about a man saving the day--in the end, it was two young ladies being there for each other. It’s 2018, and it’s high time we need to start shaking up the narrative this way! We need more women heroes, more Hispanic heroes, more African-American heroes and more heroes that reject stereotyping, sexism and racism. 

I never imagined, even when writing my story, what the day would feel like when I would read my story to kids. I always knew that I wanted the story to teach lessons, offer examples of kindness and empathy, teach kids the positive results of strong and positive character skills, and provide kids a new narrative on bullying. I worked hard to ensure my characters—although most were animals—had diversity. In “The Adventures of Phatty and Payaso:Central Park” we have a young boy that has special needs, we have a Cuban cat, an overweight cat, and a physically deformed bully. It felt important to me that all the characters have strengths and weaknesses, but what felt even more important was having diverse characters as the role models and leaders.  

In hindsight, had I realized while writing the book the emotion and joy it would bring me to read and share this book with kids, I would have pushed myself harder to get the book published more quickly! Kids are in desperate need of examples of kindness, character, and diversity. Kids, now more than ever, need role models that they can relate to, look up to, and aspire to be. And I am not talking about role models like Superman and Batman, or Wonder Woman, that have superpowers and weapons, I am talking about role models that they can emulate every day in the classroom. Role models that teach forgiveness, empathy, kindness, diversity and the power of friendship in real life settings. 

As a new author, I just experienced my first classroom visit. This fantastic opportunity was set up by an incredible organization called Horizons. Horizons believes that all children—regardless of income—should have the chance to realize their potential. Horizons programs help make that happen. All across the country, children from low-income families are discovering the joy of learning, skills for success, and inspiration to achieve their dreams. When I arrived at the school in Newark, NJ, I was so nervous. I was about to embark on so many “firsts” as a newly published author. This was going to be the first time I read my book out loud to anyone, my first time speaking to kids in a classroom, my first time talking about the importance of character and kindness with children, and my first time opening up about my writing experience and inspiration. It was as overwhelming as it was exciting. I was shaking like a leaf! Never did I imagine how moving and incredible this experience would be. 

I opened up by asking the kids if they had ever had a new experience that scared them. Several kids raised their hands. I then asked them to share them with me...and so it began. Kids around the room started talking about their fears and their successes. Before long the classroom was abuzz with different tales of character skills from kindness to bravery to gratitude. Reading them the story was only part of the joy I felt, hearing them ask questions, hearing them discuss which character they identified with made me realize I did something so important. I wrote a book that not only gave the kids great life examples of kindness and friendship, but I also offered them a story so diverse that kids around the room had multiple characters to identify with. Kids don’t all fit into the same round hole. Kids need diversity and ways to understand that being different doesn’t make you any less, and that being unique is valuable. 

Kids grow up watching movies filled with attractive, perfect people saving the day. Now more than ever I urge writers to push the limit with their characters, because when push comes to shove, there is no reason on earth why the skinny, freckly face, shy, boy or girl, of any race, that is huddled in the corner can’t be the character to storm the castle, slay the dragon and save the day.  

Marie Unanue is the new author of the children’s book series, “The Adventures of Phatty & Payaso.” Marie has always been an avid reader and an activist for children who are bullied. As a kindness advocate, she hopes to inspire children across the world to remember to always treat each other with kindness and compassion. The former anchor of “Travels with Marie,” a weekly travel review program, Marie Unanue is also the former vice president of sales and marketing of and former owner of Beyond Compare Events, an event planning, marketing and public relations firm. Marie is involved in many charitable endeavors including sitting on the board of the C&J Unanue Foundation, and the New York City’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade Foundation. Marie resides with her husband Andy and their animals in NYC and Mantoloking, NJ. Visit her at 

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