When longtime Brooklynite Jerry Del Priore composed his first article for the Canarsie Courier in 1995 – a health and fitness piece he volunteered to write while working at an outpatient substance abuse clinic in the neighborhood – he had no idea he had embarked upon his very own literary journey. Several years later, in 2000, he wrote his first sports story for the paper, and also covered local high school and college football, basketball, lacrosse, softball, baseball, ice and field hockey, and professional wrestling for a decade before starting his own sports, health and fitness blog: NYNJSportsWorld.com.
His first book, Running Through Roadblocks: Inspirational Stories of Twenty Courageous Athletic Warriors, was published in 2008, but Cha-Cha Chicken Sneeze is Del Priore’s very first foray into children’s literature. Available on Amazon in print and digital versions, this adorable story features a playful dance-crazed chicken named Cha-Cha, who learns proper sneezing etiquette during a very pleasant doctor’s visit.
“I would watch several kids sneezing and coughing without covering up when I rode the subway. I thought that they, and others around them, especially while in school, would benefit from the info. But I would have my message come across in a cute way. Thus, Cha-Cha the dance-crazed chicken, was born,” explained Del Priore, who now resides in New Jersey, of the inspiration behind his story. Illustrated by the talented Samantha Jo Balboni, Cha-Cha Chicken Sneeze is a complete visual delight for children, geared especially to those aged 2-8, who most definitely do judge a book by its cover and the pictures within.
Three-year-old reader, Gina, described the book as “so funny” amid giggles, repeating Cha-Cha Chicken three times fast and especially liked that all the characters were chickens because what kid doesn’t love clucking? She also marveled at all the fun facts she learned about sneezes. From a parent’s perspective, teaching little ones about germs in a way that they can understand can sometimes be challenging and reading a book like this can be a great way to start a discussion.
The author’s overall message to kids is two-fold: be sure to wash your hands often and sneeze into your elbow so you don’t spread germs, and never be afraid of the doctor because their job is to help you feel better. Though we know these things as adults, it never hurts for us to do either of them.