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North Castle Daily News

Byram Hills Grad Writes/Illustrates Children’s Book

January 22, 2015
Former first grade teacher Abby Rao Hanlon knows what goes on in kids’ heads. Her easy chapter book, Dory Fantasmagory, about a rascal six year old named Dory, who desperately wants to be included in her older siblings’ fun, hits such a universal theme that it is being translated in seven languages. Dory is full of spirit and wonder, which fuel a wildly funny imagination. Just published by Penguin/Dial for 6 to 8 year olds, the book (with 149 drawings) is receiving high praise across the children’s publishing field, the popular press and the blogosphere.

Publisher’s Weekly named Dory Fantasmagory one of the 10 best children’s books of the year saying, “Reality and fantasy combine hilariously… time spent with Dory is time well spent.”  Kirkus Reviews agrees: “This inventive child is irresistible and her voice, convincing…  Dory and her make-believe friends are wonderfully, gloriously WEIRD.” And School Library Journal applauds: “Hilarious adventures…  a successful transitional book for new readers ready for longer stories.”

Dory was preceded on the publishing scene by Ralph, Hanlon’s debut children’s book Ralph Tells A Story, published in 2012. It captures a first grader’s agony in finding a topic to write about.   

Hanlon, a 2004 BHHS graduate, who grew up the youngest of three in Armonk, has a Bachelor of Arts from Barnard College and a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from The City College of New York, where she was a New York City Teaching Fellow. She now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and children.

Dogs in armonk
Bismarck, photo courtesy Louise T. Gantress.
An Ice Tail
By Louise T. Gantress

Per usual I was running late getting home from work.  My son needed (his choice of word) to go into New York City to visit friends.  He had to catch the 5:40 train, which meant I had to drive him to the station.  The dog needed to go out.  Son hadn’t figured out that one.  First things first: attend to dog.
A recent storm left ice that was smooth and slick on the hills that pretend to be our backyard. Being winter, it was already dark.  
Dog was in no hurry to fulfill his obligation.  He sniffed the night air, he ventured forth, albeit gingerly.  I tried to encourage him with the “hurry, hurry” phrase that the trained suggested.  Obviously, our pet’s command of English was lacking.  He’s a hound, you know, a little one, a mini in fact, but a hound nevertheless.  
Dog finally assumed the position and prepared to oblige when—like a cartoon character—he slid down the hill.  I laughed.  I called him.  He struggled to climb, but could get no purchase.
I stopped laughing.  This was serious.  He slid farther and disappeared behind a fir tree.  I saw him search out another route, but the ice was too smooth, too hard for him to obtain a grip.  He slipped from the path and fell down steep slopes into the deep woods behind our house.  The dog was lost, without a sound.
I heard my son call; could we leave now?

He had waited all day for her to return, and not just to “go out” either.  There was also dinner.  And yes, he could play with her and be petted and cuddle on the sofa while she read or watched TV.
Go out! Yes, the night air was cold, frigid in fact for his short hair coat, but there were scents in it he had to investigate. Why didn’t she understand that?  He was a hound, and the hound in him rejoiced to be out.  He must explore!  He picked his way across the level snow and ice towards the extreme edge, where the hill fell off sharply.  This was his favorite spot. What is she saying?
Just about to obey the command when he falls down the hill.  His nails do not give him purchase into the ice; the ice is too hard, too smooth.  He hears her calls and tries to obey, but it is futile. He exerts himself only to remain in place.  He looks up at her and decides on another route, one remembered from the summer.  Ice also blocks that path, and he slides farther down, past boulders left from a glacial age,  into the forest.  
The ice hurts him, cuts him.  He slides for a long time, unable to grasp or gain a foothold.  He bounces like a pinball off rocks and trees.  The steep slopes down lead to a river.  Can he avoid that route?
He comes to a stop, and wonders if she will find him, but does not call out to her.

It was bitter cold, the ice was treacherous and it was dark as well, no moon in the night sky.  The woman before him explained it had been hours since her little dog had fallen down the ravine, and she only heard him bark after 10 PM.  Yes, she said, she was certain it was her dog’s bark.  No, she hadn’t heard a coyote or a raccoon.  It was now midnight.
This is why I studied animal rescue, he told himself.  To save animals.  Just didn’t expect it on a night like this when I’d rather curl up on the couch in front of the fireplace.  Good thing I brought crampons and a pike.
The night was still and the frozen air hung like an oppressive blanket, hostile to one’s lungs.  Now he too could hear the dog’s plaint.  It was erratic.
“He’s weak, probably hurt.  Dachshunds aren’t big on baying, not American bred minis anyway.  Probably why he didn’t call out sooner.”  He didn’t want to say the dog might be injured, since he was barking now.  Tough situation for any dog, but especially a designer lap dog.  He thought of his own dogs, large and with thick fur.  Even they were no match for this ice.
All in all, it was unlikely the dog could survive in this weather, with temperature close to zero.  Amazing the little guy has lasted this long!  From the sound of his barking, he was about a half mile away from the house and weak.
They drove to the neighbor’s; called the police least the neighbor assumed it was a break-in. The animal rescue man did not wait; he attached the crampons to his boots and took the pike with him into the woods. 

At least the AWD holds on this ice!   I drove up onto an ice ridge and pointed the headlights into the forest to give him as much light as possible. He was not familiar with this area and a misstep could be disaster.  Can’t lose him down the ravine.
After waiting uncounted minutes, I heard the dog snarl and bark. Could he attack his rescuer?  
I saw the man return from the forest, holding the dog in his jacket. He’d taken off his jacket to wrap the dog!  I turned up the heat. The man performed an examination and pronounced the dog sound, despite a bloody belly and paws.  
“Did he snap at you?” I asked.
“He’s afraid.  He’s been out a long time.” Then he added, “Nothing seems injured, as far as I can tell. Keep him warm. He’s a lucky little dog.” 

Frederick Alimonti
Inside Out

Armonk resident, Frederick (Rick) Alimonti has penned an important new children’s book, Inside Out, (his fourth). It examines the issue of bullying in a fanciful yet thought-provoking manner. Rick is a lawyer by day, but has always enjoyed writing – focusing his energies recently on children’s books that examine important subjects like diversity, stranger danger, special needs, and most recently, bullying.

Inside Out is a poem fantasy story in which a "tween" [and "queen-bee"] bully awakens to an alternate reality only inner beauty is worn on the outside, and she is not at all happy with her appearance. A strange bus transports her to school, Inside Out, in which she and her friends, including "the class president, wear on the outside that which in them is resident." She is thus forced to see where true beauty lies and that in fact, the kindly girl that she has been bullying is actually the beautiful one.

Alimonti comments, "the funny thing is, it was only after writing [and reading] this book that I even realized it addressed bullying. The theme that inspired me to write Inside Out is inner beauty; the bullying in the book was simply a vehicle for this message. The result was a book that addresses bullying in a unique and perhaps subtle way. Our bully takes a forced look at herself on the "inside." Yet somehow, the story is still fun and ultimately uplifting."

According to Alimonti, “so far, the reviews and responses have been overwhelming.  The challenge now is to get the word out.” Alimonti implores, “please order even if out of stock so that Amazon gets the message.”

The book can be purchased at amazon at: Each book includes a code to download an audio file of Alimonti’s reading. You can learn more about Rick and his work at

Pope Francis
Local Author Attends Audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican
June 23, 2015
Local author Louise T. Gantress was privileged to have an audience with His Holiness Pope Francis in Rome, Italy on June 17. In his talk, the Pontiff stressed the importance of family. His blessing was extended not only to the people in St. Peter’s Square, including Gantress, but also to their family and friends, especially to children, the sick and dying.
The Pope read his remarks, which were then translated as a summary into Italian, Spanish, Polish, German and English, among other languages. A service at the Vatican recorded this audience event, and still photos are available to view on this website.
Gantress was in Europe to promote her novel, Bitter Tea, to readers. Bitter Tea is available as text or electronic version through Amazon.

Local Author, Susan Allison-Dean Sets Two Novels in the Picturesque Hudson Valley

December 11, 2014
A broken ankle in 2013 kept professional gardener Susan Allison-Dean, co-owner of Armonk’s Naturescapes, in her seat long enough to write her first novel, I Know You’re There. Although she had written articles and essays in her current field -- horticulture, and her previous field -- nursing, she hadn’t yet addressed the internal nudge to produce a novel.

And this year, she has published her second book, a sequel titled By the Sound of the Crow.

“I write in the winter because I can focus better,” Allison-Dean observed. “I’m a writer who writes a couple of hours in the morning or maybe at night. My writing is like a faucet, when I’m done, I’m done and there is no more. I don’t shut it down, it shuts itself down.

“In the morning when I walk the dog, a story starts flowing in my head, sometimes more so than others. The key is not to have distractions. I think that is a pretty prevalent theme with writers.”

Allison-Dean found that there was an incredible learning process in writing a first novel, “I’ve always enjoyed reading and authors seem to make it appear so easy.” This experience took away the mysticism of writing when she talked with “rock star authors” who are well published.

Retiring from nursing in 1999, Allison-Dean brings her nursing experiences into her stories. “It’s exciting for me to write with a nurse as the protagonist.” She also brings her personal history of the loss of a parent and grief to her writing.

She notes that “in our country we don’t recognize grief as well as we should, especially the fact of just because someone dies, are they really gone? I love opening that door because I find a lot of people are relieved when talking about the experiences they’ve had and wondering if the loved ones are really gone.”

Allison-Dean’s passion for whales and dolphins is expressed in her writing as well. On a recent evening at Naturescapes, which she owns with her landscape designer husband Robert Dean, she sat talking with a small group of friends. The conversation was mostly about an artist’s creativity. Allison-Dean read two passages from her recent book, one of which was based upon a true story of a dolphin who was found in the Hudson River last year.





I willed my ears to detect where the sound was coming from.


Then I saw it, a slick shiny gray thing floating up against the rocks just twenty feet ahead. I paddled quickly to it. My heart began to pound.

“There will be times when the story is hot and the words are perfect and I can’t get back to my computer or my writing pad fast enough. I might come home with the dog and go straight to work,” she explained. After she finished her first book, “a miracle in itself... I was surprised that my friends, family and acquaintances were supportive and I’m ever grateful that they read it.

“I don’t have kids, but I compare publishing a novel to what a birth must be like. You want people to celebrate with you and you want someone to say that it’s a cute baby. When you have people across the country, and across the world, enjoy it and give it a five-star rating, that’s over the moon. And of course there are people who hated it, but I find if I look at any reviews, that’s normal.”

After her first novel, Allison-Dean asked her readers if they would like her to write a sequel as there were elements that she didn’t feel were finished in the original story. And they all did.

That became By the Sound of the Crow.

She does have an idea for a totally new book and hopefully it won’t take another broken bone to complete it.

Copies of both books are available to purchase on Amazon and locally at Beascakes Bakery. Copies are also available at the North Castle Library.

Deep-sea dectectives
Peter Limburg

Though I’m  not an Armonk resident (I live in the Eastern District of North Castle), Armonk has always been a part of my life. Among my early memories is the tame bear which was tethered outside Mr. Tagliaferro’s honey stand on Old Route 22 in the early 1930’s. Seeing the bear (and getting the honey) was a rare treat, as was watching the planes taking off and landing at the airfield, where the Business Park complex now stands. The American Legion used to hold clambakes there, too, and I remember my father taking me once or twice.

When I was in college, I took dates to the old Log Cabin Inn a few times. My father told me that this rather run-down place had once been a big drawing card for couples who would drive up from the city.

In later years, when I’d taken up free-lance writing, I frequently used the North Castle Free Library for research, and Town Librarian Chris Ansnes graciously invited me to give a talk there.

As a writer, I deal in non-fiction, mostly science-oriented. I write on topics that interest me, with the result that I became a generalist rather than a specialist. I find that doing the research on my topics is the most fun, for I learn so much from it. [Of course, I forget most of it after the project is wound up, but that’s life.] Getting the words down on paper is the hard part: getting the thoughts in the right sequence so that one leads into another; choosing the best word for the situation; making sure that I don’t distort the facts, etc. Grammar and spelling are no problem—they come naturally to me.

While I am writing, I think, “ This stuff is awful! This is dreck!  No one will ever want to read it!” But when I read the finished product years later I think, “This is pretty good. Did I really write it?”

How do I get my ideas? Some have come to me from free-lance projects I worked on; others come from newspapers, magazines, and TV.  Some have been suggested by editors, which was fortunate because then I didn’t have to struggle to pitch the idea.

Like many a person I know, I did not start out with the idea of doing what I now do. When I started college, I yearned to be a chemist, exploring the mysteries of how atoms and molecules interacted with each other. Freshman math did me in. Being good at languages, I then thought I’d try for the Foreign service. I flunked the orals twice. Finis to that career. How about teaching? As a student teacher in a good high school, I found myself sympathizing with the students rather than with the administration. You can guess how successful I’d have been on my first real-life teaching job, stuck with the worst, most resentful students.

I finally found my niche when, through a family connection, I got a job as copy editor at Collier’s Encyclopedia. On the next job, also a reference work, I found that I had to do an immense amount of rewriting the god-awful stuff our contributors sent in. This eventually led me to strike out on my own. I was able to survive as a free-lance writer with a wife and four children thanks to an inheritance.
In my writing, I try to inform and entertain. Making the material interesting for the reader is vital—even the most informative and accurate account is valueless if no one wants to read it. But I don’t  want to sensationalize or vulgarize my material. I think a good story can tell itself without hoking it up.

I’ve probably said enough by now, so I’ll just encourage you, gentle reader, to visit my Web site at Thanks for sticking with me.

Peter R. Limburg


Copyright © by Peter R. Limburg, 1/8/2009

Carol Weston
Armonk Author Carol Weston Writes Fiction for Kids and Young Adults

January 5, 2015
Armonk raised and Byram Hills alumna Carol Weston is a prolific and successful writer of children’s books. Weston’s latest book, Ava and Taco Cat, is due out in April. The New York Times Book Review called Ava and Pip, the first book in the series, “a love letter to language.”

In Ava and Taco Cat, fifth-grade Ava desperately wants a cat—but gets more than she bargains for. She gushes in her diary about her daily trials in a way that is fun and relatable for kids. Weston draws inspiration from being a mother of two daughters and from being an advice columnist at Girls' Life Magazine for the past 20 years.

Ava and Taco Cat is Weston’s 14th published book. Weston is also the author of Girltalk: All the Stuff Your Sister Never Told You and a series about Melanie Martin, a ten-year-old New York City girl who travels to Italy, Spain, and Holland with her little brother Matt the Brat.

Weston loves to travel too and got her masters in Spanish in Spain, which is where she met her husband, Rob Ackerman. Ackerman has written several off-Broadway plays, including the award-winning musical, Volleygirls.

As you can imagine, the Ackerman/Weston household is in constant flow of creativity. In this video, Carol reads the first few pages of Ava and Taco Cat aloud with her cat Mike from her home library.

Mark Weston
Honda The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars by Mark Weston.
by Mark Weston

Walk down any street in Armonk and you will see a Honda. Probably several. Yet few people know that a man named
Soichiro Honda (1906-1991) founded the Honda Motor Company.

Longtime Armonk resident Mark Weston has written a new children's book, "Honda - The Boy Who Dreamed of Cars," for kids 7-10. Lee & Low published the illustrated 30-page biography in September 2008. It is a particularly good book for not-so-studious boys, because it discusses pistons, carburetors and transmissions, but girls will enjoy learning where Hondas come from too. "Honda" is based on a chapter of a book for adults Mark wrote in 1999 called "Giants of Japan - The Lives of Japan's Greatest Men and Women."

He has also just written a 560-page history of Saudi Arabia, "Prophets and Princes - Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the Present," that John Wiley & Sons published in August.

Mark's interest in the Middle East and Far East began with a 9th grade class in non-Western studies that Herb Klinger taught at Byram Hills.

Prophets and Princes  Saudi Arabia by Mark Weston
Title: "Prophets and Princes - Saudi Arabia from Muhammad to the Present"

Author: Mark Weston
Carol Weston
With Love From Spain by Carol Weston
Inspired in Armonk
By Carol Weston

I wrote my first-ever published article at the North Castle Library back when I was nineteen. It was for Seventeen Magazine and it was about the trauma of turning twenty. Twenty!

Now that those years are far behind me and I have had twelve books published, I'm working on a new novel that is set in both Armonk and in Manhattan, where I currently live. The working title is ANSWER ME and it's about a girl who slowly comes to terms with the death of her mother. There's one character who, like me, is an advice columnist who answers snail mail and email from girls. Her own daughter goes to Byram Hills.

Yes, we writers do like to write what we know, and I sure know that Armonk was a great place to grow up. Go Bobcats! More at

Carmen Celentano
Carmen Celentano Captures Moments
By Amanda Boyle

June 19, 2011
Photographer Carmen Celentano has been an Armonk resident since 1982--"Town was so different then, there was barely any traffic on Main Street!" she joked--but she says she looks forward every year to her annual big trip.  She has just turned photos from her trip to Guatemala into a beautiful photography book titled "The Way of the Maya", View it here:

For Celentano's company Captured Moments--the place to turn for family and senior portraits, and capturing weddings or bat/bar mitzahs--she primarily uses digital photography, but for her personal use she uses both film and digital, and "The Way of the Maya" has a mix of both. Celentano predicts that film will make a comeback, because it has a "special feeling."
Carmen Celetano "The Way of The Maya"
When she arrived in Guatemala she said, "I fell in love with the country, the people are so warm and inviting."
At the same time, she described being "dumbfounded by the poverty." She went about documenting the life there, with breathtaking photographs of mountains and lakes, and intimate portraits of the people.  

Celentano is already planning a similar book on a recent trip to Cuba, and in fact one of her photographs from that trip has been chosen to show in an ongoing show at the Bendheim Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut.  For her next trip, Celentano is hoping to visit Vietnam. She says she often likes visiting small towns.  She'll travel with a guide, and ask them to introduce her to a family or a school, to get to know the community better.  

This level of personal attention is what makes Celentano's photographs so special. She often shoots portraits of young children, and she says it's best to get down there with them and engage them, get them joking around and giggling.  A mother herself, she doesn't want to just be shouting "smile!" and get some unnatural grimace. Celentano's natural artistic abilities are evident in not just "The Way of the Maya", but her entire portfolio.  And we aren't the only ones who think that: she just won an international competition at Agora Gallery in Chelsea.
To view more of Celentano's work, visit