A book created by an entire family

  • The illustrations in “Maizy & Charlie’s Germ Book” were made by Gilly DeCosta using a unique blend of Photoshop, a filter and his own drawings. CONTRIBUTED BY ANNIE AND GILLY DECOSTA

  • The DeCosta family, who all played a role in the making of “Maizy & Charlie’s Germ Book.” The book will be released by Briley & Baxter on Sept. 6. CONTRIBUTED BY ANNIE AND GILLY DECOSTA

  • Annie and Gilly DeCosta of Royalston managed to turn adversity into creativity. With the help of their children and support from Annie’s late father, they created “Maizy & Charlie’s Germ Book.” CONTRIBUTED BY ANNIE AND GILLY DECOSTA

  • Annie and Gilly DeCosta of Royalston managed to turn adversity into creativity. With the help of their children and support from Annie’s late father, they created “Maizy & Charlie’s Germ Book.” CONTRIBUTED BY ANNIE AND GILLY DECOSTA

For the Recorder
Published: 9/6/2022 10:56:15 AM
Modified: 9/6/2022 10:52:28 AM

The pandemic has been universally hard on families. Annie and Gilly DeCosta of Royalston have managed to turn adversity into creativity, however. Over the past couple years they created the children’s book “Maizy & Charlie’s Germ Book” (Briley & Baxter, 36 pages, $24.95). It will be released on Sept. 6.

Annie DeCosta was in nursing school when things shut down in 2020. She suddenly had to figure out a way to do a project for her pediatric clinical remotely from home. She was assigned the task of presenting a health class of some sort online to young children.

“My daughter Maizy drew germs, and then we kind of did the clinical together,” DeCosta told me in a recent telephone interview. “She showed my class how to wash their hands properly.”

DeCosta’s husband Gilly looked at the germ drawings and the class materials and said, “This is really cute. I want to make a book out of it,” according to his wife.

“When my husband sets his mind on something, he doesn’t give up,” she noted with a smile in her voice.

The book rightly gives star billing to Maizy (now 8) and her sister Charlie (now 6). It shows the youngsters battling germs on a number of fronts in and around their house.

Gilly DeCosta illustrated the book using a unique technique he created, a blend of Photoshop (which he learned for the project), a filter and his own drawings.

The images of Maizy and Charlie in the book are unusual and appealing, not quite realistic but not quite fantasy, either. These images are combined with pictures of germs drawn by the girls’ father.

Maizy’s and Charlie’s own germ sketches also appear at the end of the book. In fact, everyone in the family loves to express themselves through art. While Gilly DeCosta likes to do painstaking work and employ computer technology, his wife is a more traditional visual artist.

“I’m very free with my art,” she said. “And he’s very precise…. He supports my art. I support his.”

Annie DeCosta just had a sold-out art show in Peterborough, New Hampshire. And she is proudly donating art to the Hope Against Hunger auction on Sept. 12 at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield.

The book took a while to put together, the couple said, in part because Gilly DeCosta is a perfectionist and in part because the family has had a lot to deal with over the past months.

The girls were at home much of the time trying to go to school. Their mother was completing nursing school. And the family was caring for Annie DeCosta’s father, who lived with them until he died of leukemia this past April.

According to his daughter and son-in-law, William Hinchey (to whom the book is dedicated) was enthusiastically supportive of all their enterprises.

In addition to school and mothering, “I was trying to take care of him,” recalled Annie DeCosta. “I felt that I was going to split down the middle. He said, ‘You have to finish this.’”

Gilly DeCosta added that his father-in-law had loved the idea of “Maizy & Charlie’s Germ Book.”

“He made me believe that I could do it,” said Gilly DeCosta. “He used to say, ‘This book belongs in every school.’”

Once the husband and wife completed the book, they had to figure out how to get it published. Gilly DeCosta reached out to friends on social media. One of them had gone to college with Stacey Padula, the founder of Briley & Baxter Publications in Plymouth. She adored the book and agreed to publish it.

“Stacey Padula is awesome!” enthused Gilly DeCosta. He added that Padula donates a good share of the proceeds from her publications to animal-rescue efforts.

The news that the book would be published came just before Annie DeCosta’s father’s death in April. The DeCostas agree that the book has helped them work through their grief at the loss of a beloved family member.

They are particularly happy that there is an illustration of William Hinchey in the book. “He had 11, 12 grandchildren,” explained Annie DeCosta. “They can all read the book and see their Papa.”

“Maizy & Charlie’s Germ Book” will be available after Sept. 6 at a number of stores, including the World Eye in Greenfield and Bates Crafters Gallery in Orange, as well as online from the publisher, Briley & Baxter, at https://shop.aer.io/BrileyBaxterPublications.

Tinky Weisblat is an award-winning author and singer. Her next book will be “Pot Luck: Random Acts of Cooking.” Visit her website, TinkyCooks.com.


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