Tonawanda News — Mary Anne Cappellino, local fitness expert, thinks it’s time for kids to get healthy, and she has just the way to inspire them.
With a little green frog named EEEK.
This Kenmore native, who now lives in Clarence, figured the best way to appeal to 3-to-7 year olds was through a fun story, bright colors and a goofy-looking amphibian designed by illustrator Russell Benfanti in her first children’s book, “The Most Clever Frog.”
“I think for the age group, it’s absolutely crucial,” she said. “Color, expression and imagery is what makes the books fun for kids to look at while moms are reading.”
The book — the first in a planned series of eight — focuses on EEEK as he is faced with a choice to be either active or inactive. Cappellino, who serves as wellness director at the Buffalo Athletic Club in the Town of Tonawanda, said the idea is to impress upon young children that they should spend a certain amount of time each day actively playing or exercising to keep healthy.
She said she views EEEK as a sort of life coach for young audiences, many of whom already struggle with health problems from being overweight or obese.
The Center for Disease Control says childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, with the percentage of children aged 6 to 11 in the United States who were obese in 1980 at 7 percent, rising to 20 percent in 2008.
“The first book focuses on something that I wanted to use as the foundation for the series, which is the importance of addressing inactive time and active time and addressing calories in and calories spent,” Cappellino said, adding that more kids than ever are absorbed in screen time (computers, televisions, cellphones).
Dr. Steven Lana, a senior partner at Delaware Pediatrics, wrote the foreword to the book and said he served as a consultant to Cappellino’s research and editing process.