Joseph F. Berenato
Inspired by her youth, former resident writes children’s book
After working on it for more than 20 years, former Hammonton resident Amber Curzie has released her first children’s book: Mighty Meana Mullin You Are Loved.
“Meana is a character that I wrote back in 1998; I’ve been working on this book since then, trying to get it out in the world,” Curzie told The Gazette.
According to the description from the publisher, Meana “is an 8 year old little girl that lives with her parents and four brothers.”
“She really loves Jesus. She believes he is a Hero! She wants to show love to her family and friends so she can be more like Jesus. She even named her dog, Hero, in honor of Jesus. One problem... she needs a little girl her own age to play with. She prays for a friend to come into her life. Will today be the day her prayers are answered?” the description reads.
Curzie, who attended St. Joseph Regional Elementary School and received her First Holy Communion from St. Joseph Church in 1982, said that her religious devotion began during her time in Hammonton.
“My relationship with God started as a Catholic school student at St. Joe’s. In the second grade, I was cast as Mary Magdalene in one of our school plays. At that time, we were in the church, and I can remember kneeling and looking up at the cross. I think that was a pivotal moment for me and my relationship with Jesus, just knowing, at such a young age, that he was somebody important, somebody who deserved to be respected and honored. I remember, right then, starting to develop a great love for Jesus Christ,” Curzie said.
Curzie said that second grade was a pivotal year for her, and “it’s definitely very important in my life.”
“That, coincidentally, is Meana’s age in the book. She’s 8. I have five children; I have one daughter. It’s great the way that God’s timing works; God has perfect timing. This book was published as my daughter is 8 years old, the very same age that Meana is ... It’s funny, because she has blonde hair and blue eyes, and my daughter has blonde hair and blue eyes, and I didn’t know back then that I was going to have a little girl with blonde hair and blue eyes. It’s funny the way that life works,” Curzie said.
Now living in Delran, N.J., Curzie has taught religious education—second grade—at Jesus the Good Shepherd parish in Beverly for the past 15 years. Curzie said that background in religious education helped her to finish the book.
“At this time in my life, I had the maturity, religiously, that I needed to do what the deacons and the priests tell us at the end of Mass, which is to go and spread the gospel of the Lord. For me, that main message is that Jesus loves you, and he wants a relationship with you. That’s something that I tell my students all the time. They’re probably not going to remember most of what I teach them, but hopefully they can remember that Jesus loves them, and that he wants a relationship with you and the best way to do that is to communicate with him,” Curzie said.
Curzie said the forming such a relationship helped to inspire Mighty Meana Mullin You Are Loved.
“My love for Jesus is the inspiration, and Jesus’s love for you, for any believer, is also the inspiration for the book ... The book is showing children how to be disciples of Jesus. It’s showing you how to show love to others, and yourself. It shows how to be a good person, and how to show your love for Jesus—and how Jesus loves you,” Curzie said.
Curzie said that the book’s main characters were also based at least in part on important people in her life.
“My daughter’s name is Angel, and since Meana was already established—and Mighty Meana Mullin is catchy—I couldn’t change her name, but Meana wears a bracelet that says ‘Angel,’ and that’s representative of my daughter ... That golden retriever on the front cover, whose name is Hero, is actually my dog Jacy. Meana, even though she was written in 1998, is reflective of my daughter, and Hero is my dog Jacy. He brought so much love in our life at a time when we really needed it; he was just perfect, and we love him so much,” Curzie said.
Curzie also drew inspiration from her childhood for the setting of the book.
“I spent so much time at my aunt and uncle’s house on North Egg Harbor Road; even when I didn’t live in Hammonton I was there a lot with my aunt, my uncle and my grandmom. My book is actually placed there, at that property. The book talks about the main character, Meana, smelling lilies of the valley and playing with her dog, Hero, in the field. All of that was from that property on North Egg Harbor Road,” Curzie said.
Curzie noted that one thing that has stayed with her throughout her life is her “love for Hammonton—and St. Joseph’s.”
“It has a smell that I’ll never forget; it smells like home. If you blindfolded me and walked me into 10 churches, I’d be able to tell you which one was St. Joe’s,” Curzie said.
St. Joseph Church—and the message taught there—has remained an important part of Curzie’s life, and she hopes that she can spread that message through Mighty Meana Mullin You Are Loved.
“The book is for children ages 3 to 8, so grownups are going to be reading to their children and I want them to remember, too, that Jesus loves them and wants a relationship with them ... He’s a force in our life that can comfort us and bring us peace, and it all starts with a conversation with him,” Curzie said.
Mighty Meana Mullin You Are Loved is available in select Barnes and Noble stores—including their Deptford Twp. location—at barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com and balboapress.com.