Ridgefield High alumna publishes book to help children of divorce cope: ‘A cathartic experience’

Photo of Alyssa Seidman

Danielle Mazzilli was only 6 years old when her parents told her they were separating.

The news left her scared and confused, she said, unsure of what her family would look like if they were no longer all living together.

Last spring, Mazzilli, now 28, used this experience as the inspiration for a final project in her master’s program. The course assignment: create a children’s book exploring how literature honors and stimulates a child’s own storytelling.

“I thought about what was missing in my life when I was going through big things and feeling big emotions … (and) there were no children’s books that talked about divorce,” she said. “I didn’t have books or resources that reflected what I was feeling, so I set out to change that.”

Mazzilli recently published her final project, “A Broken Crayon Still Colors,” as a children’s book. The story opens on a young girl who is having trouble drawing her family portrait since her parents are going through a divorce.

The crayons help her navigate the complex feelings associated with divorce while celebrating the joys of blended families that often result from them. Much like the young girl, Mazzilli’s own family consists of stepparents and step-siblings, but she prefers to call them her “bonus family,” she said.

The last page of the book invites readers to draw their own family portraits to recognize that no two families look alike. Mazzilli hopes children of divorce can use this page as a tool to make better sense of the emotions they may be experiencing.

“My whole vision is really promoting literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people,” she said. “If a child can’t see themselves in a book, they can’t connect.”

Mazzilli is pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education with a dual certification in special education. She “took a leap of faith” to become an educator in August 2019 after three years in the corporate world.

As part of her program, Mazzilli is student teaching in a second-grade classroom at LREI in New York City. She always knew she wanted to work with children in some way, she said, noting she worked as a nanny for the same family all four years of college.

“Writing this really was more of a cathartic experience than anything else,” Mazzilli added. “It really turned into this beautiful thing, and I hope (it) provides a resource for children (to) acknowledge those complex emotions within divorce, separating and changes in family.”

“A Broken Crayon Still Colors” is now available online at iUniverse, Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s websites.