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Shaler couple's book aims to teach students how to handle bullies

| Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
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Melissa and Dave Survinski, of Shaler Township, created a cast of vegetable characters and wrote the storyline for their first book “Brock Lee and the Lunchbox League” to teach children about standing up to bullies, eating well and friendship.

One Shaler Township couple hopes a group of vegetables can spread an anti-bullying message in their new book.

Melissa and Dave Survinski of Shaler wrote and illustrated “Brock Lee and the Lunchbox League,” which aims to teach readers in the third through fifth grades about standing up to bullies, friendship, and the importance of nutrition and school.

In the story, Brock Lee, a martial-arts-trained broccoli stalk, and the Lunchbox League — which includes Dr. Nan, the banana; Celea, the celery; and Zuice, a juice box — help Felix deal with bully Ozzie through words and not violence. They also show Felix the importance of eating well and studying in school while showing him the best ways to combat bullies by taking on their own bullies, Captain Snacks and his Sugar Crew.

In the end, Felix learns to like vegetables and becomes friends with Ozzie.

The self-published book is available for purchase at Amazon.com for $14.99.

Melissa, a Latin teacher in the Hampton Township School District, is involved in the district's storytelling club at the middle school and is part of the bullying-prevention advisory program at the middle school. She came up with the idea for the book, which is to stand up for oneself with words and not violence, from her work at the school district.

“The children's books I've seen focused on one theme … I struggled to find one that combined all of those things with characters that weren't huge superheroes,” Melissa said.

“I think it brings all of these themes into a nice package in a way they (children) can relate to it … and we wanted vegetables to be fun.”

“And likeable,” Dave added.

Dave, a software engineer for Westinghouse Electric Co., helped his wife revise the story and then used his graphic-design background to reproduce Melissa's clay creations of the characters as pencil sketches and finally manipulated them in Photoshop, a photo-editing software, to create the illustrations for the book.

“She had come up with a good story, so I wanted to take it to completion,” Dave said.

The Survinskis started working on the project together shortly after they got married in October 2011, and Melissa and Dave encouraged each other to create the published product. They now have plans to turn the book into a series featuring Brock Lee and other characters.

“It started off as a project the two of us wanted to work on and became a lot bigger than that,” Melissa said. “We really want to get it out to kids now.”

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or bhofstetter@tribweb.com.

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