HUNTINGTON — For most adults, getting a haircut is routine and can be an uneventful and often relaxing experience, but for many children it can be a source of anxiety and fear.
This was the driving force behind a new interactive coloring book for young children, written by Huntington native, author and barber Connie Morabito-Akerly.
“As professional barbers and cosmetologists, we’ve all encountered frightened children who are getting their first, second or even third haircut,” Morabito-Akerly said. “It can be an uneasy situation for the barber and parents, too.”
Plum Orchard Press of Chesapeake, Ohio, announced this past week the release of “Russ Meets the Green Stuff.”
Morabito-Akerley calls the coloring book “fun for both children and parents,” with easy-to-read, lighthearted rhymes, simple-to-color drawings and interactive games. The book walks the child through the steps of a haircut, assuring him or her that haircuts are really fun.
The book, with illustrations by Huntington artist Debbie Richardson, was written and designed with the goal of making haircuts less scary for children, Morabito-Akerley said.
“Easing a child’s fear of getting a haircut has always been one of our goals,” she explained. “The experience, from start to finish, should be fun, stress-free and positive for the barber, parents and, of course, the child.”
She said the illustrations of the barber in the book very much resemble her father, Nick Morabito, who has been cutting hair in Huntington since 1948. The name of the young boy “Russ” in the book comes from her son, Russell, who is also a barber at the family-operated Midway Barber Shop at 104 4th Ave. in Huntington.
Morabito-Akerley said her father put his five children through college.
“We all have college degrees in other professions, and I worked for many years in public relations for nonprofit organizations for 22 years,” she said. “As time went on and Dad got older, I decided several years ago to go back and get my license to do this and help him out. I also have a sister who is also a licensed barber.”
Morabito-Akerly holds bachelor’s degree in journalism and advertising and a master’s degree degree in journalism and public relations from Marshall University’s W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications. Her educational background also includes certifications as a seasoned group fitness instructor, as well as being a licensed barber and cosmetologist.
Morabito-Akerley said she always has been a writer, but this is her first book.
“I always wanted to write a book, and this concept came about long before I became a barber,” she said. “Myself and a sibling in California talked about it 20 years ago.”
Then in 2017, Morabito-Akerley said she had to have surgery on her back.
“My sibling said, ‘Why don’t you finish that book while you are recovering?’” she said. “So I brought it to the attention of John Patrick Grace, who has been extremely patient with me in the editing and the process of creating this book. We collaborated, and the rest is history.”
The book tells the story of a young boy named Russ who is going to have an adventure with his mom, sister and brother. The boy’s mother tells him the adventure is going to a place called Midway Barber Shop to get a haircut.
Russ and his little brother, Burt, get a little scared, but his big sister, Kim, reassures him that it will just be a trim. They meet Nick the Barber who has a special bench in the barber chair to make Russ tall for his haircut. Russ likes the drape placed around him because it’s like an awesome super boy cape.
However, when Nick the Barber turns on the clippers, Russ becomes scared of the noise it makes. Nick tells Russ the clippers will not hurt him and tells him the sound purrs, like a soft, gentle hum. After the haircut is finished, Russ is ready for the tonic green stuff and also gets to pick out a cool lollipop.
Grace said the book is being marketed to barbershops, cosmetologists and hair salons to help barbers boost their business for generations to come.
“We think this will help their young clients get used to getting haircuts and making it fun for them and their parents,” he said.
Grace has been publishing books for the past 24 years.
“We created Plum Orchard Press for this book,” he said. “This process took well over a year.”
Morabito-Akerley said the book is dedicated to her father with love, who for more than seven decades, and through his tireless passion and love for the art of barbering, managed to make haircuts really fun for countless generations of heads.
“I want to thank my father for always being there for us, and for my son Russell, whose creativity and inspiration always helps me think out of the box and color outside the lines,” she said. “Also, thanks to my ever-supportive sister and brother-in-law, Liz and Lacy Cook, Patrick Grace, Debbie Richardson, as well Pam Barnhart, of Skaggs Printing in Huntington, and Mark Phillips, the book’s website developer.
“We used all local people to make and publish this book,” Morabito-Akerley said.