'Milo with a Halo' illustrates faith

Children's book uses character to teach about life and religion


Milo With A Halo
Milo is an irresistible character who is sure to be a hit with readers young and old. The book's major theme is that God is with us always and is truly our very best friend and companion.

Click here to order Milo With A Halo through Amazon and support CatholicMom.com with your purchase!  Milo Con Un Nimbo now available in Spanish too!

Staff Writer
July 11, 2002

Starting a new business can be a difficult venture, but Lisa Umina is doing well.

Umina, a Seven Hills resident, began the Independence-based Halo Publishing Co. in January to put out her first children's book, "Milo with a Halo."

[Lisa Umina]

Northfield native Lisa Umina signs copies of her book ''Milo with a Halo'' for customers at Rainbow Family Book Center in Maple Heights. Umina's book company is based in Independence. Sun photo by Brad Ruebensaal.

The book, illustrated by Andrea Karcic of Macedonia, was released May 7. It had sold 1,000 copies by the end of June.

Umina's success grew out of misfortune. The Northfield native was doing stand-up comedy and singing when she damaged her vocal chords.

"I was diagnosed with cysts in my throat and had to have two surgeries," Umina said. "Both times I was told they didn't know if I would have a voice."

While Umina was healing, she wrote "Milo with a Halo." In the story, an angelic figure is used "to teach readers about life's frustrations in a thoughtful and lighthearted way."

Umina said the book shows children that they can openly communicate with God and start a relationship with Him just by talking to Him.

That is how Umina wrote her book.

"It was like God sat right next to me and helped me write my story," she said.

The next step was finding an illustrator. Although both women are graduates of Nordonia High School, Umina and Karcic were a year apart and did not know each other well.

Karcic learned of "Milo with a Halo" from a mutual friend and met Umina for lunch to discuss the possibility of illustrating it. The two ended up talking for hours.

"I read Lisa's story and saw her basic drawings of what Milo could look like," Karcic said. "I just rounded it out. It was really natural."

Umina cried when she saw Karcic's draft of the book's first page.

"When you write a story, it's one thing. To see it is another," Umina said.

Promoting the book has become a full-time job. Since "Milo with a Halo" was released, Umina has been traveling throughout the Greater Cleveland area with her 5-foot-10-inch Milo character, doing story times at local libraries, bookstores, corporations and community events.

"I love it," Umina said. "I've really become a motivational speaker with a faith twist."

Among the many locations Umina and Milo have visited are the Rainbow Family Book Center in Maple Heights, Twinsburg Public Library, and St. Barnabas School in Northfield.

The St. Barnabas appearance was a homecoming for Umina.

"I graduated grade school from St. Barnabas," she said. "It was interesting presenting the book where my faith was established."

As with most of her story presentations, Umina began her St. Barnabas assembly by having the kids call out for Milo. The character appeared and acted out the story as Umina told it to the kids.

Umina plans to get the kids more involved in future story times. Ultimately, she wants to take the program into hospitals and have sick children play the book's other characters.

"I want to put on a production where they become part of the story," Umina said.

Umina will test this out in August at a party for twins during Twinsburg's Twins Days festival.

"It will be the first time doing it as a play. We'll probably have 15-20 twins up there doing skits with characters from the book," Umina said.

Story times with Milo have been well received, Umina said. Her appearances are generating invitations to present her book at new locations. Umina also has received letters from people who are using the book to teach values to their children.

"What I'm receiving now is probably more than I anticipated," Umina said.

Karcic's 6-month-old daughter, Haley, is among Umina's biggest fans. She loves the book, Karcic said.

"After having Haley, I went to the library and pulled out all these children's books to read to her," Karcic said. "Most of them don't tell you anything. If you're going to read something to a child, you want them to take something away."

"Milo with a Halo" is different.

"You can see a message in Lisa's book," Karcic said.

Umina hopes to continue the message in her next book, "Milo Moments," to be released next year. She expects a third Milo book to follow.

For information on "Milo with a Halo" or story times with Milo, visit www.halopublishing.com or call (216) 642-0861.

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