Maria LaPlaca Bohrer, 59, of West Babylon, received the 2015...

Maria LaPlaca Bohrer, 59, of West Babylon, received the 2015 Teacher's Choice Award from Learning Magazine for her children's book "Sofia's Stoop Story: 18th Street, Brooklyn." This is Bohrer's first book ever published. Credit: Amy Onorato

Maria LaPlaca Bohrer, of West Babylon, spent her childhood weekends sitting on her grandmother’s stoop on 18th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn, wasting the lazy days surrounded by her large Italian family -- she has 18 cousins, not to mention all of her aunts and uncles in between. They traded stories in the sun with the smell of authentic home-cooked meatballs wafting out the open brownstone window.  

“Growing up in Lindenhurst, it was something I looked forward to every weekend, heading from the suburbs into Brooklyn to my grandmother’s house,” said Bohrer, 59. “My family, we were all very close back then.”

Decades later, Bohrer has decided to tell a story of her own, paying tribute to her coveted childhood memories in “Sofia’s Stoop Story: 18th Street, Brooklyn.” The children’s book, published by Bay Shore-based Blue Marlin Publications, hit shelves in February and was announced a recipient of the Learning Magazine 2015 Teacher’s Choice Award earlier this month.

Bohrer weaves fact into fiction in her pseudo-memoir centered around her uncle, Frank Affisco and a fictional protagonist, Sofia. Coupled with illustrations by California-based husband-and-wife team Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher, the story follows Sofia on a Sunday afternoon at her grandmother’s house.

Bohrer admits that she channels a bit of herself though Sofia, the title character.

“It’s not exactly a memoir, so I didn’t want to put myself right in the book,” Bohrer said. “But I think all writers put a little but of themselves in their characters while they’re writing.”

While the story itself isn’t true, it was her Uncle Frankie who was the master of stoop storytelling, which Bohrer says consisted mostly of old memories strung together by her uncle’s vibrant knack for words.

“He was such a character, he always had a story to tell,” Bohrer said. “A few weeks before he died, he said to my mother, ‘Maria is going to make me famous.’ He always believed in me.” Affisco died in 2012 at age 94.

Bohrer, who has been a teacher in the Lindenhurst school district for more than 25 years, has also developed a free teaching lesson with the book for use with grades 3-5. Bohrer is currently a remedial reading teacher at Harding Avenue school and uses her free time to present readings of the book at other schools.

“Sofia’s Stoop Story” has sold more than 1,300 copies nationwide since its release. According to Blue Marlin publisher Francine Poppo Rich, who handles Bohrer’s book directly, recognition from the award will help bolster sales and hopefully spearhead the book onto state and national reading lists.

“Having recognition like this allows us to completely reinvent what this book is and how it can be introduced to new audiences,” Poppo Rich said. “It’s a great step marketing-wise.”

Bohrer is currently working on a second children’s book, but is taking a more fantastical route, shying away from a memoir and focusing more on fantasy. For Bohrer, this book was more than just a leap into a budding career – it was also a way to keep her family’s legacy alive.  

“My cousins now, we’re living in all different places, it’s harder to see each other,” Bohrer said. “I think this book really brought us together again. Our family history is being preserved and shared with others, and that’s very special to me.”

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