Meet Silvia Piccinotti, Author of “Magical and Unusual Solar Eclipse”

Silvia and husband solar eclipse

Congrats on publishing your beautiful children’s book, “Magical and Unusual Solar Eclipse”! What inspired you to create this book? What is your badass Mompreneur story?

This project started when I decided to make solar eclipse adventure packs for the gaggle of friends’ kids who will be traveling with us to see the next Great American Eclipse. Yes, I was planning these three years before the event, and, yes, this is not typical human behavior. I know.

I really wanted to create a book that would get them excited, but also prepare them for a truly otherworldly experience. There wasn’t a gorgeously illustrated picture book to show them what it would look like or how it might feel to watch the sun become black and backlit by its own glowing corona, beautiful and terrible in the sky. I looked far and wide, but I simply couldn’t find what I was looking for. All the books I found focused on the science behind eclipses, which is great, but not what I wanted.

The search also got me thinking that if my kids didn’t have a book, nobody’s kids did! Educators also wouldn’t have an approachable resource or tool to engage their classrooms. With the eclipse falling on April 8th, a school day, they needed one!

I’d been to 5 eclipses already and I love creative projects so I thought, maybe I could do this! At first, I went the traditional route. I tried to pitch my book to publishers, but, without an agent and their access, the odds were stacked against me. After several slow attempts (traditional publishers move slowly), I exhausted the best publishing leads and decided to seriously consider self-publishing.

That decision depended entirely on my ability to find a singularly talented artist who would both have the skill and the collaborative spirit to work with me to recreate the lighting and shadows of an eclipse. I scoured and other freelance websites reaching out to artists to create samples for me of their art (all paid of course) and there I found Rong Pham! He blew me away with his beautiful illustrations and his professionalism – he’s amazing!


So it was time to decide if I was going to go all in: face the big investment in both time and money, and commit to seeing it through to the end. I discussed it with my husband and most devoted fan, Austin, and we both decided that it was important enough that I should go for it. It’s been a whirlwind of sketches, art, editorial reviews, proofs, printing and after more than a year of hard work here I am today, promoting a gorgeous book!

Where do you live and do you recommend your city as a family travel destination?

I live in Acton, a small town in the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts. Would I recommend the Greater Boston Area as a travel destination? A resounding yes!

Boston is a charming city dotted with playgrounds where you can take a sightseeing break with the little ones. Cambridge is just across the Charles River and has its own draw thanks to the illustrious universities on that bank.

But the biggest advantage to Boston is its closeness to a variety of terrains and their associated escapes. It’s sort of a “choose your own adventure” town. If you like the beach, we have a wonderful shoreline to explore northward and the Cape southward, not to mention islands big, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, and small, the Harbor islands. If you love to hike, there are mountains and excellent woodland and marshy boardwalk trails all within an easy drive. If you like to bike, there are rails to trails tracks to explore. If you prefer something more relaxed, perhaps you’d enjoy a stroll through an apple orchard in Stow… There’s really something for everyone. And, of course, there are cute New England coastal towns galore.

“If my parents had chosen to travel less because I didn’t enjoy it much, I would have lost a source of enrichment and missed many valuable experiences. I’d be a smaller, more limited person. The kids don’t have to like it now for it to be formative, important and even valuable to them!”

What’s your insider tip for families coming to your hometown? What are your favorite family-friendly hidden gems?

A hidden gem in the summer for me is the Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge near Concord, Massachusetts. Concord is a gorgeous destination in its own right: just 30 minutes away from Boston by car and reachable even by commuter rail, it is replete with history, picturesque storefronts and museums.

The Great Meadows Wildlife Reserve is about 5 minutes by car from Concord center, nestled inside a residential area on Monsen Rd. In July and August (assuming a typical summer without too much rain), the Great Meadows marshland bursts into bloom with gorgeous white water lilies as far as the eye can see. It is also well-populated by animals and water birds – visitors (typically local birders and residents) report their sightings on a blackboard at the trailhead.

The loop trail is just 2 miles of flat graveled path, occasionally muddy after a rainstorm, but manageable also for fairly young children (and not so long that you can’t carry them if you must). Even if the walk doesn’t appeal, an observation tower in the parking lot and a scenic, observational deck after a very brief walk allows you to experience all the sights efficiently while delighting the little ones. Sometimes it even gets them far enough into the conservation land to spot animals and want to continue walking.

Within Cambridge/Boston, I would probably recommend the Harvard University Museums as hidden gems. The Natural History museum is always a charming place to spend an hour with the kids: they can either enjoy the large collection of taxidermy animals or the gorgeous collection of minerals.

If you prefer something more artsy, the Harvard Art Museums hand out notebooks and pencils encouraging the children to draw the art and statues they see. A quieter, but somehow more engaging version of the more well known MFA.

Since Harvard is an epicenter of Cambridge life, you’re also just a hop and a skip away from cafes and eateries. Walk just a few blocks northward on Oxford Street, and you’ll encounter a playground. If you want to bring home a souvenir, a little further northward on Massachusetts Ave. but still walking distance, you can visit Made By Me and paint your own pottery (although admittedly, the items are kiln fired and I don’t know if they ship, so inquire first).


Is family travel part of your life?

Yes! And becoming more and more so. 


What is the most memorable trip you took with your kids?


In 2022 we took a 3-week romp from Athens to Zurich, by way of Rome, Naples, Sardinia, and my hometown of Varese, Italy. My youngest was almost 3 and my eldest almost 8. It was quite a bold trip both in terms of duration and frequency of travel. Like many post-Covid trips, we were trying to reconnect to so many loved ones that we packed a lot in. But it was wonderful.

An iconic moment was the kids playing ball with their nonni in the crumbling halls of Hadrian’s Villa outside of Rome. Not many kids can say they have done that!


What’s your best advice for traveling parents?

Never doubt that going on the trip was the right thing to do. Sometimes we think that if the kids found it challenging, whined or misbehaved, it was a bad idea to travel. You can’t control your kids’ responses. And you also don’t know what the memory will mean to them when they’re older.

As a child, I was a homebody in a family of avid globetrotters. I hated traveling. Although I didn’t outwardly complain (I knew it wouldn’t have helped!), I used to literally count down the days until I could be home again.

But, even as a child, I noticed that, while I didn’t like traveling, I liked that I had done it, in retrospect. Our travels are now some of my most cherished memories. If my parents had chosen to travel less because I didn’t enjoy it much, I would have lost a source of enrichment and missed many valuable experiences. I’d be a smaller, more limited person. The kids don’t have to like it now for it to be formative, important and even valuable to them!


What is your favorite family travel product or service?

I swear by packing cubes. Being able to organize my clothing by day, function or traveler depending on the particular needs for that trip really helps keep things neat and organized. It also allows you to unpack in stages if you’re on a multi-destination trip. I have also found packing cubes to be quite durable, so they double as bags for us. For example, I’ve used them to carry extra clothes and items to the beach! Who says you can only use them in your suitcase?


What item do you always pack in your carry-on?

Extra cables and portable chargers for electronics, and plenty of snacks. Anything can happen, but provided we have these things we can get through it one way or the other. 


How do you tackle the work/life balance (e.g., day care, babysitting, schools, etc.)?

With difficulty! And teamwork! Our youngest goes to daycare and our eldest is in elementary school and an afterschool program. To make our schedules work as two parents who both work full time at in-person jobs with a significant commute we have to tag team. I wake up very early and start work by 7:30am to be able to leave in time to make pick-up from daycare. Austin, who works with users at the university, does the school drop offs in the morning so he can be at work during later hours. At home, fortunately we rarely have too much extra work from our day jobs, so we can focus our attention on our two boys until bedtime. If I do have additional work (or an exciting side project), I tend to work once the kids are asleep and, ideally, after some alone time with my husband. 


What are the advantages of being a Mompreneur while raising children vs. working for an outside entity? Disadvantages?

Let’s start with the negative, so we can end on a high note with the positive. Of course, there have been sacrifices. I’m sure many parents are familiar with trying to work around the edges of our lives and the physical toll it takes. I work in person full-time, have a commute, and value my time with my family. So often I make the choice of sacrificing sleep to create time to work on the project.

When I have not been able to work at night, I’ve had to carve out time outside of work. I have had to depend a lot more on my husband for domestic chores and to entertain the kids. He’s been so supportive and wonderful through it all, but I know he feels the strain.

And the kids certainly notice that they have diminished time with me, or that I am distracted a lot of the time. They’re all in it with me, so we’ve all had to make some compromises.

In addition to the impact on daily life, the financial investment was substantial. I am not an illustrator, and I felt strongly about fair pay, so I incurred substantial costs to produce this book. This was expected, and we, my husband and I, addressed the question face on at the start of the project. We had to ask ourselves if it was worth it to go ahead even if the book never became a commercial success and we never recouped the cost. Even though we both agreed that it was more important than the money, it was a daunting sum. We are very fortunate that we could do it at all. 

So there were/are challenges. However, none of them outweigh the positives of the experience. On a deeply personal level, this project vindicated the part of me that is creative and artistic – a part that had been brushed aside and devalued because it was deemed a poor foundation for a career.

At the dawn of my 40s, I feel like I’m finally living the life I wanted for myself: a life where I follow my passions and don’t set them aside for a better time later when they are less inconvenient for others.

As for embarking on this project as a mother, having kids made it so much more important. I have always wished for them to feel like they could pursue their entrepreneurial/idealistic/creative dreams in their own lives if they were inspired to do so. This gave me the opportunity to not just want it for them, but to model it and live it. I hope that seeing their mom complete this project – not because it’s what she was supposed to be doing, but because it was her dream and it was important to her – will help my boys believe that they could do something similar in their lives and give themselves permission to do so.

They also saw my husband support me throughout. From that, I hope they learned what true partnership looks like in a committed relationship.

Last but not least, both of them, but mostly my eldest, Alexander, were active participants in the creation of the book. Alexander listened to many draft revisions of the book and offered his opinion as an avid consumer of books. He was my trusty beta tester. It was great to see him happily sit through many drafts. Even my little one has sat on my lap in front of the laptop to read “mommy’s eclipse book.”

I hope these will be formative moments for them. For me, they are memories I treasure. 



What’s your shameless plug?

Magical and Unusual Solar Eclipse  is the only children’s picture book that will truly show you what it’s like to experience a total solar eclipse! It has gorgeous, singularly scientifically accurate art thanks to the great talent of Rong Pham and is the only book that illustrates eye safety practices, eclipse day activities and observations, and provides you with a map of future eclipses to chase! Don’t miss it!


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