Tough cookies don’t crumble.
Isabella Sementilli won’t crumble either.
The 15-year-old Niskayuna girl, who suffered serious physical injuries in a 2013 classroom prank, has put her story into words and drawings. Her book, “One Tough Cookie,” recently was published by Troy Book Makers.
The book follows Sementilli, the daughter of Pola and Guy Sementilli, from the day her troubles started on Oct. 21, 2013. A fellow student pulled a chair away as Sementilli was just sitting down, causing the young girl to take a hard fall on the floor.
Headaches and body pain followed. Sementilli later would be diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder, a concussion and back and neck injuries. She is now home-schooled.
“These five years have been so hard for me, all the pain I’ve been dealing with,” Sementilli said during a recent interview inside Scotti’s, the Union Street restaurant owned by her father. “I realized all the stuff I love to do — like tap dance and tennis, when I was little I always wanted to be a Rockette — were taken away from me.”
The book is written with rhymes and shows Sementilli — dressed in favorite color pink and wearing a crucifix that reflects her strong faith in God — dealing with her crisis. The end features Sementilli’s adventures with baking. One of the final pages shows a triumphant Sementilli lifting an alligator over her head.
“I was physically hurt and have lasting internal scars,” Sementilli wrote in the book. “Sometimes, emotionally I felt like I belonged on planet Mars. But look at me now. I got me to be as fierce as a crocodile. I am STRONG. I am EMPOWERED.”
Sementilli spent 2 1/2 years working on the project, writing and drawing. She wanted to share her experiences so people could see how the ordeal has affected her life. The main message is to stop bullying.
“My goal is to have my book in every single school across America,” she said. “I want to help kids so they don’t bully and hurt other people because being kind is a lot nicer and a lot easier than being mean.”
That’s part of the “Izzy Cure:” The author describes it as “Be nice. Be kind. Share with a smile.”
Sementilli wants kids and teachers to read the book. She wants both to learn from her experiences.
The book’s title is a play on Sementilli’s appreciation for baking. She worked with her grandfather, Louis Bianchi, baking Italian cookies. She tweaked his recipe. Now, five-cookie bags of “Iznettes” are available at Scotti’s.
“My favorite part is toward the end holding up the alligator and feeling strong,” Sementilli said, adding that she draws strength from her family and happiness from her faith.
“Every day is a struggle for me, but I try to stand up for myself and be one tough cookie,” she said.
The book, which sells for $12.95, is available at Scotti’s, Amazon.com, , Troy Book Makers, the Niskayuna Co-op, Connors Church Goods in Latham, The Potter Hill Barn in Hoosick Falls, Market Block Books in Troy, The Book House in Guilderland and the book store at Schenectady County Community College.
Contact Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].