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From Aquarium to Zuckerman’s: Book teaches alphabet through Brighton Beach locales

M is for Mikhail: Mikhail Salita, a Ukrainian Jewish immigrant, wrote a children’s alphabet and vocabulary book called “B is for Brighton Beach.”
Brooklyn Daily
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This is real Brighton Beach book learning.

A new children’s book is aiming to teach kids the alphabet and expand their vocabulary by drawing connections to places of interest in Brighton Beach and its surrounding neighborhoods, and its author says “B is for Brighton Beach” puts a different spin on helping kids learn through association.

“I wanted to develop something that would be a unique product in this genre,” said Mikhail Salita a local educator and former librarian.

The book contains two stories and accompanying illustrations by Elena Stekacheva for each letter of the alphabet. The stories are filled with alliterative phrases that introduce students to new vocabulary. For example, the letter “A” features stories about Coney Island’s New York Aquarium and Asser Levy Park, while the letter “Z” references Zuckerman’s Pharmacy, a fixture on the corner of Brighton Beach Avenue and Brighton Seventh Street.

Salita emigrated from the Ukrainian city Odessa to Brooklyn with his family in 1991, and the neighborhood known as “Little Odessa,” Brighton Beach, is the place he visits when he wants to relax because it reminds him of his homeland.

“Odessa is a resort beach town,” Salita said. “That’s kind of what Brighton Beach is like. I love to walk on the Boardwalk from Brighton 15th Street to Seagate, feel the sun, the sand, and the ocean. I feel a connection to all of this.”

The author currently works as an early childhood educator at several Southern Brooklyn day-care centers and preschools, but he used to work as a librarian for the Brooklyn Public Library, where he met a renowned Ukrainian-born children’s book author and illustrator, Valeri Gorbachev, who inspired and encouraged Salita to write. Salita also studied at the New York Film Academy, and said this education helped create the philosophy behind his book.

“I want to write books that feel like film,” said Salita. “I originally wrote the stories in this book as scripts, and the illustrator was tasked with bringing the scripts to life.”

Salita’s brother is Dmitriy “Star of David” Salita, a local boxer and endorser who organizes matches through his company, Star of David Promotions. Mikhail’s first book, the Russian-language rap novel “Golden Gloves,” detailed his brother’s rise in the boxing world through rap-styled rhymes.

“B is for Brighton Beach” also connects with the family’s boxing background, as the book is endorsed by boxing legend and former world heavyweight champion George Foreman, and features a forward from legendary boxing publicist Bill Caplan.

The Salita brothers and Caplan are working on a similar children’s book, “B is for Boxing.”

“B is for Brighton Beach” is available in hardcover on Amazon.com for $34.95 and in digital format for $1.99.

Reach reporter Eric Faynberg at (718) 260–2508 or by e-mail at efaynberg@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @ericfaynberg.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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