Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing

Author Interviews

Christmas Fun with Pennie, The Christmas Pickle

by Michell Spoden

Christmas is the season of joy, peace and love. This message is the very one we remember to hold on to forevermore. This is a message that would not leave you feeling sour. And my guest today is an author who is getting this message out in her book Pennie, The Christmas Pickle.

Michell: Hi Tony. Please tell our readers a little about you.

Tony: My name is Tony Marini and I am 53 years old. I am half Slovak and half Italian. My father came here from Italy when he was 12 years old and my mother was a native Clevelander. Although I am a children’s book writer, my regular job is a Nuclear Medicine and MRI technologist at University Hospitals Parma Medical Center. My first degree was in journalism and I have always enjoyed the thrill of writing.

Michell: Please share a bit about this Christmas book you have written.

Tony: Pennie, the Christmas Pickle has been a labor of love for many years. Since I was a child, I always wanted to write a children’s book. Every Christmas Eve, I would read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to several friends–kind of a tongue-in-cheek performance. I would wear a Santa beard and a Santa hat! On the back of the book was a little blurb about the tradition of placing a Christmas Pickle ornament in the tree. My friend Milka was reading it and said: “Hey Tony! There’s your children’s book! Why not bring the pickle tradition to life?” So, I did. I created a character and a story to go with it. Hence, the story of a cucumber that becomes the famous Christmas Pickle!

Michell: Why a pickle?  Do you think Santa loves pickles?

Tony: The pickle tradition goes back many years. You may have seen glass ornaments that are in the shape of a pickle. Many people will put the pickle ornament in the tree. Come Christmas morning, the first person to find the pickle ornament gets a prize and good luck throughout the year. No one is exactly sure who started the tradition. Some people say it was the Germans. Some people say it originated in Poland. Others say the tradition started in America. One thing is certain—hiding the pickle in the tree allows children to admire the tree come Christmas morning as opposed to looking at the gifts under the tree. It is designed to showcase the beauty of the Christmas tree on Christmas. For some families, it has become a very competitive game on Christmas day. Santa loves pickles for sure! He’s the one that created Pennie Pickle after all!

Michell: Is this book being used as Storytime for children?

Tony: Over the last five years, Pennie Pickle has been used at multiple locations for children’s story time. Some of the places have included: The Cleveland Art Museum, Macy’s, local libraries, and many retail stores throughout the United States. This year, there will be a reading and fun children’s activities at the Brook Park Library December 28th. I will be reading the book and Pennie Pickle (in costume) will be making a guest appearance!

Michell: What is your favorite part of the story and why?

Tony: My favorite part of the story is when Santa makes Pennie Pickle the magical Christmas Pickle. It’s a turning point for me because it proves that we can all achieve what we want to achieve. In the book, Pennie is “bullied” by her siblings because she dreams of becoming something great. She ultimately proves them wrong.

Michell: This book covers reading, decorating, cooking and singing. Why is that?

Tony: When I was creating the book, I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a story. I wanted it to be a whole kit of activities that could bring children and families together. I imagined parents sitting around the tree reading the book. BUT, I also wanted it to be more than just a reading and a lesson. So, I created two recipes: one to make some kid-friendly cookies and the other to make easy dill pickles. I also have a portion of the book where a child can create their own Pennie Pickle ornament. That gives parents an opportunity to keep a child busy while they are planning other Christmas events. The song was added to bring another dimension to the book. The song is very catchy and is a good adjunct to the book.

Michell: What is your favorite type of pickle?

Tony: Wow, that is a good question. I am partial to dill pickles. However, I also enjoy sweet pickles and some of the newer treads in pickles, like the “Hot and Spicy” kind.

Michell: Do you support any charitable or environmental causes?

Tony: I support many charitable causes. One cause that is near and dear to me is Juvenile Diabetes. My oldest niece was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at a very early age. I am hopeful there will be a cure for Type 1 diabetes one of these days. As far as environmental causes, I am very supportive of reuse, recycle, and repurpose. In fact, another local children’s writer has written a book called Santa’s Green Christmas—a recycling Christmas story. I love it and I’ve been recommending it to all my friends.

Michell: Do you think this book set would be a great gift for toys for tots?

Tony: Pennie, the Christmas Pickle is a perfect Toys for Tots gift. It’s great because it brings kids back to the basics of life–reading, spending time with the family and sharing good times together.

Michell: What are some of your long term goals?

Tony: I would like to continue writing. I have another book in the oven. It’s a Thanksgiving book about a very selfish turkey named Thomas Turkey. Stay tuned . . .

Visit to learn more about Pennie, The Christmas Pickle.

About the Interviewer

Michell Spoden is a survivor of a cold case rape case and author of the book Stricken Yet Crowned. She has an associate’s degree in Business Science Administration and is presently working on her Bachelors in Project Management.

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