Bruno Rossi

A new children’s book whose main character comes to grips with and courageously faces his disability was inspired by a Riverside resident.

Author Bruno Rossi, a Chicago native who now lives in southern California, said that Felini Rizzo — the main character of his book Felini the Flea — was inspired by his adopted nephew, Ethan Tkalec.

Tkalec suffers from giant axonal neuropathy, a condition that results in progressive nerve damage.

Rossi said he wrote the book, because there are so few children’s books that include characters with disabilities. Felini the Flea tells the story of one-legged Felini Rizzo, a child in a family of flea circus performers who settles for selling tickets to the show instead of participating, because he is ashamed of his disability and is teased about it.

By chance, Felini learns that his disability doesn’t define him and overcomes his fear of his disability.

A portion of the book’s profits will be donated to various children’s organizations, according to Rossi.