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Growing up in Monroe
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MONROE - A Monroe native is putting the finishing touches on a children's book about growing up here.

"Life in the Quanset" is the first book in a series, detailing author Cindy Rodriguez's childhood.

Rodriguez, formerly Cindy Legler, has not lived in Monroe for over two decades. But she has many recollections of growing up in the city with her parents and six siblings.

"Its been a vivid memory for me," said Rodriguez, of Batavia, Ill., west of Chicago.

The first story is set in the home in which she lived on 17th Street with her family.

She was about two when the family moved out of the house, before her youngest sibling was born, to another home a few blocks from the Square.

And while she has no recollection of living in the Quanset hut-style home, she talked with her siblings about growing up in the home those first few years.

The home was torn down three or four years ago, Rodriguez said.

"It was there for years and years," Rodriguez said. "I'd tell my kids that is where I lived when I was born."

She also writes lovingly about the town she left behind, saying in the book that "there was a sense of community and belonging in all the people of the town."

She also has some vivid early Monroe memories, including the fire at the original Lincoln Elementary School.

"I cried, I loved school," Rodriguez said, adding that she was in fifth grade at the time.

Detailing her life in a series of children's books only adds to a collection of published works for Rodriguez. In fact, she was first published in 2009, with her children's book "I Was Born On 9/11."

The idea for the book started in 2007, when she was an assistant to a kindergarten class in Batavia.

There were two students in that class turning 6 on 9/11. She wanted children that age to understand what happened that day without being too specific.

Coming up with the children's story, she says, was the easy part. Finding an illustrator for the book was the hard part. The publishing company did not have any illustrators on hand for Rodriguez.

"PublishAmerica (Inc.) wrote back right away and said that it had merit," Rodriguez said.

So she made it a mission to find her own illustrator and in February of 2009, she formed a partnership with Joyce L. Elliott, a co-worker, and since then, the duo have published three other stories about 9/11.

They are hoping to add a fifth installment to that series in early next year.

Rodriguez found Brian Schulze, another co-worker, to illustrate the new book, which she hopes to see published and released sometime in October. Rodriguez, a mother of three and grandmother of two, is a secretary for the Batavia Public School District.

She writes in her spare time.

"In writing children's books, I have a way to help shape children's minds," Rodriguez said, adding she wants kids to remember how important every day is in their lives.

"No matter what you are doing or where you are, your lives are valuable," Rodriguez said.