STRAIGHT FROM THE AUTHOR: Andrea Legg discusses debut children’s book

Tuscarawas County Public Library System staff member Andrea Legg of Dover recently became a published author with the release of her first children's novel, "Flap Your Wings Little Robin." (Photo by Bev Keller)

As the extension and technical services manager for the Tuscarawas County Public Library System and the chair for Tuscarawas County Literacy Coalition’s most recent One Book One Community project, Andrea Legg has seen firsthand how a story with a powerful message can inspire empathy and break down barriers within a community.

As a newly-published children’s author with a debut book about to premiere at major retailers nationwide, Legg is hoping that her story will have a similar impact.

Legg is the author of “Flap Your Wings, Little Robin,” a new children’s picture book published by Mascot Books about a robin who is unable to sing. The book is designed to be reaffirming to children with disabilities and includes an American Sign Language guide for children.

The book was released locally earlier this month and will be available for sale online through Mascot Books and major retailers including Amazon, Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble beginning February 2.

The Budget recently caught up with Legg to talk to her about the inspiration for the book, the publication process and what it was like to see her story in print for the first time.

What or who inspired you to write this book?

My son is the force that inspired me to write this book. He had a complicated start to his life that included a tracheostomy, among other medical interventions. For the first few years of his toddlerhood, he was unable to vocalize because of the trach and had to rely primarily upon American Sign Language to communicate with my husband and me. There was a time when we weren’t sure if he’d ever be able to vocalize or ever be able to breathe without the assistance of the tracheostomy. The silent little robin who is the hero of this story is very much based upon him, and if you look closely at the illustration of the robin, you’ll see a faint white band of feathers around his neck that resembles a tracheostomy collar.

How did you come up with the story?

When my son was unable to make sound, my husband and I noticed that there weren’t any children’s books that celebrated alternative forms of communication – most books that featured quiet animals, like Eric Carle’s “The Very Quiet Cricket,” focused on the animal eventually overcoming their so-called weakness and ultimately producing sound. I wanted a book that would honor a different form of communication as a strength, not a weakness, and thought that using a silent bird as a vehicle for that – an animal known for its sound – would be a powerful way to do that.

What kind of experience do you hope to give the reader?

I want the reader to gain a deeper understanding of different ways that we as humans can communicate to one another and develop a greater sense of empathy for those who are different.

How did the story evolve from an idea into a published book?

The path to publishing is every bit as difficult as every author says it is. I definitely experienced the same challenges that other aspiring authors do when putting their first manuscripts out there in front of agents and publishers. This isn’t a story that fits into a convenient niche for many of the big publishers; when I realized that, I began setting my sights on smaller independent publishers who were more likely to take on a unique story and promote it. I pitched my manuscript to Mascot Books, based out of Virginia, and they were very supportive of the goals I was trying to reach with the story and picked it up right away.

Did you work closely with the illustrator during the process?

Yes, absolutely. Jenny Zandona and I partnered together on this story, and she was incredibly receptive to my ideas and vision. I gave her some input and she put a unique twist on scenes that I would have never thought to imagine. It was a collaborative dream.

What was it like to see the book for the first time?

It was surreal, to be honest! To have something tangible that others can read and enjoy for years to come… there’s nothing quite like it. I am so grateful for this opportunity.

Do you have any plans of releasing a second book?

I do! I am finishing up the manuscript for it and hope to start sending it out to literary agents this spring. Cross your fingers for me!

Compiled by Stacey Carmany