SHREWSBURY – The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown presented many people with ample free time and the chance to pursue new hobbies and activities.
Shrewsbury resident Deborah Rocco and her daughters Gianna and Lea took that to heart, using the opportunity to write a children’s book about one northern saw-whet owl’s improbable journey.
“Tiny Owl and the Rockefeller Christmas Tree” is based on the true story of Rocky, an owl that survived the 170-mile, three-day trip from Oneonta, New York, to New York City after the Norway spruce he was in was cut down to be used as last year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.
“We wanted the story to just kind of tell the story of the owl’s journey, that it got trapped in the tree, the 170-mile journey,” Deborah said in a recent interview with the Community Advocate. “Our story is very factual.”
Deborah said that, during the pandemic, her adult daughters Gianna and Lea came back to her house and worked together there for several months.
After hearing about Rocky, Gianna mentioned that they should write a children’s book about her. They eventually decided to do just that.
“It was a lot of fun to collaborate on a project with my daughters and to have a finished product,” Deborah said.
She added that each of them brought something different to the project. Lea was the best editor. Gianna came up with the idea for the book. And Deborah researched the publishing process.
Deborah said that they found an illustrator, Nataliia Tymoshenko, after seeing her work posted on the website Upwork. The writers then collaborated with Tymoshenko on the book remotely, as Tymoshenko lives in Ukraine.
Deborah said that Tymoshenko’s illustrations were fabulous, and that they fit the book perfectly.
“I sent her pictures of the real owl and I sent her the whole storyboard that we had put together,” she said. “We didn’t really make many changes to her illustrations. She was pretty spot on.”
The book has since been published through Amazon Kindle, which Deborah said offers the book both in e-book format and in paperback.
Deborah said that she donated three copies of the book to the Shrewsbury Library.
Additionally, she said they will donate a portion of the book’s annual proceeds to the Ravensbeard Wildlife Center, a wildlife rehabilitation center that rehabilitated Rocky after he was found in the tree.
“They rehab all kinds of different wildlife, a lot of birds from what I can tell,” Deborah said.
She said she wasn’t sure how much money they would donate to the center yet, but said she thinks it will be at least 20 percent of the proceeds.
Ultimately, Deborah said that their book is about Rocky’s journey. But it’s also about everyday heroes.
“[It’s about] people who were willing to try to figure out how to save the owl, how to rehab the owl, what to do with the owl,” she said. “The fact that a Ravensbeard center even exists just talks to humankind.”
Tiny Owl and the Rockefeller Christmas Tree is available through Amazon at www.amazon.com/Tiny-Owl-Rockefeller-Christmas-Tree/dp/B08RR5ZG4L.
Learn more about the Ravenbeard Center by visiting ravensbeard.org.