ST. ALBANS – Once upon a time, there was a little duck. Little Ducky owned a pair of sneakers. Typically, mama duck tied his shoes, but one day, Little Ducky wanted to learn.

So begins a story created by two sisters, a story made more poignant because one of them has for years fought for life itself.

Back to the story: Ducky tried every day and the first few times he failed, but with his mother’s encouragement, he was eventually able to pick up the new skill.

This story about encouragement and perseverance is the premise of a new children’s book “Little Ducky Do: Can Little Ducky Tie His Shoes?,” written by two sisters.

“My sister Justina, who’s the author; this has been a lifelong dream for her,” Debra Adams, the co-illustrator, said. “She feels, and so do I, that giving your kids encouragement and that you believe in them, that anything is possible, is a really strong message.”

The journey to reach this point has been a difficult one. Justina Fink has had two open-heart surgeries and may potentially need a third. Her rare genetic disorder makes working difficult.

“She’s been on borrowed time for a long time,” Adams said of her sister. “I just really wanted her to experience this so she could complete something she’s dreamed about her whole life.”

Although the sisters live in separate states, with Justina in Virginia and Debra here in St. Albans, they were able to combine their skill sets and publish the book.

“I actually wrote Little Ducky Do in one day,” Fink said. “This is something, in some form, I wanted to do for my whole life.”

Once the storyline was complete, Adams began to sketch out the characters for a storyboard. “I’ve never been formally trained, but I love to paint; I like to be creative,” Adams said.

The storyboard was sent to illustrator Adit Galih in Indonesia to bring the story to life.

“She just does a fantastic job,” Adams said. “She pulls it right out of your head. Some things do get lost in translation. Like in the next book, Ducky is learning how to ride his bike. When I sent her the sketch and my sister and I put in a description, we said a banana seat bike.”

“Well, the illustration was beautiful, but Ducky was sitting on a banana,” she laughed. “So I guess they don’t call them banana seat bikes in other places. But she’s phenomenal.”

Finished over the summer, “Little Ducky Do: Can Little Ducky Tie His Shoes?” is the first book in a four-part series.

Adams said the other books will be a little longer because Ducky grows up and more characters come into the mix.

“Ducky gets a little sister,” Adams said. “That’s where he takes his lessons to teach someone else… It’s a pay it forward kind of thing.”

“It’s going to have a positive message, no matter what,” she said. “We’d like to touch on different subjects like adoption, how to raise animals, maybe even multi-racial families.”

“I want to have something that every single kid can relate to,” she said. “Given the chance, I think that we could make this a very positive part of early childhood.”

The book series is largely paid for by the sisters. “We’ve been doing this on our own,” Adams said. “Put five dollars away here, put 20 dollars away here.”

“Eventually we’ll get investors that believe this is going to be something,” she said.

“What a legacy, to keep on going,” Fink said. As of now, the first book is for sale online as well as coloring pages that can be downloaded for free. Fink doesn’t want to stop there.

“We’re just starting. I finished the second book two months ago,” Fink said. “I just got an illustration back for the front cover.“

Fink hopes to eventually have a variety of products from bath toys to rain gear with the Little Ducky Do logo. “This isn’t just a one shot pony,” she said.

“Life’s hard and if you can get a smile for a child, it’s all worth it,” Adams said. “There’s nothing more beautiful than a happy child.”

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