A group gathered around the reading corner of the Harn Museum of Art to listen to 9-year-old Audrey Allen read.
Audrey, who was born with spina bifida, was the inspiration for the main character, Tessee, in the book “Tessee and Amos Wonder: How Do Things Fall?”
Shelley Fraser Mickle, the author of the book – published in February – joined 10 other Florida children’s authors to read their books on April 5.
Kathryn Rush, the museum’s store manager, heard about other children’s book signing days at other museums and wanted to bring the event to Gainesville. With the help of the Alachua County Library District she was able to.
“I’m really moved personally by Audrey’s story, and I find her inspirational,” Rush said.
She said Written Inspiration: A Children’s Book Signing Event encourages literacy, creativity and hopes to inspire the love of art.
Mickle, a Gainesville resident, learned about Audrey from her daughter, who taught a multi-age class at Littlewood Elementary School. Mickle’s daughter said Audrey would sometimes attend class with her 0lder sister.
The author and her husband created their own publishing house, Wild Onion Press, to write about children with physical differences as book heroes. Mickle was an adult and young adult author for more than 40 years.
“I wanted to create books where these children are the heroes and save everyone else,” Mickle said. “In this book, Tessee [the character inspired by Audrey] is almost like MacGyver who solves problems and saves others. Audrey was the perfect inspiration.”
Mickle had polio and said she now lives a very normal, active life. She wants children to know it is possible to overcome physical limitations.
“I’ve taken (Audrey) to a first-grade class, and they’ve asked her about how she gets around on a playground,” Mickle said. “We’re hoping the stigma will go away. She’ll be a great advocate for other children.”
While this was Audrey’s first reading and book signing, Mickle hopes Audrey can inspire students her age through more readings of the book in schools and at other events.
“This is the most rewarding,” Mickle said. “I love seeing these children grow through the power of stories.”