Scholastic Press, September 2011, Fiction
Suitable for: Preschool and up
Synopsis: Everything started off the same magical way Christmas always does. Santa and his reindeer took off from the North Pole, loaded with presents for all the boys and girls around the world. Now, Dasher! Now Dancer! Now Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! Santa called out as the sleigh raced across the starry sky. Then POP! RIP! S-T-R-E-T-C-H! The harness that attached the reindeer to Santa’s sleigh was tearing. With one final BOING! it snapped in two! Ho! Ho! –oh, no!”
The reindeer fly off into the night. Santa and his sleigh full of toys plummet to the earth and crash into the side of a barn. A sleepy sheep peers from the barn…along with a pig, a goat, two cows, a horse and a hound dog. Santa’s eyes twinkle as he surveys the barnyard animals. Maybe he has found a solution so the children of the world won’t be disappointed. This is a wild and adventurous Christmas Eve sleigh ride, packed with a lot of humor, sound and action!
Author Interview With Michael Garland…
Michael Garland writes and illustrates Christmas books that are bold, colorful, expressive and beautiful eye-poppers. They will delight children of all ages. Oh, What A Christmas! is no exception. I am happy to have Michael join us to talk about his craft.
What was the inspiration behind “Oh, What A Christmas!” and what do you want young readers to take away from this story?
The inspiration came from the seed of an idea. What if Christmas didn’t go as planned What if Santa’s journey was derailed somehow? I want young readers to use their imaginations and think what they would do in Santa’s place. The inspiration for my other Christmas books is the same, to invent some new piece of Christmas mythology that will be exciting and interesting to children and add to the enjoyment of the holiday.
Explain how you illustrated “Oh, What A Christmas!” What methods do you use in your illustrations?
I start all my books with quick thumbnail sketches that form the layout dummy. Then I make a refined dummy with more finished sketches before I present it to the publisher as a proposal. The publisher, editor and art director add their input. When that’s all done, I start rendering the final art. I scan my sketches into my Mac computer. I scale them to size and begin painting them in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet. I also use scanned textures, patterns and old engravings as part of the overall work.
Was Christmas a special time for you as a child? Do you have a special memory, story or tradition you’d like to share?
The anticipation of Christmas was always the best part. My Christmas memories are all about family. Buying presents for my brothers, sister and parents. Making a wish list for myself. We would always decorate the tree together. My 86-year-old mother still creates beautiful handmade ornaments that benefit her church.
When did you realize you could draw? Did someone special encourage you?
From as early as I can remember, I could draw. My parents were the first to encourage me with lavish praise, but it wasn’t until I arrived at kindergarten, that I realized I could draw better than anyone else. The teachers would always hold my drawings up to show the class (never my math test). It was the thing that set me apart from others. It made me special.
Where have some of the ideas come from for many of your books?
The ideas for my books come out of thin air or from a word or a phrase I may have heard, or an event I may have witnessed. I have a constant flow of ideas for stories. For every one idea that gets published, I have five or six worthy, developed concepts that never see the light of day.
What is your most popular book/s or series among children? How many books have you published this year?
My most popular book to date has been the Mouse Before Christmas. Miss Smith and the Incredible Storybook has been my most popular series. It continues to resonate with teachers, librarians and kids because it is about the adventure of reading. Miss Smith and the Haunted Library was the first time I made the NY Times best seller list as an author. I’ve published four books this year: Super Snow Day, Grandpa’s Tractor, Miss Smith Under the Ocean, and Oh, What A Christmas!
You do a lot of school visits. What do kids ask you?
I enjoy school visits. Children want to know where I get my ideas. I get my ideas from everywhere. I explain to kids that ideas are like seeds. You plant them and let them grow, as if you are a farmer. They want to know how I make a book, so I show them with my book dummies. They ask me what is my favorite book. It is always the one I’m working on at the moment. I want that book to be the best book I’ve ever done.
You have received fan feedback about the use of your books with children who have special needs. Would you share those stories?
I received a letter from the mother of an autistic child. The boy was never interested in books until he was given Miss Smith and the Incredible Storybook. For some reason, he made a connection and was able to start the process of learning to read. He liked to create different voices for the characters. Another letter came from a teacher of developmentally disabled children. The teacher would use my book, How Many Mice? as an aid to teach counting, addition and subtraction. One boy asked about me so often that the teacher contacted me. We arranged for the boy, his mother and the wonderful teacher to visit my studio.
Are there any new books you are working on that you would like to share?
I have a new book coming out in the spring 2012 called Fish Had A Wish. It’s about a fish who becomes bored being a fish. The fish wishes he could be something else, but by the end of the story the fish comes around to thinking that it’s pretty nice to be a fish. It’s and easy reader meant for early readers. I’m writing a young adult fantasy novel. I also have some picture books in the works.
Note: Michael’s other Christmas books include Mouse Before Christmas, Christmas Magic, Christmas City, and An Elf for Christmas. He also illustrated James Patterson’s Santa Kid, Max Lucado’s Alabaster’s Song, and Gloria Estefan’s The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the Bulldog. Michael has written and illustrated over 30 books and has illustrated more than 40 books. He also is an artist who paints beautiful landscapes. Click on Michael Garland ‘s web site http://www.garlandpicturebooks.com, for a complete list of books, information about school visits, and a link to his art gallery. He is married, has three grown children, and lives in Putnam County, New York.
Thank you Michael for sharing your thoughts and your luminous artwork. I wish you every success with Oh, What A Christmas! — Patricia Tilton