Oh, What a Christmas! by Michael Garland

Michael Garland, author and illustrator

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 ChristmasHe also illustrated James Patterson’s Santa KidMax Lucado’s Alabaster’s Song, and Gloria Estefan’s The Magically Mysterious Adventures of Noelle the BulldogMichael 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

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

28 thoughts on “Oh, What a Christmas! by Michael Garland

  1. Pat, this is my favorite blog interview that I have read so far this year. The artwork that you were able to share from Michael is just glorious and I love all these barn animals getting to pull that Christmas sleigh (the cows are my favorites!). I am sure this one will be a great success too. Even Michael has four or five fleshed out ideas unpublished for every success. WOW! Love reading about the illustrative process.

    I was especially thrilled to read how his books have so many fans among children with special needs and was very touched about the child who got to visit his studio!

    I have been a fan of Michael Garland for a while and just wish I had more access to his beautiful books. Grandpa’s Tractor is one of my favorites at the moment. I was unaware that Michael also wrote YA!

    Thank you Pat and Michael for this lovely interview.

    • Joanna, I’m glad you liked the post! I had such a blast working on this with Michael Garland. He was so gracius to provide me with interior art. Pure joy! I love the expressions on the animals in flight when they realize they are flying. You don’t have access to many Garland books in France? Yes, Grandpa’s Tractor is among my favorites. My friend gave that book to her husband for his birthday, after she read my review. He loved it so much and read it to their grandchildren. They’ve decided to make this Christmas a “tractor theme” for their grandsons. How cool is that! Yes, I wanteded parents with children with special needs to know about his bold, colorful and interactive books. – Pat

    • Erik, I knew you would like this book! You may want to check out some of his Christmas books to review for your blog followers. I think he writes some of the best Christmas picture books and other for kids!- Pat

  2. What a wonderful interview, Pat! Thank you, and a huge thanks to Michael for participating and sharing so much of himself and his writing process with us. It was heartening to learn that even someone like him has projects that don’t see the light of published day. (Considering how prolific he is, then considering how many projects *aren’t* published, gives one a rather startling picture of how busy, dedicated, and imaginative he must be!)

    I know I say this often, but I *MUST* read this book, and others he has written/illustrated. What delight!

    • Beth, I’m happy you enjoyed the interview! I had so much fun putting this post together. I love his illustrations and it was fun learning about the process. I believe many authors and bloggers reading this post today will be struck by the reference you made to publication. Knowing he is so good, that surprised me. I hope you enjoy his book. – Pat

  3. I really enjoyed this interview, Pat! As you know, I know Michael and have spoken with him about his work, but it’s always fun to learn new things. How wonderful that his work has reached special needs children in special ways, and that he was willing to take the time to have one actually visit his studio!

    • Susanna, I’m glad you enjoyed the interview. It was so much fun! And, his books are dazzlers for children at Christmas! I loved the expressions on the faces of the animals. You are so lucky to know and interact with him! – Pat

  4. Oh this is a beautiful post, pictures and interview with a very talented, Michael Garland. I actually raced upstairs thinking a Christmas book I have kept to review later was one of his, but it wasn’t. I love the colourfulness of these pictures and it never ceases to amaze me how even the most talented and well known have a journey to take in being published. We are not alone Pat.
    You have done a wonderful job here in your interview interaction with Michael, so warm and informative. He sounds like a very gentle, caring friend and loved that he invited the child to his studio. I loved it. As Joanna said, the best ever!

    • Diane, so happy you enjoyed his beautiful book and the interview! I really enjoyed how he invited the child to his studio. Yes, he did have some messages to impart to the authors reading this blog. Wished I had asked him what was on his Christmas list as a child. Too late. Had so much fun preapring this blog! – Pat

  5. Lovely post Pat! And thank you to Michael for sharing such beautiful art.

    Thank you for giving me this lovely idea to wrap under the tree for my son! It can be *quite* challenging to find gifts that will delight a non-verbal child! Can’t wait to see what he will think of Michael’s work!

    And thank you to Michael as well, for his lovely art and extra attention to special fans!

    • Oh Cathy, I’m so happy you liked the book and interview. Michael was very generous and it was fun working with him. I tell everyone he writes the best picture books! Your son would love the bold colors and eye-popping picture of most of his work. Let me know how he responds. -Pat

    • Jennie, I’m glad you stopped by. I have been over the hill with excitement knowing that I was doing this blog. His books are just beautiful! He is such a nice and generous person, as you can tell by the warmth of the interview.

  6. Pat – what a WONDERFUL interview!
    I am already in love with this book. I think I am going to hit the scholastic site and try to order it for my kids through their classroom. If not – it’s off to amazon! What a darling story and I love the illustrations as well!

    • Leigh, I think it is quite wonderful too. It was so much working with Michael on this blog. I couldn’t believe he’d give me interior art work. I want everyone to see it! He writes such wonderful children’s books. Teachers and librarians love his books too. Thanks for stopping.

  7. What a fantastic interview! I loved reading about the artistic process for creating the illustrations. This book looks absolutely precious! We have a copy of The Mouse Before Christmas, and I read it to my younger students every year the week before the Christmas break. Thanks, Pat!

    • Kelly, I appreciate your comments — especially coming from a librarian. I was fascinated with his artistic process. The Mouse Before Christma has been his most popular book of all. I love it too. I hope you read this one to yor kids. — Pat

  8. Pingback: Perfect Picture Book – Christmas City « Children's Books Heal

  9. Another great interview Pat! I love the illustrations from Oh! What A Christmas! Thanks for asking about his illustration methods, I love hearing that kind of stuff from artists since I’m studying graphic design. Michael is very talented! Now I want to go read all his books!

    • Amanda, I’m really glad you enjoyed the post, especially since you are studying graphic design. I have read almost all of his books. His Miss Smith and the Incredible Storybook series. Think my favorite is “Grandpa’s Tractor.” Take a look at his website and artwork. – Pat

  10. Wow, great interview, Pat. I loved hearing about Michael’s process, his school visits, and all of his books. Thanks so much for introducing me to his work. I’m on my way over to his website now.

    • Ruth, I’m happy you enjoyed the interview, especially his artistic process. It’s fun to introduce people to authors they don’t know. I think his artwork stands out. He receives letters from kids who comment on his books being “awesome!” — Pat

    • Stacy, it was a busy time of year. But, it was nice that you checked out my post on Michal Garland after the fact. He is such a generous individual and I had a ball working with him, as I know Susan did. Enzo would love his very bold books.

  11. Pingback: Perfect Picture Book friday – Grandpa’s Tractor | Miss Marple's Musings

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