THE SMALLEST GIFT OF CHRISTMAS by Peter Reynolds - Giveaway!
I have a treat for you today, lucky readers!!! The wonderful creator of such books as THE DOT and ISH, Peter Reynolds is here to talk about his newest creation THE SMALLEST GIFT OF CHRISTMAS!
Q. Peter, you have become the master of simplicity and defining ambiguous ideas. Is that just the way you think?
A. Yes. I could expound, but less is more.
Q. You do it again in THE SMALLEST GIFT OF CHRISTMAS by dealing with size, how our value of things can change depending on how we look at them. How long does it take you to noodle out such a lofty idea?
A. The initial idea strikes like lightning and it is almost an emergency situation to find pen to put to paper some fragment of that idea to preserve it. It may be months or years before I return to begin the "taffy pull." That is the process of stretching the concept out into a timeline — making room for a setting, characters and, most important, the "knot" to be untied.
Photo credit: Gretje Ferguson.
Q. And how do the ideas come to you? Are you a seeker of the ambiguous and amorphous?
A. I have "story radar" built into my brain. The alert sounds during conversations or times of reflection. I may also misread or mishear something and end up liking the idea. I most enjoy looking for universal ideas worth sharing in new ways. What inspires me is being the voice for those who might not have found theirs yet. I want my readers to hear me saying, "Ignore the labels and the experts (unless it brings you joy and seems to be working), and bravely make your voice heard and envision your own path." The Dot, Ish, Sky Color, and The North Star were inspired by that mission.
Q. I think every child wishes for THE BIGGEST present. Did you when you were young?
A. I'm guessing it was a Christmas morning in 1968, when I raced to the tree to find my gifts and saw an enormous gift beside the tree. My heart leapt with joy. Then I read the tag. It was not for me! It was for... gasp... my little sister, Renie. Wanting that big gift threw me for a loop on what should have been a magical morning for a wee lad. By the way, turned out to be a 3-dollar sled my dad had bought. That is the sort of thing dads do trying to be helpful, not realizing the art and science of gift distribution to a gaggle of kids. I ended up quite happy with my own gift — a set of 24 Scottish jams in tiny jars that actually became one of my most treasured gifts ever. It took a year before I finished up the last little jar of gooseberry jam.
Q. We never find out what's in the box - any hints?
A. It's a pair of Christmas socks. The kind with red and green lights and a music box built in. Painful to walk on, but very festive.
I'm kidding. Isn't it better to leave to your imagination? I do have a thought, but I will wait until 2023 for the 10th anniversary of The Smallest Gift of Christmas.
Q. I love the way the story ends—its a satisfying reminder of what's important in life. How do you work out a story arc?
A. I'm glad you liked it. It actually ends quietly, without a lot of fanfare. I wanted to make a point that after a rocket-fueled adventure, the simplicity of just being with your family is actually more powerful. My method of arc building is to "film" the story in my head. My imagination fuses with logic to create a satisfying story that makes sense.
Q. This book looks like a different illustration method for you, yes? How did you do it?
A. I love my crow quill, ink, and watercolor on paper, but I am not locked into one set of tools. It is refreshing to try new ways of expressing myself. My other hat in life is being co-founder of FableVision, www.fablevision.com — a transmedia studio. We do quite a bit of animation using digital tools. I used Adobe Flash to create this book because it’s an environment I feel very comfy creating in. I am working on developing this into an animated holiday special tentatively renamed as "ROLAND & THE CHRISTMAS ROCKET."
Q. Can you share your path to publication?
A. Karen Lotz at Candlewick actually dreamed up the title "The Smallest Gift of Christmas," initially imagining a very small trim size. They asked me if I would consider creating a Christmas book with this title. After mulling for a month, I was ready to say “no.” I felt that there were plenty of Christmas books out there — and owning a bookshop myself (wwww.bluebunnybooks.com), I had seen some mighty fine ones — but also many that started looking the same. I did not want to add to that pile. When I told my wife it was a “no go,” she was upset that I was missing an opportunity to give the season my take and twist. I was upset that she was upset. And that frustration was the inspiration. Here I was: a lucky soul who makes children's books, feeling all out of sorts — like a small child with "great expectations" on Christmas morning, dashed with the "smallest gift" under the tree!
Q. Any words of wisdom for those hoping to create their own DOTs and ISHs in life?
A. Dream. Listen. Play. Write. Draw. Share. Repeat.
Thanks so much for stopping by!
Thanks, Elizabeth for inviting me over for a cup of cocoa and a great chat. By the way, nice Christmas socks you're wearing! [e: How did you know!?]
Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year to you and your readers.
Candlewick has kindly agreed to send one free copy of THE SMALLEST GIFT OF CHRISTMAS to one of my lucky commenters. (Must live in the US or Canada to win.) Enter below!
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