In Finding Christmas by Lezlie Evans and illustrated by Yee Von Chan, Squirrel, Mouse, and Hare are getting ready for Christmas. While Mouse is out looking for the perfect gift for Hare, she finds Swallow sick in the snow. The three friends bring Swallow home and try to nurse the bird back to health. Squirrel and Mouse realize their Christmas gifts will help Swallow get well. As they give up their presents to help Swallow, they find the Christmas spirit.
We were lucky enough to chat with author Lezlie Evans about writing children’s books, celebrating kindness, and Finding Christmas.
Q. Why write children’s books?
A. I didn’t grow up thinking I would write for children. There were many career paths I considered: an actor, a doctor, and a detective. Being a children’s book author never crossed my mind. In college, I majored in broadcast journalism and took several creative writing courses along the way. After many trips to the public library and reading hundreds of books with my six children, I discovered my true passion: writing for children. Many special bonding moments have come from reading with my children over the years. It’s my hope that my books might do the same for others.
Q. What books did you like to read as a kid?
A. Make Way for Ducklings was one of my favorite picture books as a child. I read it over and over again. My favorite novels included Where the Red Fern Grows, A Wrinkle in Time, and The Incredible Journey. These books made me cry. Books that tugged at my heartstrings and made me feel something deeply; those are the ones that have stayed with me.
Q. What was your inspiration for your title?
A. One Christmas when my six children were still at home, we ran into a snafu that changed the way we gave gifts. It was Christmas Eve and the pile of toys and trinkets we’d bought for the children lay on our bedroom floor waiting to be wrapped. My husband offered to help and I gratefully took him up on it. He quickly set about wrapping all of the gifts and finished the job in record time. But it was soon discovered that in his determination to get the task done, he had forgotten to put names on the gifts. When he realized his mistake, in an effort to save the day, he suggested we put the presents under the tree as is, let the children choose one at a time, open it, and then give it to the family member they thought needed it/would love it the most. This turned out to be one of our most cherished family memories. The children loved giving the gifts away to their delighted siblings, and my husband and I loved watching the sweet exchanges that took place. It was so much fun that our children asked if we could leave the names off the Christmas gifts the next year…and so we did. I didn’t see it at the time, but after writing Finding Christmas, I realized that Hare, Squirrel, and Mouse were a lot like my children: they found great joy as they gave their gifts away!
Q. Do you have any writing rituals?
A. For many, writing is a solitary endeavor, but not for me. My two cats see to that! I wouldn’t know how to write without Maxine and Callie by my side. As soon as I sit down at the computer, Max is at my feet and Callie jumps up and sits in between the keyboard and my computer screen. They are the purrrrrfect companions! Besides having my cats nearby, I also like to keep snacks close at hand. In my left-hand desk drawer, you’re sure to find salt and vinegar almonds and buffalo pretzel pieces. These treats keep me going. If I’m struggling with a particular passage or a part of the story, I’ll reach for the right-hand drawer. That’s where I keep the good stuff: chocolate!
Q. How do you share the message of kindness and friendship during the holidays?
A. The holidays are often hectic and many times I get overbooked and overloaded and don’t get around to doing everything I’d like to for my friends. I think that’s true for a lot of people. So when I found out Albert Whitman had created a Finding Christmas advent calendar (a simple, fun way to think of others during the holidays), I was thrilled! This free downloadable craft kit is something that families can create together. Then, on a daily basis, children can track the little ways they show kindness and think of others during the holidays. I can’t wait to make one with my grandkids when I see them at Thanksgiving! Feel free to share caring calendar with your friends.
Q. Hare loves to sing Christmas songs. In Finding Christmas, he declares it’s his favorite part of Christmas. Do you have a favorite Christmas carol?
A. I’m a lot like Hare! I love Christmas music and can be found “singing at the top of my lungs” all throughout the season. Sometimes I put on Christmas music at other times of the year just because it makes me feel happy! As for choosing a favorite, I don’t think I can pick just one. From Jingle Bells to Joy to the World, I love them all.
Thanks so much, Lezlie. To find out more about Finding Christmas and download the advent calendar craft visit our website.