Q: How did you come up with the idea for this Christmas 2020 book?
A: I was inspired to write this book over the summer while living in my hometown of Buffalo, New York, for the first time in 17 years. It was beautiful: I was re-connecting with my family in ways not possible when I was back home in New York City.
But, I realized, our favorite family holiday would not be so beautiful—Christmas was going to be different and difficult. And it would be especially hard for kids.
I realized a book could help parents begin those conversations with little ones—a book that celebrated family and love and the magic of Christmastime.
Q: What do you think Mark Chambers' illustrations added to the book?
A: First, it was hugely important to us that Mark’s illustrations present families of all different make-ups. We wanted to include diverse families in several senses of the word.
Second, in terms of what they add to the feeling, Mark’s illustrations are so cozy, so warm. They, to me, epitomize the feeling of Christmas! Whenever I read the book and take in his images, I feel this absolute calm and peace in my soul. The figures are joyous, and his scenes evoke the happiness of the holidays.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the story?
A: My goal in writing the book was to spread warmth and joy through the message, and also to make the book a gift as a way of saying to someone, “I love you. I miss you.”
I also came up with ideas for new traditions, since traditions will shift considerably this year, and included those on the last page—things like virtual cookie-decorating parties and delivering food to those who are home-bound.
The words celebrate what Christmas means to me, and what I believe it means to all of us universally. My hope is that many families see themselves reflected here, and feel less alone in their isolation. We all deserve to feel loved, to feel part of community and part of something bigger than ourselves—and especially on Christmas.
Q: How did you first get interested in creating children's picture books?
A: As a children’s book editor, I work with amazing creators—both artists and authors. I started in this business 11 years ago, and it truly is the most amazing, fulfilling career. There is nothing more incredible than seeing a project through, and bringing to life something that lives inside the heart of someone else.
Editors, as shepherds of creation, help give children the gift of stories that make them feel less alone. That’s what motivates me every day.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I am in the middle of trying to acquire a new picture book, as it happens! And possibly a middle-grade nonfiction, and possibly a YA novel, and and and.... In terms of projects already under contract, I am working with our designers to match some artists with picture book manuscripts intended for publication in 2022.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb