Q: What inspired you to write An Elf's Journey Home?
A: My children! Last holiday season, after having to make up reasons for why the elf didn't move – “Oh no! Did one of you touch him?” I was ready to be done.
My children still believe in Santa, so I was trying to figure out a way to transition out of the elf on the shelf without having to burst the bubble of Santa. I searched online for a book but found nothing.
So, I decided to write my own that explained the end of the elf leaving - but also that we could keep the elf forever - all while maintaining “Santa.”
A few months ago, when we got the first real copy of the book, I gave it to my son to read. He came running downstairs and exclaimed, “I didn't know we could keep the elf in our family!” It was perfect!
Q: What do you think Rachel H. Brown's illustrations add to the story?
A: Rachel is an extremely talented illustrator, and her illustrations bring life to the words in a visual way children can easily follow.
When writing the story, there were a number of things important to me I wanted to incorporate.
The first is a higher level of vocabulary - and the illustrations help bridge any gaps in understanding words that children may not be as familiar with.
The second is I wanted the illustrations to fill gaps in literature - such as books featuring diverse families. Even with the family pet in the story, I was intentional about choosing a black dog that is not clearly any breed because black dogs are adopted the least in the United States.
Q: Did you know how the story would end before you started writing it, or did you change things around as you wrote?
A: I knew that I wanted the elf to stay with the family permanently. I've seen some blogs where the elf leaves and never returns because it goes to stay with a new family - but that would result in the elf likely being thrown away.
For many children, elves have been a favorite, treasured part of the holidays and allowing them to keep it was important to me. How exactly that would happen was something developed while writing it. I definitely changed things while writing to ensure the story flowed well and tied together nicely.
Q: What do you hope kids take away from the book?
A: I tried to embed important life lessons within the book, as well as introduce children to new words they may not have heard before to help expand their vocabulary.
Specifically, trying to share that just because they make a mistake does not mean they are inherently bad - that making mistakes is okay and normal. It's just important that we learn and grow from them.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a few children's books I am working on that fill gaps I have seen in literature for young children from owning my daycare and preschool centers, Tierra Encantada.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: An Elf's Journey Home is perfect for families looking to gracefully end their elf on the shelf tradition - but it isn't necessarily only for those families. The story is written about one elf's journey home to their family, and families that have never had an elf will still enjoy reading it with their children!
--Interview with Deborah Kalb