Finding Christmas (plus author interview)

Finding ChristmasEvans, Lezlie Headshot

I am pleased to have author Lezlie Evans as my guest today to discuss her new picture book, Finding Christmas, which releases TODAY (throws confetti) with a flurry of amazing editorial reviews.  Stay tuned after my review for a look into Lezlie’s writing life and details on creating this warm winter tale.

Summary

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.

“A tender holiday reminder that generosity means the most when it’s directed at those who are truly in need.” —Publishers Weekly

Why I love this book

Every once in a while you come across a story that warms your heart. The kind of story that you want to incorporate into your own family traditions —this is one of those stories. Finding Christmas is a new hit that has the feel of an old-time classic.  The illustrations by Yee Von Chan have a nostalgic feel with the endearing characters reminiscent of huggable sock animals. Grab a cozy blanket, light a fire in the fireplace and settle the kids on your lap for a real holiday treat.

FindingChristmas by Lezlie Evans and Yee Von Chan

                                                                                                                                                         illustrations copyright ©2017 by Yee Von Chan

Hello, Lezlie, thank you for joining us for this Picture Book Playlist author interview.

Finding Christmas is such a sweet story, please tell us where you found your inspiration.

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 large 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 simple mistake 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, 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 – as they gave their gifts away, they found great joy!

What is your favorite childhood book?
I can remember my mother reading Make Way for Ducklings. I was very concerned about the little ducklings making it to safety and was so relieved when they did. I loved that story! In fact, I still have a very worn copy of that book from my childhood and also a copy of the book I Can Fly. The book I Can Fly sent the message that I could do anything I wanted. I love picture books that empower children. Those two were definitely among my favorites.
How did you find your illustrator?
Many times, people ask this question. I really don’t find the illustrator, although the publisher does ask my opinion. The publisher takes the lead on this and will, ultimately, make the final decision. It is always a thrill to see how the illustrator will bring the characters to life. Speaking of which, I think Yee Von Chan did a fabulous job on the artwork! The Little Burrow couldn’t be more cozy, warm, and inviting, and the animals Yee Von painstakingly created with tiny pen dashes are adorable. Albert Whitman chose the perfect artist or this story!
Do you have any writing rituals?
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 my keyboard and the computer screen. They are the purrrrrfect companions! One of my writing quirks is I like to keep snacks in my left-hand desk drawer. I’ll munch on salt and vinegar almonds and buffalo pretzel pieces to keep me going. And if I’m really struggling with a particular passage or part of the story, I’ll reach for the right-hand drawer. That’s where I keep the good stuff – the chocolate!

How long have you been writing?
I first got the writing bug in high school when I took a creative writing class. I discovered my love of poetry. Flash forward: after hundreds of trips to the public library with my six children, I decided to try to write children’s books. Interestingly enough, Finding Christmas is my first book that is not poetry or free verse. As for my other books, I feel so lucky to have worked on a variety of topics that interest me – a counting book in ten different languages, the story of a mother’s unconditional love, and a book all about the many feelings a child (or even an adult) encounters throughout his day, to name a few.

Finding Christmas is a story about three friends who show kindness and compassion to a stranger in need. Do you have any suggestions on how to help children develop empathy for others?
Popular author and speaker, Michele Borba, EdD said, “The right book can stir a child’s empathy better than any lesson or lecture ever could. And the right book matched with the right child can be the gateway to opening his heart to humanity.” I echo Dr. Borba’s sentiments and suggest reading books that nurture empathy. You can find a great list with many of my favorites on my Facebook author page: Lezlie Evans – Author. (scroll down) They can also be found here:
http://www.teachthought.com/pedagogy/50-of-the-best-books-to-teach-children-empathy/

What plans do you have for future books or projects?
I have another picture book coming out early in 2018. Daddies Do is a shout-out to daddies everywhere and the exuberant way they interact with their little ones. Illustrated by Italian artist, Elisa Ferro, the vibrant, fun illustrations are filled with fun and humor. Look for it in time for Father’s Day!

You can learn more about Lezlie and her books on her website at www.lezlieevans.com

Buy Finding Christmas here to add it to your playlist.

Finding Christmas
by Lezlie Evans
illustrated by Yee Von Chan
Published by Albert Whitman & Company Oct 2017

FindingChristmas 2

   illustrations copyright ©2017 by Yee Von Chan

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