Simply 7 with Erin Dealey: CHRISTMAS AHOY!

It’s not Christmas yet, but the holiday season is almost upon us.  Why not celebrate a picture book that is a super fun take on the holiday?

Dealey_ErinErin Dealey has visited my blog before.  She is a children’s author of over a dozen books.  She grew up in Oakland, California, where she often did her homework on the roof of her garage. You can learn more about her at her website or follow her on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and Pinterest.

Cover CHRISTMAS AHOY by Erin DealeyCHRISTMAS AHOY is an entertaining story about a Christmas boat parade.  I grew up on a small island in the Southeast of Alaska and one of my favorite parts of the holiday was the local boat parade.  So this book automatically won a special place in my heart.  But Erin’s writing takes it to the next level.  Santa should also be in the boat parade!  Of course!  And his appearance in this story had me cracking up.  The illustrations by Kayla Stark are spot on.  They are the perfect fit for this rhyming story that I can totally see being read and re-read a million times.

Welcome back Erin!

Me: I absolutely love this story!  I grew up on an island in the Southeast of Alaska and one of my favorite Christmas traditions was watching the holiday boat parade.  What gave you the idea for this story?

Erin: Thank you so much, Jena—and endless thanks for having me on your blog. I wrote CHRISTMAS AHOY! that winter when Holiday Boat Parades everywhere were cancelled due to COVID. We had some very disappointed boaters in the family and my first thought was to send them a book—except there wasn’t one. I’m so very grateful my story found its way to Sleeping Bear Books and was brought to life by Kayla Stark’s delightful illustrations.


Me:  I love that you incorporated the back matter about the boats!  What a great tie-in for educators!  Was that always part of the story?  Or did that come about from an editor’s suggestion?

Erin: It was always part of the story. As I researched the boats, I was surprised and fascinated by their origins, and I knew we needed to share them. For example, I’d always thought surfboards originated in Hawaii… 

Me: Ohhh!  Interesting.  What is one thing that surprised you in writing this story?

Christmas Ahoy first scribblesErin: It’s incredible how many lighted boat parades there are around the world. And I discovered the very first one in Newport Beach, California, began over 100 years ago with one gondola and eight canoes.  

Me: The rhyme in this story is fantastic.  Was it always this tight?  Or did it become so through revision?  How many revisions did this manuscript undergo?

Erin: Oh, I’m so glad to hear this.  Thank you! Not counting my scribbles and notes, I’d say there were four or five revisions after the first official draft. However, most of the changes were internal word choices to tighten the rhythm, not the end rhymes.

Me: The illustrations by Kayla Stark are so fun!  Were there any illustration surprises for you?  Were there any favorite illustrations?

Erin:  Aren’t they wonderful? First off, the pallette she chose is perfect, and there’s such fun energy in every spread. I sent my editor a few photos of actual boat decorations that I based the text on, and I love what Kayla did with them. And the seagulls and fish are adorable. My favorite has to be the last spread, though, because there are a few extra boats included with family members aboard.  (Can you guess which ones?)  

Christmas Ahoy! by Erin Dealey

Me: I love the idea of a Santa who has a boat instead of a sleigh.  I don’t want to give the ending away, but I LOVED your twist at the end.  What gave you the idea to change up Santa’s transportation a bit?

Erin: Ha—no spoilers but it seemed natural that a barge would be the equivalent of a sleigh. And with the reindeer chilling, fore and aft, I knew we needed a new nautical twist to add to the magic.

Me: What future projects can we look forward to from you?

Erin: Thank you for asking! I can’t wait to share my next picture book, JUST FLOWERS, about a budding botanist, a very grumpy neighbor, random acts of kindness, community, and LOTS of flowers. It will blossom from Sleeping Bear next March 2024, with absolutely stunning illustrations by Kate Cosgrove.

Ohh!  I can’t wait to read it.  Thank you for stopping by my blog again today Erin.

Dear readers, this picture book actually came out in July.  If you haven’t yet had a chance to check it out, it might just be the perfect holiday gift for someone you know.  I highly recommend checking it out.

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