To get cracking with Christmas (it had to happen sooner or later), this week we met up with talented children's author (and fellow gay dad), Samuel Langley-Swain to talk about his trio of children's Christmas books.
Before I launch into our interview with Samuel, let's take a quick look at his Christmas children's book trio - The Special Delivery, Santa's Wish and The Christmas Next Door.
Our boys LOVE them; they're an easy, enjoyable read but they're different to other Christmas kids' books because they touch lightly on some complex family themes like loss, sensory issues and diversity.
The Christmas Next Door
A cremated Christmas turkey, sprinkles of mischief and an eventful visit from Grandad - we loved the hand-drawn style illustrations and heart-warming messages of togetherness and family.
Here's what Lyall thinks:
"The Grandad in this book reminds me of our Grandad because he's a bit naughty but really lovely and kind. When he put the children to bed at bedtime he gave them some sneaky chocolates!"
You can purchase The Christmas Next Door directly from Samuel's website by clicking here.
The Special Delivery
Jack and Daisy help Postman Pete on his Christmas delivery round in this upbeat rhyming story about generosity at Christmas. We all loved the dogs in this one!
"This was my favourite Christmas story because Jack and Daisy went into the shed and helped the elves make toys and I have friends called Jack and Daisy too at school and I think it might be about them because the pictures in the book look like them."
You can purchase The Special Delivery directly from Samuel's website by clicking here.
Find out what Father Christmas wants for Christmas in Santa's Wish. It's a tear-jerker!
The illustrations in Santa's Wish are wonderful, they have a childish quality that makes us feel really warm and happy (I know it's not all about the pictures, but they are so lovely). This one leaves you feeling REALLY Christmassy.
"In this book Santa visits the kids on Christmas Eve but he comes in through the window instead of the chimney because he's eaten too many mince pies! I like the bit when the children go in Santa's sleigh to the North Pole."
You can purchase Santa's Wish directly from Samuel's website by clicking here.
Q & A with Samuel Langley-Swain
Welcome to Daddy & Dad, Samuel! Tell us a little about yourself and your family
Thanks! Well I am part of a two-dad family like your good selves, with two amazing children who teach me more about life and about myself than I ever realised I could learn. Our lives are fast-paced, chaotic and wonderful, just like any other family really. We love art and music (which is what each of us Dads trained in) so we try and find ways to fit that in around homework, sports, video games and all that normal 'tweenage' stuff!
What inspired you to become an author?
Well, that's a bit of a sad one, so you may be sorry you asked! On our first Christmas together (after adopting our sons), our eldest sat down with me on Christmas Eve and said 'Daddy, how on earth can Santa be real?'. 'Why?' I asked nervously. 'Because he's never visited us before' was the reply that immediately tugged my heart strings out of my chest, so hard that my eyes began to water.
From that moment on, I realised that a) Christmas was not all reindeer and cookies for a lot of children and b) that I wanted to do something that would have an impact on other children like mine, in more vulnerable situations. That same week, I stumbled upon an Amazon competition to rewrite The Night Before Christmas. I wrote Santa's Wish, a new 'classic Christmas story' to help people think about others instead of themselves, which in turn would send some good fortune to those who would need it.
7,000 sales of the book the following Christmas (once i'd learned the ropes of self-publishing) and here we are, five books later under my own publishing company 'Owlet Press'.
Tell us about your trio of Christmas books. What is their message to readers?
Our strap-line is 'growing into wisdom' so all our stories need to teach children something. Our Christmas books are no different:
Santa's Wish - a story about KINDNESS
The Special Delivery - a story about THOUGHTFULNESS
and The Christmas Next Door - a story about TOGETHERNESS
We have woven some pretty special themes into our newest book, The Christmas Next Door, written by T. A. Creaser (we've grown to publish other authors now too which feels great) such as autism and loss. Sounds tricky to include these in a Christmas story, but this one just works so beautifully.
Do your own kids enjoy reading?
They do, to some degree, but I imagine most parents would love their children to have more time in front of book pages instead of screens. That's definitely amplified when one parent is an author! I'm guilty of it myself too; finding the time to read as well as write, that is. That said, the best thing is when they discover a new author or new story that truly grips them and they suddenly become immersed in that world - that's the magic moment really.
Are you working on new books for 2019? What can we look forward to?
Oh yes! We have several picture books in the pipeline, some still under wraps and others ready to launch to market in the early spring. One thing I can tell you is that the collection is going to be even more diverse and meaningful than in 2018.
We have really started to carve a space in the market for books that actually mean something to children and their families, in this very complex world they're growing up in; whether that be through my stories or from the other 'Owlet Authors'.
Look out for 'What Wesley Wore' a fabulously flamboyant story which helps children to explore the idea of empathy by looking at bullying from both sides of the story. Many books just focus on the 'victim' but we start to question what pushes people to bully and what helps them change.
We may have a few more tricks up our sleeve too so keep your eyes peeled!
Where can readers buy your books?
You can buy directly from www.owletpress.com, on Amazon.co.uk and in most independent bookstores. You can also order online or in-store from Waterstone's, WHSmiths and Foyles and the more people that do this, the closer we get to being on their shelves! Once readers have bought one or two of our books, they're really loyal and passionate about what we do (which means a lot) so i'm confident one day we will get that prime space in the Children's Book section.
We're sure you will, Samuel. Thanks so much for talking to us! Just a quick disclaimer for our readers, here at Daddy & Dad we collaborate with family-friendly brands and businesses to enrich our content. We received the products featured in this blog post free of charge. If you're a small business with a family audience and would like us to help get your message out among our readers, please get in touch. x