Hello, all you wonderful holiday readers! We're ecstatic to have Alayne Kay Christian on the blog today sharing her award-winning book, The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly true Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed. The Weed That Woke Christmas (illustrated by Polina Gortman) proves that even the smallest gestures can make a big difference and transform apathy and oblivion into awareness, unity, community, and kindness. Her story is the perfect blend of fiction and truth in a way that's accessible to readers of all ages. Want to know more about Alayne, The Weed That Woke Christmas, and want an opportunity to win FREE admission to her writing course? Read on...
Q: Hi, Alayne. Thanks so much for joining #SeasonsOfKidLit! I’m thrilled to have you and talk all about your seasonal picture book, The Weed That Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed! You’re a picture book writer and are the former editor of Blue Whale Press - how exciting! Can you share more about yourself with everyone?
A: First, thank you for having me join the seasonal fun.
In addition to the above, I believe I’m a teacher at heart. I’ve spent the last ten years or so doing professional picture book critiques, including working for three years as a critique ninja for Julie Hedlund’s 12x12. Currently, I’m taking a break from critiquing. However, I keep my skills fresh working with critique partners. I also teach a self-study picture book course, Art of Arc. When I’m not absorbed in the kid-lit writing world, I dabble in learning to play the Ukulele, so I can sing like I did as a child with my dad and family. I also dabble in improving my art skills, but the truth is I need to do more than dabble! I’m working on building the discipline I need. My days are filled mostly going between creative projects and remembering to enjoy life outside of the creative world. All of my books but one (I didn’t enter it for an award) have won literary awards, some won two awards. So that’s exciting.
Q: That's all amazing, Alayne! Your book, The Weed That Woke Christmas, is a partly true tale of how a weed in Toledo helped spread the giving spirit. What gave you the inspiration to write a book about this story?
A: Even though the true story happened in Toledo, I saw it on the news in Texas. It didn’t only catch my eye, but it captured my heart. What a fabulous story! The song What the World Needs Now is Love Sweet Love kept running through my mind. I couldn’t let go of the story. First I did more research. It was everywhere on the Internet and even in some papers. With every discovery I made, my heart melted, but it also thumped with excitement in the anticipation of writing a picture book about this. When it comes to Weed’s role in the story, I settled on the idea of feeling unseen/invisible. Coming from a very large family, I felt that way a lot. And I imagine there are many kids who feel unseen, unheard, etc. So, I gave Weed the desire to be seen/noticed.
Q: Your heartwarming story sheds a light on how the littlest gestures can leave the biggest impact. What can readers expect to see and learn when reading your story?
A: I love that this story is multifaceted with many wonderful messages. The basic story is about a weed who wants attention. It wants to be noticed or seen. But people bustle by barely aware of themselves, much less anyone or anything else. This is evidenced by Polina Gortman’s art on the second spread. The people are oblivious of their surroundings, including a man sitting by a tent with his dog, holding a sign that says, “SEEKING KINDNESS.”
The small gesture in the true story (and in the book) is one little girl putting Christmas garland on the weed. This prompted another small gesture. Someone else left a gift under the tree. This encouraged others to decorate the tree, which encouraged more people to leave gifts, and it grew into something worth documenting in a children’s story.
In the book, when the little girl decorates Weed for Christmas and someone else leaves a small gift under the tree, change begins to happen. Other’s add to the decorations. More and more people bring gifts. Every day, Weed notices change all around. Some people, who have plenty, leave gifts. And other people, who don’t have quite enough, take what they need. The phenomenon grows as more people come to see Weed and join in the jubilation. People come together in the spirit of giving, kindness, unity, community and love.
As Weed sees what’s going on around it, it starts forgetting about its desire to be noticed.
“Weed wiggled and juggled with glee
at the sights and sounds
of the Christmas jubilee.”
As more and more people come together, Weed’s branches bob with delight. But not because people had finally noticed it. Instead, people noticed each other! Greatness and love washes over the city. And Weed’s heart soars.
So the first message is that sometimes there are things much more important than you or your wants. The value in Weed being seen isn’t about his narrow-minded desire to be noticed. It is that Weed’s desire to be seen and having the desire fulfilled set off something bigger and better than Weed could have ever imagined. Of course, the other messages are the giving spirit and the kindness, unity, community and love that you experience during the holiday season doesn’t have to go away when the decorations and parties are gone. You can carry the spirit of Christmas in your heart all year long and throughout your life. Goodness and love can soar any time of the year. And as it did in Toledo, it can spread through the city and beyond. Maybe one day the whole world will be struck by the magic of the Christmas Weed.
I think too, in the book, when Weed is destroyed by the storm, there is the lovely message that you we are not forgotten after we are gone—especially when we have made a mark in the world.
I also love that Polina did a whole separate visual story showing how things changed for the man who was seeking help. It’s a beautiful story on its own. I love that! I have a video that walks people through what I’m talking about. You can find that video here.
Q: What are some of your favorite spreads from your book?
A: I love them all. Everyone is thought provoking and evokes emotion. So, it is super hard to pick. I like the emotional impact of the page (shown earlier) where the people are walking by the man seeking kindness never even know he’s there. I think it really makes one stop and think for a minute.
I love the four panels at the beginning where the seasons are changing.
I love, love the spread where the people are all gathered singing “O Christmas Weed.”
The storm spread is fantastic. It is so perfectly dark for the beginning of the darkest moment in the story.
I love the three-panel spread in the second half of the story where we see more change occurring for the homeless man.
In the final illustration, we get to see the ending of homeless man’s story. Also in this spread, the Weed’s spirit continues in people’s hearts and through their actions long after Christmas and Weed are gone. Hope flourishes with the idea that Weed’s seedlings will spread throughout the world.
Q: Polina did a beautiful job illustrating this heartwarming tale. Thanks for sharing! What makes your book the perfect holiday, or anytime read?
A: What I love about this book is that it isn’t just a Christmas book. It’s a perfect Christmas story and gift. But it is also perfect to read year round because of the messages. Any time someone wants to talk about kindness, community, giving and unity, this book is one to read together. In addition, because it goes through the seasons, it is a good book when talking about the seasons. It is a great book for spring because it shows how all the things that start coming back to life in the spring will eventually grow into something else.
Thanks again for joining us, Alayne! We can't wait to read your beautiful books.
Q: How would you like to Spread Joy this holiday season?
A: I would like to offer free admission to my picture book writing course Art of Arc to one lucky winner. If the winner has already taken the course, then I will offer a copy of The Weed That Woke Christmas or their choice of one of my books . You can read more about Art of Arc here.
Thanks so much! That is a HUGE gift to a lucky reader!
Giveaway Details: To be entered to win a FREE entry to Alayne's magnificent writing course, or a copy of The Weed That Woke Christmas, comment below and let her know which gift you're interested in and why! The winner will be announced on or about Friday, December 16th!
Note: books will be shipped in the US only.
Reminder, those who comment on every post will be eligible to win (1) of (5) RYS Speedpasses or a special book package!
About Alayne Kay Christian
Alayne Kay Christian is an award-winning children’s book author and the creator and teacher of a picture book writing course Art of Arc. She is the former acquisitions editor for Blue Whale Press. In addition, she shares her knowledge with writers through free and affordable webinars at Writing for Children Webinars. She has been a picture book and chapter book critique professional since 2013, and she worked as a 12 X 12 critique ninja for three years. Her published works include the Sienna, the Cowgirl Fairy chapter book series, and the following picture books.
Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa
An Old Man and His Penguin: How Dindim Made João Pereira de Souza an Honorary Penguin
and The Weed that Woke Christmas: The Mostly True Tale of the Toledo Christmas Weed.
Born in the Rockies, raised in Chicago, and now a true-blue Texan, Alayne’s writing shares her creative spirit and the kinship to nature and humanity that reside within her heart. To learn more about Alayne visit https://alaynekaychristianauthor.com/
For more about Alayne, you can follow her at the below links:
Art of Arc Course: http://www.alaynekaychristian.com/page05.html
Seeing Beyond the Words—The Weed That Woke Christmas:
To purchase Alayne's books, or to leave a review, click here.