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Spread the Joy with Nancy Churnin!


Hello, parents, librarians, book fanatics, writers, and Christmas Tree lovers of all sorts! We're ecstatic the amazing Nancy Churnin is back with us today sharing another non-fiction book that's perfect for the season. The Queen and the First Christmas Tree - Queen Charlotte's Gift to England , illustrated by Luisa Iribe, follows Queen Charlotte as she searches for the perfect decoration for a Christmas Day Party in 1800. When she realizes a bough isn't enough, she finds a replacement like no other. Want to know more about Nancy, her beautiful holiday book, PLUS want a chance to win your own copy? Read on...


Q: Hi, Nancy! Welcome back to #SeasonOfKidLit! Readers, Nancy joined us for our Trick or Treat event in October. If you missed her insightful interview, click here.


We’re thrilled to have you here with us and learn about another one of your exciting books, The Queen and the First Christmas Tree: Queen Charlotte’s Gift to England. Can you share a little about what inspired you to write this story? How did the idea come to you?


A: Being Jewish, I didn’t grow up with Christmas trees. But when I married, I saw how much pride my husband’s family, particularly Michael’s mother, took in decorating her tree with a mix of sentimental and fancy ornaments. In fact, one of the highlights of my mother’s holiday season became shopping for unique decorations for my mother-in-law’s tree! I was especially curious about the tree because it was new to me. I researched it and was amazed to discover that the tradition only dates back to 1800 when Queen Charlotte introduced the first Christmas tree to England. I intensified my research to learn more about Queen Charlotte and why she did this. The more I learned about her and her love for children, for plants and animals, for the arts and for helping others, the more I was impressed with her kind and generous nature. When I realized there had never been a picture book about her, I grew determined to share her story and, I hope, to inspire kids to be kind as she was.



Q: Your book follows a little-known fact about the holiday tradition of the Christmas Tree. Can you share more about this tradition and how it got started? What kind of research went into developing your story? And what can readers expect to learn when reading your book?


A: Queen Charlotte grew up in Germany with the tradition of the Yule branch – a branch of a tree, placed on a table, that children would decorate with colored papers, nuts, and fruits for their parents. What I learned is that in 1800 when Queen Charlotte wanted to delight 100 children at a party at Windsor Castle to celebrate the new century, she was concerned that a small, simple branch would not allow her to array all the gifts and treats she wanted to give such a large group. She got the idea of bringing in an entire tree, adding lit candles and decorating as she had the single branch. There are written reports of how amazed guests were to see this marvel when they arrived. In addition to my personal research, which I did at the library, I consulted royal historian Dr. Carolyn Harris, a professor of history at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies, on additional questions, fact-checking and details, including the kind of plants then Princess Charlotte was most likely to grow and tend as a girl in the 1700s. What I hope children will learn from the book is compassion for newcomers. Even though Charlotte came to England as a German princess and soon became a queen, marrying King George six hours after her arrival, the ladies of the far fancier British court made fun of her for speaking German, for wearing plain clothes and darning her own stockings. I hope they will also learn that we can forge our own path as Charlotte did. Instead of doing what had been done before, she became the first royal to make charitable giving part of royal duties. And finally, I hope it will encourage them to participate in the project I created for this book – A Kind Holiday – showing kindness to others at whatever holidays they celebrate all year long.



Q: Did you learn any other fascinating facts about Queen Charlotte when writing this book?


A: Queen Charlotte also introduced the first Pomeranian dogs to England! She brought two Pomeranians with her on the boat to England – Phoebe and Mercury. She insisted they be included in many of her royal portraits. And she passed on her love for Pomeranians to other members of the royal family and court, including her granddaughter Queen Victoria. I would have loved to have slipped this in, too, but there was already too much to say about this amazing queen, including her encouragement of Mozart, who dedicated a piece of music to her. She also boycotted sugar as her personal protest against the slave trade because enslaved people were forced to work at sugar plantations. And while slavery didn’t end in England during her lifetime, she changed hearts and minds and England abolished slavery before America did and without a war. I managed to get some of these details in the back matter. But in the main story, I stayed focused on her gift of the Christmas tree. I share the other great things she did in my school presentations. Finally, I am proud to have dedicated this book to my mother-in-law and father-in-law, Gene and Hank Granberry, who didn’t live to see this book, but I know would have treasured this tribute to kindness. They loved books and they kept Christmas in their hearts all year long.


Q: How interesting - thanks for sharing!


You are the queen of nonfiction! You constantly find unique topics to write about and turn them into fun learning experiences for readers of all ages. What advice do you have for those out there who are also pursuing non-fiction picture books in this current tough and saturated market? What can they do to help their manuscripts shine?


A: Follow your curiosity and your heart. Instead of thinking about the market, look for people and things you want to know more about. My curiosity about how the Christmas tree tradition started led me to Queen Charlotte. The more I learned about Charlotte and her giving nature, the more I loved her and wanted to share what I learned and inspire kids to be like her. There was a lot to say about Queen Charlotte, but I stayed focused on the fact that she introduced the first Christmas tree to England – which led to it becoming popular in America because that was the question that started my journey and one I hoped kids would enjoy as much as I did.



Q: What’s one of your favorite ways to celebrate the holidays in December?

A: I love sharing this book with kids in December! Last year, I shared it with children at a library program organized by the wonderful people at Bookmarks, a Dallas Public Library branch at NorthPark Center; the kids all made and decorated paper crowns and wore them after our reading. This year, I have the pleasure of sharing The Queen and the First Christmas Tree with students in Llano, Texas. A librarian told me I will be coming during a week when kids are dressing up as characters in books that they love. She was very happy when I promised to wear a royal red cloak and tiara for my presentation!


That sounds wonderful! Thanks again for joining us, Nancy! We loved hearing all about your book and can't wait to check it out this holiday season.



Q: How would you like to Spread the Joy this holiday season?


A: I hope that you find a way to celebrate the holidays in a way that is meaningful to you, focusing not on the stress of striving for an elusive “perfect” celebration as determined by externally imposed expectations, but on truly caring for others and yourself. Follow your heart in your words, your actions and your writing, and you will find yourself where you want to be. I am very happy to give a copy of The Queen and the First Christmas Tree to one of the commenters that shares something kind you have done at any holiday you or others celebrate. I would love, with permission, to post the kind things you have done on A KIND HOLIDAY page in the hope that your example will encourage kindness to spread.


What a wonderful idea and message - thanks so much for your generous and heartfelt gift!


Giveaway details:

Readers, to enter to win Nancy's giveaway, 1) share this post on social media and 2) leave a comment below letting her know about an act of kindness you've demonstrated during any holiday.


Spread the Joy winners will be chosen on or about December 17th.


*Books will be shipped in the US only*


Note: Those who leave a comment on all posts will be eligible to win one (1) of three (3) Rate Your Story Speed Passes,perfect for quick MS feedback, provided by Agent Mentee Lynne Marie & Author Heather Macht.


About Nancy Churnin:


Nancy Churnin is an award-winning children’s book author who writes books that inspire kids to be curious and kind. Among her honors: the National Jewish Book Award, Sydney Taylor Honor, National Federation of Press Women's 1st Place, South Asia Book Award, Junior Library Guild selections, Silver Eurekas, Bank Street Best Books for Kids lists, National Council for the Social Studies Notables, A Mighty Girl picks and starred reviews. All her books come with free teacher guides, resources and projects on her website, nancychurnin.com.


For more about Nancy, check out the below links:


Instagram: @nchurnin

Twitter/X: @nchurnin


To purchase Nancy's books on Amazon, or to leave a review for them, click here.


 


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