We recently had the opportunity to host an event with both the author and the illustrator of a new children’s book. The Lighthouse Santa is written by Sara Hoagland Hunter and illustrated by Julia Miner; both author and illustrator are fairly local to us (Miner, in fact, keeps a studio at Emerson Umbrella, the arts center in town), and both were raised in New England.
The New England connection is significant because the subject of the book is Edward Rowe Snow, who – for nearly 50 years – flew up and down the coast, bringing gifts to the lighthouse keepers’ families each holiday season. This “Flying Santa” hired a plane each Christmas Eve and dropped wrapped gifts to lighthouse keepers and their families – from high up the Maine coast to Nantucket. Snow was a living legend with these flights, which ran from 1936 –1980; the “Friends of Flying Santa” continue the tradition today, with helicopter visits to 33 stops, including 45 Coast Guard units from Maine to New York.
Many adults in the area remember this “real” Lighthouse Santa. My mother tells me that when I was young, she brought us into Jordan Marsh in Boston, where Snow was making a special appearance in Downtown Crossing’s North Pole. I don’t remember this, but it’s neat to know that I was able to meet (or, at least, to see) this special Santa.
Hunter and Miner’s book, The Lighthouse Santa, tells the story of one particularly stormy night when he wondered if he’d be able to make his annual deliveries. The book has struck a chord with adults who remember Edward Rowe Snow, children who are just being introduced to his mission, and fans of lighthouses and the New England shores.
When they visited the bookshop, their presentation was a fantastic demonstration of their working collaboration. Sara Hunter read the book, and talked about the research that went into writing it – interviews with Snow’s daughter and other family and friends, pulling old newspaper accounts, and reading some of Snow’s own writing (he was prolific, writing over forty books, mostly about the New England coast, pirates, and other nautical subjects). Then Julia Miner talked a bit about the illustration process; she shared her inspiration boards, and explained the various types of models she uses (and adapts) when drawing. She invited children (and adults!) to “test” the chalks and special paper she used in these illustrations – what a fun peek behind the scenes!