Coral couple pens children's Christmas book based on reindeer character.
Rudolph may be the most famous reindeer of all, but the story of Santa's hoofed helpers doesn't end with that red-nosed character, according to a tale by local authors David and Catherine King.
The Coral couple this summer published “Santa's Glee,” their story of a white reindeer who lives, not at the North Pole, but in Indiana, Pa. — known as the Christmas Tree Capital of the World, for the many evergreen tree farms in the area.
David King teaches sixth-grade science at Homer-Center Elementary School while Catherine King is a stay-at-home mom who cares for the couple's two daughters — Julia, 7, and Ava, 5 — and manages the publishing company the Kings started to bring their reindeer creation to the public.
Catherine King said the book is meant “for anyone who believes in Santa or believes in Christmas. We did it to help people slow down and enjoy Christmas.”
As depicted by the Kings, Glee is a reindeer that Santa has charged with taking care of the world's Christmas trees, making sure they grow right. When a family brings home a tree for Christmas, Glee tags along so he can continue to watch over it.
He also watches over the children in the family, making sure that they are being good and polite. Glee additionally has the ability to fly, and he delivers the children's Christmas wish lists to Santa Claus.
The book and the title character evolved from a bedtime story the Kings began telling to their young daughters about three years ago.
“They always enjoyed it,” David King said of the tale. “We put it down on paper, and it made more and more sense, and eventually it became a book.”
The book's title was inspired by Ava King. When she sang “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” she was puzzled by the line that reads: “As they shouted out with glee.”
“She always asked, ‘Who's Glee?'” David King said.
As 2010 drew to a close, the Kings set a goal of translating Glee's story into a published book.
“We've both always wanted to be authors,” Catherine King said. “There's a lot to writing a book, how to weave storylines and keep the reader interested.”
In the final draft, the story took the form of lines of rhyming text.
“The story never was intended to rhyme,” David King said. “Some of it sort of rhymed by accident, and we moved on from there.”
“Now the way that it's written, it can be easy for kids to memorize,” Catherine King noted.
Before they started writing the book, Catherine King tried her hand at developing a plush toy based on Glee.
When the Kings first began telling the story to their daughters, they brought it to life with a stand-in for Glee, a stuffed moose with lights tangled in its antlers.
They decided if they were going to write the book, they should accompany it with a plush version of Glee.
“My wife is extremely talented, but we found a manufacturer that would make the reindeer in larger quantities than my wife could make on her sewing machine,” David King said.
The prototype she made was sent to the manufacturer, a California-based company that specializes in plush Christmas items.
The Kings learned, in order to work with a manufacturer, they had to have a company. So they formed Indigo Beach House.
They realized there were other advantages to starting their own publishing company. It allowed them to retain all copyrights and trademarks related to their character, and it was a cost-effective undertaking that Catherine King could manage from their home.
“It took us a year to figure out how to do a lot of this stuff,” she noted.
According to David King, it took another year, beginning in July 2011, to develop “Santa's Glee,” from writing and brainstorming sessions to having the completed 30-page picture book ready for young readers.
“We'd work a little at a time, we'd walk away from it and come back,” David King said, noting that his wife was his inspiration, urging him to finish the book.
Adding to the appeal for children and their parents, the Kings incorporated an interactive element in their book.
Glee encourages the two young children in the story to take part in activities with him.
“He doesn't just sit around — he watches the children write their letters to Santa and bakes cookies with the kids in the story,” David King said.
The children in the story just happen to be young sisters named Julia and Ava. The Kings noted that the characters, while named after their daughters, aren't necessarily based on the two girls.
A few blank pages have been included at the end of the book, where a family can display photos of their children, depicting them performing favorite activities with Glee.
“It becomes a nice keepsake,” Catherine King said.
Near the end of the story, on Christmas morning, Glee leaves a note, telling the children he enjoyed their time together but had to return to Indiana to take care of next year's trees.
David King suggested that parents can write a copy of the note and leave it for their children to find on Christmas morning.
Catherine King sketched all of the book's illustrations on paper. Then, during the latter months of 2011, digital artist Toby Mikle turned her rough drafts into a more polished design.
“He did a very good job,” Catherine King said.
In February, the couple turned the book over to a printing company they had chosen, Crown Media & Printing in Washington state. After final revisions requested by the Kings, printing started in May and the hardback book was ready to be placed on shelves by July.
“The book process takes a long time, a lot longer than I thought it would take, to get from the actual story idea to a book in hand,” David King noted.
“We had to make sure everything was perfect, going through draft after draft,” Catherine King said.
The Kings started out with a small order of books and now have sold more than 300 copies of “Santa's Glee,” with the majority of people choosing to also buy the plush toy.
“We kept building on it and making it work,” Catherine King said.
The book now sports a seal on the cover marking it as a winner of a Moonbeam Children's Book Award. According to a related website, the book awards are meant to “bring increased recognition to exemplary children's books and their creators, and to support childhood literacy and life-long reading.”
Presented by Jenkins Group, a publishing services company based in Traverse City, Mich., and Independent Publisher magazine, the sixth annual Moonbeam awards program was held Nov. 10 in conjunction with the Traverse City Children's Book Festival.
Gold, silver and bronze awards were presented in 41 categories for printed books that cover a variety of subjects, styles and age groups and are intended for the North American market.
Catherine King submitted “Santa's Glee” as a possible contender in August, and the Kings learned that it received the bronze award in the “Books with Merchandise” category.
The Kings intend to publish more “Glee” books and are also planning a separate series of books to be based on the character “Diver Dave.”
The latter book premise is inspired by the Kings' own scuba diving adventures. David King used to manage a scuba shop. Before their daughters were born, the Kings traveled internationally two or three times a year and enjoyed many scuba excursions.
Locally, copies of “Santa's Glee” can be found at Fleming's Christmas Tree Farms near Indiana and in a gift shop that operates in conjuction with Indiana County's Festival of Lights drive-through holiday display. The Festival of Lights continues through Jan. 1 at Indiana County's Blue Spruce Park near Ernest.
The book and the “Glee” plush toy can be purchased online at www.santasglee.com. Visitors to the website can also watch the process of illustrating two of the book's pages and can learn more about Glee, including his favorite color and his favorite kind of cookie. The website additionally includes suggested activities for children and several pages that can be printed out for kids to color.
“It's just a great book,” Catherine King said. “The girls still enjoy it.”
Next stop for “Santa's Glee” — New York City. Catherine King said she and her husband will head to the Big Apple in February to attend a major toy fair that is a popular spot for booksellers.
“Hopefully, we will get more books in stores next year,” she said. “We're pretty excited about it.”
Gina DelFavero is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-459-6100 ext. 2915 or firstname.lastname@example.org.