Monday, 1 December 2014

The Magic of Christmas by Garry Parsons (Guest blog)

We’re delighted to welcome this month’s guest blogger, Garry Parsons, who is an award-winning picture book illustrator. Garry discusses capturing the essence of Christmas and make-believe, from the Toenail Fairy to Father Christmas.

My five year-old son believes in Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy unequivocally 
and without question. 

from The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas by Peter Bently and Garry Parsons
He is yet to lose a tooth himself but I know when the time comes that he will take it on board wholeheartedly. I know this because aside from mentioning Father Christmas all year round he has also taken on the existence of the Toenail Fairy, invented by his parents to ease his aversion to having his toenails cut. For my part, the presence of the Toenail Fairy amounts to creeping into his room after dark with a head torch and nail clippers and hoping he doesn’t wake after the first ‘click’. The Toenail Fairy gives a Malteser per toenail, not cash, in case you were wondering, and being concerned not to stain the bed sheets with chocolate, leaves the Maltesers in a bowl next to the bed. But for my son, there is no reason to doubt that the Toenail Fairy exists.

from The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas by Peter Bently and Garry Parsons
I can’t remember the moment Father Christmas ceased to be real for me as a child, but I do remember the magic that surrounded him when I did believe. I’m sure having an elder brother accelerates Santa’s demise for younger siblings, but it’s my wish for my son that his belief in Father Christmas continues as long as possible. 

For that reason I will do what I can to gently perpetuate his presence. But what I’ve noticed as I’ve become older is that I’ve fallen back in love with the idea of magic myself. As if the mystery and magic of the world has had a resurgence inside me.

I often find myself rushing to the window to witness a rainbow or a pink sunset or an orange moon or adding up symbols I’ve seen as I walk down the street, piecing together moments or words or images which somehow start to shape some other language inside me, giving me a warm sense of wonder that some other world is operating just outside of the everyday normality that we are all so used to. As Freddie Mercury would say, “It’s a kinda magic.”

Rainbow over Reykjavik, Iceland

Each year my family spends two weeks in Iceland. My son and I were trying to recall just how many rainbows we saw on a certain day the year before and came to the agreement that whilst walking from the Hallgrímskirkja to Perlan in Reykjavik, a distance of 1.8km, we saw seven separate rainbows. My son has inherited my enthusiasm for ‘collecting’ rainbows and we like to think Iceland is the rainbow capital of the world. Without doubt, Iceland is a magical place, especially if you can travel, even a short distance, away from the main city. Its climate, strange landscapes, rapidly changing weather and dancing aurora give it a magic that gets under your skin.

Ice chunks at Jökulsárlón, glacial river lagoon, Iceland
This morning in Reykjavik we woke up to a blanket of snow outside. “Is it Christmas?” my son asked. “No,” I answered, “it’s October.” But in some ways he was right, the magic was there, just outside the window. So when I was invited to work on a Christmas picture book, I knew it was this elusive element that I wanted to attempt to capture, the Christmas spirit, the seasonal essence, the magic of Christmas, and to do so in acrylic. I had the challenge of depicting our beloved Father Christmas as a credible, caring, warm guardian of children. 

As well as wanting him to be witty and charming, I also needed him to have a little of the quality of magic about him. Consequently, Christmas in my studio stretched from September until early March.

from The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas by Peter Bently and Gary Parsons

So this year I’m excited. Not only have I had another chance to explore Iceland (and I have another son to share Iceland and Christmas with), but also my love for the notion of magic continues, be it rainbows or Santa, and somehow that convinces me that picture books really can do magic.  

Continuing the festive theme, Garry is also the illustrator of The Dinosaur That Pooped Christmas by Tom Fletcher & Dougie Poynter and Daisy and the Trouble with Christmas by Kes Gray.

Garry Parsons is the award-winning illustrator of many books, including There's An Ouch In My Pouch by Jeanne Willis, the best selling The Dinosaur that Pooped... series by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter, George’s Secret Key to the Universe by Lucy and Stephen Hawking and Billy’s Bucket by Kes Gray. Visit him at Follow him on twitter @icandrawdinos

The Tooth Fairy’s Christmas by Peter Bently and illustrated by Garry Parsons (Hodder Children’s Books).


Lynne Garner said...

I just love the idea of collecting rainbows.

It's amazing how adults join in the magic with their kids. A few years ago I was listening to one of those self-help tapes where the guy told a story about inventing the condition of 'crumpled wing' - the blight of tooth fairies who have to keep diving under pillows to rescue teeth. Once he'd explained this awful condition to his daughter she began to leave her teeth on the bedside cabinet. Therefore saving her parents from having to try to rescue the tooth without waking their daughter.

Last but not least we most definitely have a mud fairy who aids our dog in her daily duty of covering the house in the stuff.

Natascha Biebow said...

The sense of wonder that children emulate so naturally is sadly lost to many adults. But rediscovering it, being reminded to stop and wonder, to see the magic in the world around us is really exciting and invigorating. And for me, inspiring. The world without magic would be really, really dull!

Pippa Goodhart said...

I know very well that my daughters kept playing at believing in Father Christmas long after the truth had dawned, and they were doing it for MY sake because they knew that I enjoyed the whole thing so much!

Jonathan Emmett said...

Thanks for a great seasonal post, Garry!

In our house, Santa Claus was always accompanied by the Puzzle Elf who sets our family a treasure hunt every Christmas Eve (I’ve blogged about it here Although my teenage kids have outgrown Santa, they still maintain that the Puzzle Elf is real and frown upon any suggestion that she might stop visiting them.

It’s one bit of family Christmas magic that they’re determined to keep alive.

Moira Butterfield said...

A sense of magic - of imagination - is a wonderful gift we are given. I believe it to be incredibly valuable to all ages. It's a gift that Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy bring us from an early age, and we should always value it. So thank you for your lovely post (and introducing us to the Toenail Fairy)!

Paeony Lewis said...

Lovely post and adore the Toenail Fairy.
Long ago, my children heard rumours about the veracity of Father Christmas and used to demand I tell them the truth. I'll admit I frustrated them by always saying, 'If you believe he's real, then he is.'
By the way, I'm also a fan of Iceland and wish it wasn't so expensive. The infant geology gets me scarily excited! And what about the Icelandic hidden folk? Are you a believer?

Abie Longstaff said...

My children had the dummy fairy - she was very useful in taking the dummies away to give to the baby fairies, and leaving a little present in return. Worked a treat!

Garry Parsons said...

Ah, the 'crumpled wing' syndrome. How thoughtful children can be to accommodate these notions. I love the willingness they have to consider these ideas without needing proof.

Garry Parsons said...

My son is so enthusiastic about rainbows that we've broadened our scope of collecting to include even those little spectrums caused by light passing through glass and anything really. I'm hooked!

Garry Parsons said...

I love Iceland and it's geology is fascinating even though I know nothing about rocks. But it's clearly the landscape that makes it such a special place. Icelanders have a long history of mysterious folk who live out there in the shadows of caves and when you are out in the landscape you can understand why. I'm a believer in something I'm just not sure it looks like a troll!

Garry Parsons said...

Thank you everyone for your kind responses to the blog post and thank you for promoting the notion of magic. There seems to be a growing crowd of folk out there to accompany the Toenail fairy. I might have to sketch out the Puzzle Elf and the Dummy Fairy!