It only takes a glance at any child's bright eyes to know that it is Christmastime again. This wonderful time of year brings with it some remarkable new holiday books. One of the year's standouts is Audrey and Bruce Wood's The Christmas Adventure of Space Elf Sam. Audrey Wood (The Napping House, Silly Sally, Sweet Dream Pie) teams with her son Bruce to create a treat for young and old alike.
Audrey wrote the story, and Bruce, a fifth-generation artist, joins the family tradition and illustrates his first picture book. A true family collaboration, the book took over two years to create. Don Wood (The Napping House, King Bidgood's in the Bathtub), Bruce's Dad and Audrey's husband, served as the art director for the book. The Christmas Adventure of Space Elf Sam (ages 4-8) is unparalleled in children's books. It is the first children's picture book illustrated using the complicated 3-D sculpting software on a very powerful computer. This same software is used to create the special effects for many high-tech movies.
As I shared this new wonder with children, their faces lit up like Christmas trees, and I saw that wide-eyed joy that only Santa Claus or a wonderful Christmas book can bring. In this story, Santa and his reindeer need help delivering presents to children that live in space colonies. Santa can't possibly fly his sleigh into outer space, so he opens a Space Elf Christmas Academy to train elves to take presents throughout the galaxy. Space Elf Sam, a student at the Academy, graduates with honors. His first mission is to take Christmas presents to the boys and girls who live at the new space colony Alpha One. Sam loads his sleigh at the North Pole and begins his journey.
A small comet strikes his sleigh, and Sam has to crash-land on the unexplored planet of Gom, where he meets little green aliens called Gommers. After Sam is taken prisoner, he introduces the Gommers to the Christmas spirit and learns that the happiness he brings to others is the most wonderful gift he can give. The illustrations are unique; my children were so caught up in this wonderful tale, they felt as if they actually visited a faraway planet!
BookPage recently sat down with Audrey and Bruce Wood and chatted about their new book and how they have celebrated Christmas at their house (The Napping House) over the years.
Where did the idea of for Space Elf Sam come from?
Audey Wood: When Bruce was four years old, he received a Moon Base Alpha Space Ship as a present. He played with it all Christmas Day. When I was tucking him in on Christmas night, he had his spaceship under his arm. He asked me, If we lived on the moon, would Santa come there, too? I wrote down what Bruce said and put it in my idea box. My idea box is full of information that I have collected over many years. I put anything in it that I think might lead to an idea for a story.
A good number of years passed, and I was visiting Bruce in San Francisco. He was studying computer animation at the San Francisco State Multimedia Center. I learned that he had been commissioned to illustrate a number of book covers. When I got my first look at his work, it was my first introduction to three-dimensional art created on the computer. I thought about the vibrant work he was doing. I knew children would like it. I told Bruce this, and he said if I had a good story, he would like to illustrate it. That's when I went to my idea box and pulled out the note about Santa and delivering presents to the moon. I worked on the story and then delivered the first draft to Bruce.
How long did it take to illustrate?
Bruce Wood: It took about two and a half years to complete the illustrations. Working with 3-D sculpting software is very complex. This is the first picture book illustrated with illustrations of this kind.
What is Christmas like at the Wood's House?
AW: We decorate the entire house. We still use all of the ornaments that Bruce made as a child and others we've made through the years. We drive around and look at the lights and go caroling. One year we had a Victorian Christmas, and all of the relatives came in costume. We always read The Night before Christmas on Christmas Eve.
BW: Being an only child, there were always a lot of presents. We would all hang up our stockings. We even hang up stockings for our pets bird, cat, tortoise, and even Tugford the Mouse. My mom even brought our collection of porcelain Santas to my office when I was working on illustrations for The Christmas Adventure of Space Elf Sam.
We hope the Wood family has a lot more gifts in store for us in the future. Merry Christmas!
Tim Hamilton is a first and second grade teacher in Nashville, Tennessee.