‘We are all-natural, all-organic reindeer,’ said Donner. ‘Local lichen, moss, and wild mushrooms are all that pass these luscious lips, funky fungi!’
Elma the Elf and the Tinsel-tastic Sled Zeppelin
By Nick Simons & Camilla Victoria Storm
Published by Cranachan
Q&A Session with Nick Simons
1) Your first book Elma the Elf and the Tinsel-Tastic Sled Zeppelin was recently published. A unique idea behind the book in that it is an ‘advent’ book with 24 chapters for the child and the caregiver to read in the days leading up to Christmas. How did that idea come about?
It all started when a song and a Christmas decoration crashed into each other a few Christmasses ago. This snowball turned into an avalanche of ideas, eventually developing into the book which is now out. Once we figured out that the story was more of a globe-spanning epic adventure than a simple short tale, it made complete sense to turn it into an advent calendar. Here in Norway, the “julekalender” story is a big tradition. What could be more “hyggelig” (norwegian for hygge) than bringing a Scandi-Yule tradition to the UK?
2) What are you hoping that readers will take from reading the book in this way?
Lots of things! Christmas is still a deeply shared and traditional experience, so our dream is that our readers and listeners curl up as families every day in the run-up and dive into and swim around in this world. The days and weeks counting down to Christmas are magic enough in themselves, but building a tradition of episodic storytelling could be a lovely way of bringing people together. Thinking about what Christmas really means. Hopefully having a warm, fuzzy, cinnamon-flavoured Christmas feeling in their tummies from December 1st onwards.
3) Elma is the main character of the book and is, frankly, a little bit scatty and unorthodox. Where did you come from? Is she based on anyone in particular?
We have a firm belief in strong female role models who don’t have to be princesses or wear pink clothes. Elma is like the famous girl in the old Lego advert – ready to think, create, design and build. So there’s a bit of STEM in there too. We wanted her to be funny, spiky, rough around the edges… with impulsive instincts causing her to self-inflict the worst thing that could happen to a factory elf. There are some people who have asked whether aspects of her personality and inspiration for dialogue was based a little bit on Camilla, Elma’s co-storyteller and illustrator… but we couldn’t possibly comment on that.
4) Santa’s reindeer are a major part of the story, so much so that you even held the book launch at the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre in Glenmore, Aviemore. How did that come about and how was it?
Is it possible to have a Christmas story set in Santa’s factory without reindeer? We don’t think so. And Comet is a firm favourite character of ours. It was the brainwave of our genius publishing team to approach the reindeer centre, and it couldn’t have been more appropriate. We donned our best elvish clothes and pointy ears, brought our ukuleles and played some laplandish christmas music, and read to a never-ending stream of lovely kids. It was magic.
5) As with many Christmas titles, Elma the Elf and the Tinsel-Tastic Sled Zeppelin has the receiving and giving of gifts as one of its central themes. You both live in Norway so do you have any traditions in your own families relating to gifting?
Personally, and a theme of the book, is that gifts are about quality, meaning and love, and not quantity or size. Elvish-made presents are a symbol of that. But personally, and slightly contradictory, we also both believe there can be never be enough ukuleles. So that’s always a good gift, along with lovely family gatherings.
6) If you could only receive one gift at Christmas, what would it be?
A ukulele…? Lego…? A time turner…? The collected works of Frank Zappa, Genesis and the Punch Brothers on vinyl? Unlimited crunchy cranberry porridge toppings? Enough coffee for a lifetime?
7) What do you think is the perfect gift for a booklover?
This brilliant new book which just came out, called Elma the Elf and the Tinsel-tastic Sled Zeppelin, of course!
8) And finally, what does the future hold for Elma?
We don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to tell you that Elma made it through the book with no worse injuries than a few bungee-based bumps and bruises. So Elma and Comet will most certainly be back for more adventures of creating, cahooting, inventing and mischief.
Elma the Elf and the Tinsel-tastic Sled Zeppelin by Nick Simons & Camilla Victoria Storm is published by Cranachan, priced £6.99
Another Christmas recommendation: The Little Inventor’s Handbook, published by HarperCollins, priced £9.99