I never had a Christmas tree as an adult. Year after year passed, but I never went to Christmas tree farms or roadside lots. I wasn’t a curmudgeon; we just didn’t celebrate Christmas with wonder and verve in my family. We had no holiday traditions. No one gathered round to decorate a tree. I loved trees, but never had a Christmas tree until I was married.
When Gobbledy was picked up for publication, I was excited about the winding journey from idea to page to audience. In the book, Gobbledy has a pink Christmas tree. I thought a lot about that tree as I prepped for launch. If I were from another planet, I’d be totally charmed by a pink tree. All sparkly and mesmerizing. To celebrate the book launch, I looked online for fake trees. I’d always had a problem with real trees. I am Dougal in the forest when the cold wind blows. I purchased a piece of art to set outside next to my favorite maple tree. I once watered the oaks in my yard through a yearlong drought. Killing trees just isn’t my thing, but the absolute amazement you get from a real tree holds little comparison. Finally, I settled on a gold tree. It wasn’t pink, but it held the type of magic I was looking for. My husband and I dropped it in the cart but didn’t buy it immediately. A few days later a flash sale popped up. A week later, the tree arrived. I wasn’t sure about the whole tree in a box thing. It was weird. I stared at the box, moved it around a little, checked the weight, then did what every writer does: I went to get another cup of coffee.
When I finally opened the box and peeked inside, I wasn’t impressed. Smashed gold tinsel is not awe inspiring. All alone, it stayed in the box while pink garland arrived. A gold and pink color scheme seemed very design-forward while at the computer, pointing and clicking. Now, with the items laid before me, I was dubious. I walked away, leaving it all in the box.
I returned home from running errands a few days later, and my husband greeted me at the door. “I put the tree together,” he said, in the same proud and hopeful tone ten-year-olds use when they ask if you want to see their room.
“Really?” I asked, because my outing hadn’t lasted more than an hour.
“Really,” he said, rolling back on his heels. “Come see it.”
The twenty-foot vaulted ceiling in our living room makes trees stand out. I stepped around my husband and there it was. A sparkly golden tree. Perfectly magical, it glowed with tiny lights woven into the branches.
“Wow,” I said.
“I know. It didn’t look like much in the box.”
All of a sudden, I saw the scene in the book when Gobbledy comes around the corner and sees the tree for the first time.
A pink tree for him. A golden tree for me. All lit up in the magic of celebration.
A few weeks later I was out on our deck and left the French door open behind me. A squirrel that comes to the feeder ran up to the doorway, looked inside, and ran right into our house. Squirrels come and go along the railing of our deck, but none had ever just walked inside. I followed her quickly into the next room, trying to remember if our cats were inside, or on the sun porch. In the dining room she ran window to window, paws on the low ledges, looking out. Trying to guide her back toward the open French doors, she ran for the living room with all the speed you’d expect.
Right in front of me she slid to a complete stop. I waited several seconds, wondering what she was doing. Following her face and eyes, I realized she was staring in awe. Before her, the golden tree rose up like a myth. She pulled herself upright, tucking her hands into her chest in that cute way squirrels do. Her eyes trailed up to the glittery golden butterfly on the very top, then down to plush wrap made to look like piles of snow on the bottom, encircled by the Polar Express train.
Twitching her tail ever so slightly, she made a low, wonderful chirping sound. I watched her, quiet and still, but smiling.
It was proof that I and aliens and squirrels are all charmed by trees. I’ve known some magical trees in my life. I’d planted trees and sprouted trees from seedlings and loved all the trees that graced my life. I did not think I’d grow to love a nonliving tree, but there I was. Coming to tradition and meaning is a process, a life event. Some of us aren’t born into families with built-in tradition. We build our own. Gobbledy and I found our Christmas wonder together.
I hope you love this book as much as I loved writing it. Whatever you choose to celebrate this holiday season, make it golden.
Publication Date: October 20, 2020
Ever since eleven-year-old Dexter Duckworth and his brother, Dougal, lost their mom, everything has been different. But “different” takes on a whole new meaning when, one day just before Christmas (or Kissmas, as they call it), Dexter finds a golden rock in the forest that hatches into an adorable alien. Gobbledy is smarter than he seems and is lost on planet Earth. Before long, Gobbledy takes Dexter, Dougal, and their best friend Fi on an adventure of friendship, family, and loss—one that requires them all to stay out of trouble, protect Gobbledy from a shadowy group called the Planetary Society, and prepare for their school’s Winter Extravaganza Play, where Dexter has to be a dreaded Gingerbread Man.
Gobbledy is a fun-filled holiday story that adds up to two brothers, three friends, unlimited jars of peanut butter, a ketchup factory, and one little alien far, far from home.
2021 Independent Press Awards Winner in Holiday: Children’s
2021 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards Silver Winner in Young Reader: Fiction (8-12 Years)
2021 15th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist in Holiday
2021 Book Excellence Awards Finalist in Holiday
2020 New York City Big Book Awards Winner in Holiday
2020 Wishing Shelf Book Awards Gold Winner in Books for 9-12 year olds
Lis Anna-Langston was raised alongside the winding current of the Mississippi River on a steady diet of dog-eared books. She attended a creative and performing arts school from middle school until graduation and went on to study literature at Webster University. She is a Parents’ Choice Gold and a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Winner. She draws badly and sings loudly, and loves ketchup, starry skies, and stories with happy endings aliens. Lis Anna-Langston lives in Columbia, South Carolina. You can learn more about her at www.lisannalangston.com.
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