Read on for a glimpse into the makings of Patricia Toht's festive picture book!
What gave you the inspiration behind Pick a Pine Tree?
Our family has a fairly large collection of Christmas books that we pull out to read each holiday season. But I discovered that not one focused on decorating a tree. I love that tradition and mined my many fond memories of trimming trees. I had already started a poem about carving pumpkins, too, so Pick a Pine Tree and Pick a Pumpkin developed simultaneously.
What is your writing process for your picture books?
I tend to carry around ideas in my head for a while before I begin to write. It’s a bit like filling a cup with water, drip by drip, until it finally spills over. I’m a poet at heart, so most ideas pour out as poetry. I have wonderful poet friends who help me polish my rhyme and rhythm. My editor, Tanya, is wonderful, too – she’s especially good at catching uniquely American phrases that creep into my writing.
What is your favourite spread from the book?
Oh, that’s such a hard choice! I adore Jarvis’ illustrations. I think the spread of the decorated Christmas tree is brilliant. The decision to turn the book sideways to show a huge, decorated tree was a clever one. And now the gift edition has a tree that pops out! So special.
Do you ever go and pick your own pine tree?
Every year! My husband and I used to take our four children to a tree farm to cut down a tree. That is, until the year it was sleeting, and the kids were complaining, and my husband was on the muddy ground, trying to saw the trunk. Everyone was mad and cold and wet. After that, we decided that perhaps going to a tree lot would be just fine…
What is your favourite part about Christmas?
Biscuits and ornaments! I have a big stash of Christmas recipes that I make each year. My friends love it – because they get the surplus supply! As for ornaments, our children receive new ones each year, usually related to something special that happened that year. We tag them with their names, so that, when they move out, those ornaments will be the first trimmings for their own trees.
How do you decorate your own Christmas tree?
Lights first, then my husband’s collection of animated ornaments. He has about twenty of them. When they’re plugged in, little motors whir and they move about or light up or play songs. I tuck in a few ornaments from my childhood. The kids then add theirs – including one weapon-toting snowman my youngest son made from toilet paper tubes and cotton balls. Each year, the older kids threaten to set it afire, but it always makes it to the tree in one piece, thank heaven! The final touch is a long, long paper chain made from links that children have added at book signings for Pick a Pine Tree – I’m not sure of the exact length, but it stretches from the front door of our home to the back door!