Bangor author Sonia Boal’s debut novel is a Christmas story with a difference.
Aimed at children aged from five to 10, the story is set in the North Pole and sees Santa and his helpers running out of materials to cater for Christmas due to a lack of care for the environment.
In the book, which is illustrated by Co Down artist Jo Hatty, Santa says: “the problem is too big for one person to solve”. However, he believes if everyone did a little bit then there would be a big result.
Described by publishers Excalibur Press as “a charming festive tale that gently delivers a serious environmental message to children” the book illustrates Sonia’s passion for protecting the environment.
She explained: “I graduated from Coventry University with a BSc in Environmental Science, since then I’ve first volunteered for and subsequently worked for environmental charities and organisations.
“I’m currently a recycling officer for Belfast City Council, so the subject of getting people to recycle more is both very familiar and close to my heart.”
It stands to reason then that she sees the importance of educating children in environmental issues.
“I’d like children to know that they can make a difference to the world they live in. It’s the world they are eventually going to have to deal with. Thinking of my boys, I don’t want to think that they will have problems with persistent flooding or high winds, but it’s looking more and more likely” she said.
The Letter from Santa highlights green issues to a young audience in a light and fun manner.
It allows them to contemplate how they can make a difference all year round; even at Christmas when their thoughts are elsewhere.
And Sonia’s even managed to get the backing of local politician Steven Agnew of the Green Party.
The North Down MLA said: “I am delighted to be supporting local author Sonia Boal as she publishes her first children’s book.
“The Letter from Santa is a lovely story, combining a message of giving in a world of finite resources.
“Sonia has cleverly taken these important themes and worked them into a tangible tale which children will understand and appreciate.
“As a father of two young children, this story is sure to become a favourite in our house.”
A mother of two boys, Sonia believes in getting through to children in a manner they can understand.
She said: “I need to teach them that our actions have consequences, in fact our inaction has consequence too, and if we ignore the warning signs, we invariably end up paying the cost of this.
“Of course if I said that, it would go in one ear and out the other, so I have to put it in a way that is meaningful for them, so a story seemed like a good way to go.
“Nothing motivates a pair of boys quite like the threat of Santa not turning up on Christmas Eve.”
Alongside conveying a serious message to young audiences Sonia will also be a source of inspiration to other writers because she hasn’t let dyslexia hinder her work.
She revealed: “I’ve always written, but despite (ironically) being dyslexic, it’s something I enjoy.
“I think my next project might be to develop an activity pack to accompany the book.”
Sonia attributes having the book ready for Christmas to having time on her hands over the summer.
“I broke both my legs during the summer which is why I had time to write,” she said.
Perhaps it was during this time that Sonia began contemplating her own Christmas list but she remains undecided about what she will request.
“I’m not exactly sure what to ask Santa for myself; the best present would be to be properly back on my feet again.”
Regardless of her incomplete Christmas list Sonia is looking forward to Christmas and will be spending it “celebrating (Christmas) at home, big style.
“The house is already adorned and dinner will be for the four of us, my two stepsons, my parents and my sister and her family. Plenty of help with the dishes thank goodness!”
The Letter From Santa by Sonia Boal, £6.99, (illustrated by Jo Hatty) is available now from www.amazon.co.uk or direct by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org