Title: The Legend of the Candy Cane
Author: Lori Walburg
Illustrator: Richard Cowdrey
Where available: Baker Book House, Kregel Parable Christian Stores, Family Christian Stores, Schuler Books & Music, and others
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When Lori Walburg wrote “The Legend of the Candy Cane” 15 years ago, she had no idea that the picture book would sell over 500,000 copies. Now the publisher, Grand Rapids-based Zonderkidz, is rereleasing the book with new illustrations by Richard Cowdrey. Zonderkidz acquisitions editor Barbara Herndon says, “We thought it would be fun to bring in a new illustrator to give the book a new flavor, but keep the heart and soul of the book. We wanted to keep it relevant for a new generation.” Walburg, who lives in Grand Rapids, talks about the new edition of her holiday classic.
Give readers a one-sentence description of your book. This picture book uncovers the mystery and the Christian symbolism behind a beloved Christmas candy—the candy cane.
Why do you think the book has remained so popular for these past 15 years? I embedded the story with all the delicious mystery I felt about Christmas as a child—the waiting and wondering, the mysterious wrapped packages, the delicious food, the excitement of giving, the joy of company and especially the celebration of God himself, come to earth in, of all things, a baby! I think the reader will feel those special Christmas shivers known as "the Christmas spirit" because I felt them as I wrote them, even though I wrote this on a Lake Michigan beach in July.
What do you hope children and adults take away from the book? I love picture books because they are a rare form of shared reading, where adults and children get to snuggle together, listen and look together, and share a warm time of togetherness. I hope they will find that this is a story they want to share over and over again, year after year, with children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I hope the book will help them escape all the annoying holiday commercialism that surrounds us, and instead help them to remember and celebrate Jesus, our Savior, God with us—Christmas!
Tell us about the new illustrations for the book. The illustrator is Richard Cowdrey, who also illustrated the popular Marley books, Bad Dog Marley and A Very Marley Christmas. The setting is more turn of the century, and the colors are bright and engaging. In addition, most of the illustrations feature a cat, a dog and a mouse so small children will enjoy finding their furry friends in each spread. But for those who prefer the previous illustrations, fear not. That edition is still available as well.
What is your favorite part of the candy cane legend? I love the idea that candy canes were originally used to keep the attention of children during church, because I remember sucking on pink and white peppermints during long sermons when I was a child. Even now I smile when I see moms doling out candy to their kids during church; I do it myself!
What surprised you as you researched the candy cane legend? I was surprised that the candy cane had such a long history—they've been around in one form or another for over 350 years!