7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #310: Featuring
Selina Alko (And a Handful of Other Visitors)

h1 December 23rd, 2012 by jules

“Mountains of gifts are placed under the tree for eight nights of Hanukkah,
plus Christmas Day. How lucky am I?”

(Click to enlarge spread)

This morning, I welcome author and illustrator Selina Alko to tell us all a bit about her latest picture book, Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama, a story about a family who merges two holiday traditions. Sadie, the young girl narrating the story, has a father who has always celebrated Christmas, a mother who has always celebrated Hanukkah, and they annually combine the traditions of each holiday event in order to teach their daughter about both. Selina—using gouache, collage, and colored pencil, which result in such appealing textures here—lays it all out on the pages of this book with vibrant colors and great joy. She’s here today to share some artwork from the book (sans text), as well as early dummy images, and to tell us the story behind the book.

Toward the end of this post, I’ve also got some holiday illustrations from several illustrators, just ’cause I’m an illustration junkie and couldn’t help it. Let’s get right to it all …

“Our tree is crowned with one shiny star. And we light eight candles for Hanukkah.
I help Mama hang stockings by the fireplace. Daddy makes latkes to leave on the mantel with milk. Grandma’s recipe is Santa’s favorite treat.”

(Click to enlarge)

Selina: I first thought about doing a book about blending holiday traditions when my daughter was a baby. (She is now almost five.) I used to stroll her to nap and then duck into cafés to write and draw. This was around the time that I had just finished handing in the art for I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother, which is about a biracial boy who wonders what his sibling-to-be will look like (based on me + my husband, illustrator Sean Qualls—who is black, I am white—and our children).

“We decorate our home for the holidays. Mama scatters golden gelt under the tree. Daddy hooks candy canes on menorah branches. I paint powder-blue angels and red-nosed reindeer. They fly around our living room with the king and queen.
On ribbons, my decorations hang from the ceiling.”

(Click to enlarge)

“Songs for both Hanukkah and Christmas in hand, we carol to the neighbors about Maccabees and the manger. ‘Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,’ and ‘Silent Night.’
Mixing music to bright smiles. I sing for both Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama.”

(Click to enlarge)

It occurred to me that I didn’t know of any holiday books about both Hanukkah and Christmas (also our religious/cultural mix), and so I thought about creating my own story — for our children and for so many others with similar homes. We had been celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas together (and with our son, then three years old) for several years, so I tried to remember what was joyful about each holiday. I thought about combining symbols and objects from each tradition in unusual ways, such as sprinkling Hanukkah gelt under the Christmas tree or hooking candy canes on Menorah branches. To me, this felt like a playful approach.

“Watching snowflakes fall, we wait for family to arrive. Everyone passes under the mistletoe, kissing me, Hanukkah Mama, and Daddy Christmas hello.”
(Click to enlarge)

“When dinner’s done, the family gathers in the living room. Uncle Zachary recalls the miracle of the oil. Aunt Faith tells about the animals in the manger, waiting for the baby to be born. Wide-eyed, we listen to these traditional tales,
which link us together today.”

(Click to enlarge)

“Christmas morning, I cannot wait to see what is underneath the tree. With mocha eggnog lattes, Hanukkah Mama and Daddy Christmas soon join me.
Daddy plays mellow holiday jazz. Mama heats up leftover potato pancakes.
We take turns giving each other a final gift.”

(Click to enlarge)

I wanted to have fun with this book and make the art a celebration! I didn’t want the tone of the book to be serious or give over to the tensions that can sometimes result from different religions, but rather focus on what’s positive about the holidays and how interfaith families can successfully combine celebrating both.

Early dummy images

DADDY CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH MAMA. Copyright © 2012 by Selina Alko. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York. All images here reproduced by permission of Selina Alko.

* * * * * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

Happy holidays, everyone, and I’m pleased that Selina Alko is visiting and sharing art today. It’s two days before Christmas, which I can hardly believe, and here are my kicks:

1) Yesterday, I got to see two high school friends. Here we are. I love these people (to my left and my right). They are so fun and smart and sparkly-souled. I just can’t quite say enough good things about them. Lucky me, that they’ve been my friends for over twenty years now.

2) Holiday-music CD mixes from a friend and colleague, who is the mix-makin’ funkmaster DJ of all DJs.

3) Other new music. It’s like all of a sudden, here in the last two weeks of the year, I’m discovering 2012’s best CDs, including Punch Brothers’ latest CD and Shovels & Rope’s latest, too. Here’s a song off the latter, my very favorite song on the CD. See what I mean? Turn it up, man.

Hail Hail by Shovels and Rope on Grooveshark

Also, Karen Peris of The Innocence Mission released a CD of mostly her on the piano, which makes me tremendously happy, since I love piano AND I love it when she plays piano. You can hear it here. It’s really so, so beautiful.

Oh, and holy whoa, check out this song. Does that give you chills, or does that give you chills?

4) I got to see an F&G of Lemony Snicket’s (a.k.a. Daniel Handler) upcoming 2013 picture book, The Dark, illustrated by Jon Klassen, and it is specialness forever, you all. My friend did an excellent dramatic reading of it at a book club meeting, and the room was hushed by it.

At the end of this Fresh Air interview, Handler talks about it — and reads from it.

5) DARRELL SCOTT AT THE FRANKLIN THEATRE IN JUST FIVE DAYS. I just yelled that, ’cause I believe that, if the world were full of his voice at all times, it’d be a better place.

6) Hey, wait. This should be kick #1. I’m not very organized, am I? Anyway, after featuring this very talented art student/illustrator-in-training here at 7-Imp, evidently he was contacted by an editor to talk further. WOO TO THE HOO, you all! There are so many mediocre books for children created annually, so it makes me happy that an artist with such potential may get published one day. I seriously love that chess-playing dog in the image that opens the post. (To boot, Ethan is courteous, and—as you can see in that post—he’s a snappy dresser.)

7) My girls saw the Nashville Symphony in action for the first time in their lives this week.

BONUS: Surprises in the mail from thoughtful folks.

NOTE: Did you all see this Landfill Harmonic video that Denise Doyen posted in her kicks a couple weeks ago? Seriously. Watch it, if you haven’t already? Please. It’s phenomenal.


Wait! There’s more …

Here are some holiday greetings, the illustrated kind, from a small handful of illustrators. I secured the artists’ permission to post these, and I hope you enjoy them.

First up, do you all remember this book? Well, here’s the book’s brave protagonist, thanks to author/illustrator Kenneth Kraegel:


From Shadra Strickland:


From Wade Zahares:


From Lauren Castillo:


From Taeeun Yoo:


From Deborah Kogan Ray:

What are YOUR kicks this week? Anyone around?

21 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #310: Featuring
Selina Alko (And a Handful of Other Visitors)”

  1. Thankyou for all the delights you have presented to us this year. Happy holidays to you and your girls and to the other imps. Love from snowy Berlin !

  2. Happy holidays! I’ve been lurking 7-Imp for weeks (months, years), but can’t seem to get it together to post properly. Such good peeps here.

    Selina’s art makes me want to do more art myself, which is always a good sign.

    Thanks for sharing music, Jules — listening to The Lone Bellow while thinking thankful thoughts for 7kicks is just right. So cool to see you smiling with your old friends too. Old friends rule.

    1. Our backyard ice rink, as a way to embrace winter in Canada.
    2. Finding creative ways to navigate Christmas when family dynamics change. My parents split up after 40 years of marriage, and it’s actually pretty ok.
    3. A fiddle-playing daughter who made real music at her school’s band concert.
    4. Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor
    5. Time off to play Battleship, checkers, dominoes and MarioKart with my little guy.
    6. Cheap second-run theaters for those of us who don’t need instant gratification.
    7. Accepting lulls in creative energy.

  3. Hi Jules! Thanks for the lovely post! I’m excited about seeing this one.
    I’m checking today with my phone so I won’t be kicking today…too hard to text them! But I did want to say happy holidays to you and your family…and all the lovely kickers out there. I absolutely LOVE this blog and look forward to all your posts and find myself coming here weekly, if not daily for inspiration.
    Ok, one quick kick: making homemade gnocchi with my girls and hubby…a holiday tradition I’ve had since I was a child. My Italian father passed away several years back…and I love that we still do this every Christmas.
    Have wonderful, safe holidays everyone.

  4. What a lovely and seasonally appropriate title you are featuring today, Jules. And I love the photo of you and your friends. And what great news about Ethan & the editor!

    Jeremy, I remember that backyard ice rink from previous winter kicks. I am still completely blown away that is possible. And your kick #7 makes you seem very wise, it is one I struggle with.

    Lori homemade gnochhi sounds like a wonderful tradition.

    I hope all in this kicking community have a great holiday!

    1. I am on holidays for ten days, which will be a nice break as I am planning to spend it at or near home
    2. Another croquet game with work on Friday afternoon as an end of year/possible end of world celebration
    3. The chooks enjoyed their share of the Christmas lunch scraps from an early celebration with one part of the family today
    4. There have been lots of beautiful skinks and water dragons (lizards) around in the warmth of the mornings when I walk to the station. (Yes we have dragons here in Australia, John)
    5. We also have cute puggles, which are baby echidnas. See for proof.
    6. Our city’s library system ran a food for fines amnesty during December, and has raised heaps of food for charities this Christmas, and also apparently recovered lots of lost books
    7. Ants have not yet discovered that we have hung candy canes on our Christmas tree. Victory to the humans of the household!

  5. Good Morning!
    I am expecting a cast of thousands for our Holiday Open House today. The spring rolls are made, so I am not panicking.
    I wanted to check in with the Imps to wish you all a Happy Holiday before the crowds arrive.
    Jules – Thank you for sharing Selina’s lovely book that I think a lot of homes will appreciate. Thanks also for sharing the other holiday images and the music.
    I’m so glad you got to be with your good buds and I am jealous of your F&G, which makes me shout, “F and G! I want one.”
    Hello Lisa
    Jeremy – I look forward to the day I can hear real music from my violin playing daughter.
    Lori- Do you make the traditional seven fishes dinner on Christmas Eve? We go to my aunt’s for it every year.
    Congrats to Ethan!
    Emmaco- Our library does that same food-for-fines thing. Win Win
    Holiday Kicks
    1. I will see all (4) of my siblings today along with all (six) of my mother’s siblings.
    2. Homemade spring rolls
    3. I got paid for a holiday illustration.
    4. My husband’s birthday turned out not to be the end of the world on the 21st.
    5. Mint Chocolate Porter (I haven’t tried it yet) from Cape Cod Beer.
    6. My little niece stops crying when I do the Elmo voice. It is annoying to everyone else but it makes me happy to make her happy.
    7. I made an animated GIF of a Peace picture that I made http://atlanticmo.tumblr.com/post/38282849189/peace

    Peace to you all.

  6. Happy Holidays to all!!!!!! *hugs and kisses*

  7. Hi, Lisa! Jealous of your snow, and happy happy holidays to you.

    A Jeremy sighting! Hi there. I like all your kicks, but especially the last two. But, wait, your daughter on violin? SWEET. And I’ve always been jealous of the ice rink in your life. I hope you all have a great holiday, Jeremy.

    Thanks for the kind words, Lori. I hope to meet you in person in 2013. Enjoy that gnocchi, and happy holidays to your family. I hope your daughter finds a good Christmas neck tie.

    Emmaco, hurrah for your ant-free, candy cane-filled tree. I’m so glad you get so much time at home. I have to say: Celebrating the end of the world with a croquet game sound super fun. p.s. Your link didn’t come through, the baby echidna one. Can you re-send?

    Moira: Yes, the book is so f&g’ing good. MINT CHOCOLATE PORTER? Sounds so good! Mmm. Happy birthday (belated) to your husband. Nothing like sharing your birthday with a dooms-day, huh? Have a great holiday with your huge and wonderful family, Moira.

    TARIE! Mwah.

  8. Love the book and all the illustrations today. So joyous. My niece celebrates both traditions so will get the book.
    Jules, I can’t wait to take grand girls to the symphony. There’s nothing better than gathering with friends.
    Jeremy, good to hear from you. A backyard skating rink, how fun.
    Lori, homemade gnocchi, yum.
    Emmaco, we have the food for fines here too. I have to take food in.
    Moira, homemade spring rolls and a party.
    My kicks:
    1. Baking Christmas cookies with oldest grandgirl.
    2. Reading with grandgirl..her book and my book.
    3. Oldest grand girl’s laughter.
    4. Party at college friend’s home.
    5. CYBILS Poetry shortlist finalized. Top secret until January 1 but am excited.
    6. Participating in a haiku writing event all month long.
    7. Going south to see other grand girls after Christmas.
    Merry Christmas.

  9. Jone: Happy holidays to you and your granddaughters! You sound like you’re kickin’ back and enjoying it. So eager to hear about the Cybils. I’m not sure if “going south” means a lot of traveling, but if so, safe travels!

  10. Happy December 23rd, Kickers!

    You know what I like most about Selina Alko’s book? The way that the blending-but-not-homogenizing of cultures is mirrored in the mixed-media approach to the art. It’s not just like every image uses a different medium. Within each image are multiple media. You look at each person and object (even their separate PARTS) in context with the others, and not only is it all different but it all goes together. Favorite example: the “Daddy Latkes” spread, with the giant Christmas tree… including what seems to be a photograph of strands of twine for the trunk. Thank you for sharing the art, Selina! (And of course Jules, as always.)

    You are all such great people here and I love seeing what you’re up to every week, especially (of course) what’s kicked your spirits up. (Very happy to see, among everyone else, Jeremy emerge from lurkage!)

    Some kicks:

    1. (for emmaco, in part, and thank you for the dragons!) I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s The Last Continent, which features on the fictional Discworld a continent very much like the terrestrial Down Under. Too many hilarious bits to quote involving kangaroos, and a Mad Max-type character, and transparent beer, and so on. And he has a LOT of fun with some of the impenetrabilities of Australian slang. But at one point, one of his characters — a recurring character called the Bursar — is regarding a cliff wall, on which he has found something like what might elsewhere be simple cave paintings:

    Someone had drawn a tree. It was the simplest drawing of a tree the Bursar had ever seen since he’d been old enough to read books that weren’t mostly pictures, but it was also in some strange way the most accurate. It was simple because something complex had been rolled up small; as if someone had drawn trees, and started with the normal green cloud on a stick, and refined it, and refined it some more, and looked for the little twists in a line that said tree and refined those until there was just one line that said TREE.

    And now when you looked at it you could hear the wind in the branches…

    That was lovely, and seemed to concentrate into just a few sentences all the magic of the place that emmaco manages to communicate in her kicks every week. (It also made me think of much of the art featured at 7-Imp, not incidentally.)

    2. Forcibly unplugging The Christmas Machine when it threatens to vibrate life into bits.

    3. Artful, ungrudging compromise.

    4. The complex sense, of some experiences in life, that things (a) might have been just a little different, but (b) weren’t, and simultaneously (c) turned out quite unpredictably well anyway.

    5. Discussions about alternative forms of old seasonal traditions which end up favoring the traditional over the alternative.

    6. Brown-paper-wrapped packages arriving in the mail. Even if not tied up with string.

    7. Really good eggnog.

    Have great week, all!

  11. Jules, to Medford, OR about five hours south.

  12. Sorry about the link, here it is unformatted! 1. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-12-14/perth-puggle-makes-public-appearance/4427848

    John that is a lovely quote. I think Pratchett also uses it when talking about the White Horse of Uffington, which is a picture that is the essence of a horse running.

    Nice to know so many people have food for fines! I have to admit, I had never thought of the benefit of having books returned that otherwise wouldn’t, people must be quite scared of fines. (as an aside, in Jasper Fforde’s newest book there are militant librarians who want to run dawn raids to collect overdue books…)

  13. John, dang. I like your kicks, especially #2. It’s not just the kicks themselves, of course; it’s how you articulate them. Thanks for sharing that Pratchett excerpt, too. I love that you took time to type that. And, as always, I enjoyed your observations about the illustrations.


    Emmaco: WHOA. That creature is fascinating, and it’s my first time seeing an echidna (not just a picture in a book, that is). Must remember to show my girls.

    Happy holidays, all!

  14. Hooray for joyful illustrations and meeting up with old friends! Today, the risk-adverse House of Glee did three new things: we saw the Christmas Ships, went to the Bellevue Botanical Garden’s “Garden d’Lights” display, and a new Indian restaurant…all in the dark, on the East Side, in the rain. I recommend doing an image search for the light display– it’s quite impressive. We had cocoa with whipped cream, and The Girl was incredulous. “We NEVER get whipped cream!” she said. Oh, the high life.

    Happy December, everyone!

  15. Happy holidays to everyone!

    I very much love the book and illustrations this week, and love how it emphasizes all the positives of celebrating both holidays.

    Jules -that is an awesome pic of you and your friends – you all look so very happy and sparkly!
    Just listened to The Lone Bellow – more than chills, it made me teary-eyed.

    Jeremy!! – Hi! Love the ice rink and of course love your violin playing daughter. We’ve missed you!

    Lori – homemade gnocchi sounds delightful and complicated.

    Emmaco – glad the chooks got their scraps and hope you have a fabulous holiday!

    Moira – that mint chocolate porter sounds amazing. Have fun with your family.

    Tarie – right back at ya!

    jone – baking and reading are two of the best things ever. Have a safe drive to Medford and happy holidays!

    John – I love, love, love Kick #4! Kick 1 is awesome too.

    My holiday kicks :

    1) Well received presents given to the staff that supports me. They work so hard year round, I couldn’t do my job without them, and so I try to get my small tokens of appreciation just right every year – nice when it actually turns out that way.
    2) Getting it together enough to mail Christmas cards this year.
    3) My tree – it makes me ridiculously happy.
    4) Holiday parties – 3 so far this week – always fun.
    5) Last night’s soccer game – we had no subs but played incredibly well together and it was a lot of fun – then a party at the team captain’s house after to celebrate the win.
    6) It snowed – briefly – tonight on my way home from the office. It didn’t stick, but seeing those fat snowflakes hit my windshield was magical.
    7) Finally discovered The West Wing – working my way through Season 1 and I am hooked!!!

    Happy happy holidays everyone! Wishing all of you kickers lots of peace love and joy in the coming year!

  16. Here it is Tuesday already, and I finally got a chance to check back here. Hope everyone’s holidays are going well!

    Emmaco, maybe acceptance is always wise. I didn’t elaborate to say that it’s a struggle for me too!

    Moira, sounds like everyone wants to try your mint chocolate porter, and you can count me in! It’s true that kids playing violins rarely make “real” music at the start, but seems like there’s a threshold passed after a couple of years.

    Jone, your holiday plans sound so homey and fun — love it.

    John, cheers to all your kicks, but most especially #2.

    Hi Rachel — good for you for surviving soccer with no subs. Our equivalent is hockey with no subs, and it’s killer!

  17. Farida, thanks for the tip. Will go search in a minute here. Whipped cream = the high life. That made me laugh outloud.

    Rachel, your Christmas sounds mighty festive. And I gotta watch The West Wing already. … I think we’ll get a dusting of snow today, too.

    Hope everyone’s having happy holidays ….

  18. I just found this page on Google and glad have found it because the post is awesome. I like it!

  19. I don’t have any friends left over from high school, so I smiled at yours.

  20. Shelley: I love it. Glad I could help.

  21. […] 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #310: FeaturingSelina Alko (And a Handful of Other Visitors) December 23rd, 2012 &nbsp&nbsp by jules […]

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact sevenimp_blaine@blaine.org. Thanks.