Mountain Christmas: A New Children’s Book From W.Va. Poet Laureate

Dec 8, 2015

The West Virginia Book Company commissioned a new children’s book from West Virginia’s poet laureate and author Marc Harshman. The book, entitled Mountain Christmas, was published last month and is now in stores across the state. It’s about sleighbells heard by all sorts of people and creatures in iconic scenes found throughout the Mountain State.

Harshman says the owner of the West Virginia Book Company, Bill Clements, approached him a couple years ago about writing the book.

“It’s a story about Santa coming to West Virginia. As an author wanting to make a West Virginia-friendly book I was intentional about including a diverse range of places here in West Virginia such as the state capital, the Greenbank Observatory, the Wheeling Suspension Bridge, Black Water Falls.”

Stanzas feature Appalachian professionals as well: a scientist, a coal miner, a barge captain on the river, a soldier.  Harshman wanted to write a book the whole family can enjoy.

“I wanted to capture that sense of joy and anticipation, that longing - even a certain poignancy which might not be recognizable by a child but would be instantly hopefully appealing to an adult reader.”

Harshman says the process of creating the book was unique. He worked closely with editor Bill Clements and was able to choose and work with a friend and local illustrator, Cecy Rose.

“It was a first for me, it was a real project,” said Rose, a Wheeling artist and teacher.

“[Harshman] really provided with his stanzas the visual pictures for me; Bill was all about the magic, he kept telling me, ‘Just make it magical.’ And that wasn’t hard because I had a lot of input from my students who are all very young.”

The 17 illustrations are bright and vivid acrylic paintings. In life they’re about 11 inches by 14 inches--close the actual dimensions of the hardback book which stands 11 inches tall and 8 and a half inches wide. Rose says it took seven months to illustrate the entire book.  

“Santa was the biggest challenge,” Rose recalls, “because I didn’t want him to look too comical or cartoonish, so I referred to a lot of classical children's book, and how I remembered Santa, and he came out sort of Nordic looking. I was pleased with that and I loved the idea of the sleighbells so in every illustration the sleighbells are appearing somewhere in the picture even if Santa doesn’t.”

Perhaps one other notable feature was publisher Bill Clements’ decision to use a special font called OpenDyslexic. The new, open-source font has letters that are weighted at the bottom and spaced a little more widely to make reading a little easier for folks with dyslexia. 

Public book signings are planned:

  • Wheeling Artisan Center (3rd floor): Thursday December 10, 5:30 - 7 pm
  • New Martinsville School: Friday December 11, 5:00 - 6:30 pm

A few of the stores around the state where people can find Mountain Christmas:

  • Drug Emporium in Barboursville
  • Main Line Books in Elkins
  • Tamarack in Beckley
  • Taylor Books in Charleston
  • Wheeling Artisan Center in Wheeling
  • Words and Music in Wheeling
  • Etc in Wheeling
  • South Branch Inn in Moorefield
  • Open Book in Lewisburg
  • WV Food and Things in Parkersburg