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Tiger Tales' Author, Nicky Benson, Interviewed by The Salvation Army

November 18, 2014

Posted by Barb Knight

With the Christmas season approaching, it’s easy to get wrapped up with the ever growing list of to-dos like buying gifts, baking, attending and throwing parties, that often times the true “spirit of Christmas” gets overlooked.

Anyone who needs a reminder of the true meaning of the Christmas season should pick up Nicky Benson’s children’s book, The Spirit of Christmas, which tells the delightful story about a young boy named Drew who receives a “giving bag” from Santa to fill with toys for less fortunate children who would not otherwise receive gifts this year.

This novelty book includes a giving bag for your child to fill with toy donations and a keepsake bell from Santa. And the best part? A portion of sales proceeds will benefit The Salvation Army as her charity of choice.

We had the chance to chat with Nicky about her book and why she chose The Salvation Army.

Tell us about the inspiration behind this book. Why a Christmas story? We just love the idea of have a “giving bag” under the Christmas tree. How did you come up with that? Is this something your family does at home?

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays! I love spending time with family and friends, decorating my Christmas tree, and eating lots of food. My family has always been extremely generous, so when I had my son Drew, I started to think about ways to instill generosity and kindness in him. Christmas time can be so focused on gift getting, that we sometimes lose sight of the true meaning. I didn’t want Drew to grow up thinking Christmas is only about being good to get presents. One day, I was sitting at my desk, and it just came to me…a ‘Giving Bag’! I wrote it on a post it, stuck it on my computer, and here we are! Now we have a wonderful charitable giving tradition that will continue on. My hope is when Drew gets older and has his own family, that he will read ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ to his children and create his own memories. It brings a warmth to my heart that I can’t even explain.

We’re so grateful that you decided to donate a portion of the proceeds to The Salvation Army! What made you choose our organization?

It really seemed like a no-brainer to me! The Salvation Army is the perfect partner for a classic Christmas tradition like this. The Red Kettle Campaign touches so many people in so many different ways with Christmas dinners, clothing, and toys. You do so much for the communities you serve. Plus, we both love silver bells! I couldn’t be more thrilled to be able to partner with you!

Do you have any fun family Christmas traditions you’d like to share?
Well, we always have a visit from Santa on Christmas Eve…so that is really special! But one of my favorite Christmas traditions is breaking oplatki with my family. Breaking oplatki is a Polish tradition that is done on Christmas Eve before we have the big meal. The wafer symbolizes the unity of family. We break oplatki, give kisses, and wish each other a very Merry Christmas. The house fills with Christmas spirit and love for one another…it is a wonderful tradition!

Did you have a favorite toy as a child?

This is going to sound very weird…but my favorite Christmas present as a child was a cardboard box house! I have no idea where Santa found it, but it really ROCKED! I got to color the walls and have tea parties in it. It was fantastic!

What were your favorite novels as a child?

Growing up, I loved books. When I was little, Dr. Seuss was king! I would memorize and recite his playful rhymes over and over again. As I grew up, I loved a variety of books. The one that resonated with me the most was ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’. I kept my own diaries, and would start every entry with ‘Dear Kitty’. She was an inspiration in many ways, but her influence inspired me to get writing.

Are there a few books that every kid should read today?

There are so many! I love being able to explore children’s books with my son. Some of the fan favorites in my house right now are anything ‘Pete the Cat’ or ‘Seuss’, ‘Dragons Love Tacos’, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, ‘Goodnight Moon’, ‘Open This Book Carefully’, ‘Dinosaur Dig’, ‘The Pigeon Wants a Cookie’, and ‘The Spirit of Christmas’ of course!

Is it safe to assume the character of Drew is based on your son? The character has such a big heart in this book!

Yes! Drew is my absolute inspiration for everything. I never knew I could love someone so much!

What advice do you have for young people who want to be writers?

Follow your heart and keep writing! Take inspiration from your every day, your imagination, your dreams…anything is possible if you put a pen to paper!

To inspire people to start their own giving traditions not only on Christmas but every day. This is a wonderful way to instill giving in our children early on, so that they want to give in the future.

What will we see from you next?

That is a good question! I feel so blessed and humbled by this opportunity, that I haven’t had a chance to really think about that. (Also could be because I have a very active three year old!). I would love to be able to write more children’s books…being able to stir the imagination of a child is an amazing thing. So hopefully you will be seeing more books from me!

Any final thoughts to share?

I just want to thank The Salvation Army for being so supportive of ‘The Spirit of Christmas’! It truly means the world to me and I am so happy that we can spread Christmas cheer together! And…MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!

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  • Tiger Tales' Author, Nicky Benson, Interviewed by The Salvation Army

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    We agree completely, Stephanie – welcome to tiger tales!