The Standard Journal of Rexburg published the article below. You can also view a video about the author and illustrator of The 12 Hats of Christmas Here:
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REXBURG — Since Brett Parson was a very young child, he knew he wanted to write a children’s book and that he wanted his sister to illustrate it. Many years later, that dream has come true in the form of “The Twelve Hats of Christmas.”
He traces his desire to write a children’s book to age 5 or 6, to a moment when his mother was reading to him. He said he had an epiphany in which he felt strongly he would one day write books, which he wanted his sister Holly to illustrate. At the time, he didn’t yet know the artist his sister would grow to become.
He said that eight years ago his sister did an illustration of an elf, and it was then the idea hit him to have this be a character in a children’s Christmas book. Every year for the next eight years, Brett Parson would work on the story during the Christmas season. He says he had to be in the “Christmas zone” in order to capture the right feeling for his story, which was why he wrote during the Christmas season for those years. During that time he came up with several versions of the storyline.
However, he felt frustrated because he felt like something was still missing.
Over a year ago he was expressing his frustration to his wife, who suggested perhaps the story could have a deeper meaning about giving service. She gave him the idea to have an elf character who inspires others to do something good for other people.
For the next year and a half, Brett Parson worked on the story every day, using Christmas music to get him in the “Christmas zone.”
His sister Holly Parson Nielsen did the illustrations, and their older brother Justin did the graphic design for the book.
“It’s been wonderful,” Brett Parson said of the experience of working together as a family. “We really love it.”
He wanted the story to capture the Spirit of Christmas, but more than that he felt the story had the potential to help kids want to do good for those around them.
The finished product of the story tells the tale of an elf who is on his way to Santa’s birthday party. He has several hats that he wants to give to Santa, but as he goes along his journey, he ends up giving away all his hats to help various characters in need. When he reaches the party, he no longer has anything left to give. The elf learns a lesson about what truly matters: giving, rather than receiving.
Copies of “The Twelve Hats of Christmas” are available for purchase at 12hatsofChristmas.com.
The Parson siblings expressed how their hearts have been touched by the reactions and support they have received from the community.
They grew up in Rexburg, and much of the family remains here, but Brett Parson has since moved to Idaho Falls, and other siblings live in states like Texas and Connecticut. Brett Parson said it is nice to see their home base of Rexburg supporting them so strongly.
He has plans to put this book out again next year and to publish other stories in the future.
“There are more exciting things coming soon,” he said.
Two of Brett Parson’s favorite compliments about the book have been parents saying they couldn’t finish the book because they got choked up with emotion and had to have their children finish reading it for them, and people coming back after buying one copy to buy several more because they liked it so much. He has also loved hearing people say that “The Twelve Hats of Christmas” has become a new Christmas tradition for their family.
“We had wonderful traction this year,” he said.
Because of the book, Nielsen has interacted with children who want to be illustrators when they grow up. She said this has been a highlight for her.
Nielsen has illustrated various other books and done technical illustration, pamphlet illustration, private portrait commissions, CD covers, landscapes and paintings of animals. She says whimsical illustrations are her passion.
Both of her parents, Kathy and Leon Parson, are artists as well. They met in an art class at Ricks College. Nielsen said she was never pressured into doing art, but she was encouraged; her uncle, Del Parson, is a notable artist among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, having painted various well-known images of Jesus Christ including “He is Risen” and “Lost Lamb.” Leon Parson has done murals for LDS temples and, according to his website, is one of the top wildlife artists in the world.
“I’ve been drawing since I could pick up a pencil,” Nielsen said.
She said the “The Twelve Hats of Christmas” holds a special place in her heart because she feels excited when her work becomes magical — to both children and “grown-up children.”
“Also, it’s been really fun working on it with my brother,” she said.
Nielsen’s art can be viewed at artbyholly.com.
Her mother, Kathy Parson, thinks it’s wonderful that her children have put together this project. She feels that her kids are carrying on an artistic legacy of the family.
“My children have drawn. That’s what they did when they were kids,” she said. “They’re all artistic.”
She said in addition to her daughter Holly being an illustrator, her son Justin being a graphic designer and her son Brett running a marketing and design company, she has children who are sculptors and landscape architects as well.
She said she is very proud of her kids and is excited to see them going in the directions they have chosen.
“Art is not just a gift,” she said. “It takes so much hard work.”
Brett Parson said he would never claim to be an artist, but he feels he has been the “glue” or the “Tom Sawyer” of the family, using his ideas to help his artistic family members use their talents to help people who can benefit from them.
He said he has been doing this for about 15 years and feels it is the role he had in creating the book as well.
“Creativity brings us together,” he said.