Fifteen years ago, Jody Haybarker was at the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School when inspiration hit. As often happens, the idea percolated in the back of her mind for years. Then, she connected with Ivan Reynolds, a 19-year old illustrator from her church, and everything fell into place.
“Santa Goes to School” is the end result of Haybarker’s inspiration and her collaboration with Reynolds. The picture book is loosely based on the experiences of Haybarker and her husband, Kraig, and answers the question posed by children everywhere: why are there so many different Santas?
“I didn’t plan on writing a book,” Haybarker says, but the story she formulated all those years ago at Santa School was simply too good not to share.
The book was officially launched on November 7, and it can be purchased locally or online. If residents want an autographed copy, they may be able to request one by stopping by 423 Suffolk Street on November 20 and 21, during the Home for the Holidays Craft Show.
Maintaining Christmas Magic
Haybarker, who also goes by the name Mrs. Claus, used a real-life encounter with a young boy at church as the basis for “Santa Goes to School.”
“We were servers at the later [Christmas Eve] service at church,” Haybarker recalls. A little boy walked in, mistook her husband Kraig for Santa and shook his hand to wish him a merry Christmas. That interaction led Kraig, with his long white beard, to consider whether he was called to step into the red suit.
The book follows a man who, in similar circumstances, decides to enroll in Santa School. The overriding message of the story is that Santa needs help and chooses some special men to fill his shoes.
“It explains to kids why there are so many different Santas,” Kraig says. At the same time, it preserves the magic of Christmastime and reminds children that while they may encounter many Santas, the one that fills their heart in a special way could just be the real Mr. Claus.
“It’s just a feel-good story,” Haybarker says. “And it’s fun because it’s about our hometown Santa Claus.”
She adds that although the book is based on her and her husband’s experience, the story is general enough to be relatable to many of Santa’s helpers. Copies have been sold to other students from the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School who see a reflection of their own experience in the book.
Where to Buy “Santa Goes to School”
Credit goes to Reynolds for making the publication process smooth, Haybarker says. The illustrator not only drew all the pictures but also took care of the logistics of printing the book through self-publishing firm BookBaby.
“It’s been very well-received,” Haybarker says, and she has already sold out of the original printing.
More copies are now available, and people have multiple options to purchase. Locally, Haybarker will have books for sale at 423 Suffolk Street during the Home for the Holidays Craft Show. This event, which will be held November 20 and 21, will follow a similar format as Christmas Through Lowell, which was cancelled this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Books are also available locally through Lowell’s downtown bookshop, Bettie’s Pages, and north of town at the Red Barn Market near Murray Lake.