Listen to the animals

Local author’s Advent calendar’s creatures prepare for winter in ways that are true to the season
A detail of an image from "All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings, Children’s Edition" by Gayle Boss. Courtesy art.

Gayle Boss had been celebrating Advent with her two sons for years but had never used an Advent calendar. When she looked for one back in 1996, she found plenty with little doors to open for each of the 24 days preceding Christmas, but they all contained candy or toys. She wanted something with more religious tones to reflect her family’s faith so she decided to make one of her own.

Gayle Boss, author. Courtesy photo.

“Advent is a season of stripping down and waiting in the dark, waiting for the light,” she said. “I wondered what would give my boys that sense of waiting in the dark and decided it was animals. Animals prepare for the dark of winter in ways that are true to the season.”

Now that early, homemade Advent calendar has matured into her newest book, All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings, Children’s Edition, which released in October. It’s the picture book edition for ages 5-10 of her adult Advent book All Creation Waits and is stunningly illustrated by Sharon Spitz, winner of the 2021 Jewish Children’s Book Award.

Each of the 24 days leading up to Christmas features a different animal preparing for the winter season—from painted turtle
to chipmunk, from red fox to lake trout—with the final day memorializing the birth of Jesus and symbolizing a return of the light that comes in spring.

She wrote 90-word, gently rhyming verse for each animal, “but first I had to get over my thought that I couldn’t write for children,” said Boss. Her publisher, Paraclete Press, had requested a children’s book to accompany her popular adult book.

Along came local book consultant Annette Bourland, of Bourland Strategic Advisors, who coached her through the initial fears and helped her hone her voice.

“I thought the publisher would want a more Disney feel to the book, but they told me it would be the book I wanted it to be,” said Boss. “Once I got over my resistance, I found out I like writing for children. I could be a lot more playful with the cadence, the rhythm, the lilt.”

She started writing in January 2022 and finished in October last year, with
the animals featured mirroring those in the adult version of All Creation Waits. That way, she said, the youngest children will be able to participate in the daily Advent practice alongside adults and older children. Boss also provides additional “wonderment” about each creature at the end of the book.

“Animals protect themselves as they slow down and wait,” said Boss. “But the holiday season is so frenzied. We can get signals from the animals about paring down everything but the essentials for survival.”

Advent season tips

Gayle Boss offers these suggestions for flourishing in a season that is often stressed, busy and frantic. She says that animals and nature offer abundant cues:

  • Get outdoors more often and allow the natural world to seep into your body and soul.
  • Listen with your heart to what the natural world is saying as winter approaches: conserve energy, slow down, pare down to the essentials, wait.
  • Listen for when you need to be alone and when you need to gather with community to stay strong and healthy. Animals know this.
  • Give attention, as animals do, to relationships that sustain and warm you.

Boss’s books are available at local bookstores and online retailers.

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