A North Pole pixie scout elf has just discovered the Killingworth Library and can be found in a different spot there every day until Christmas Eve. If you happen to spy the little elf, you will be given a special treat. This new to the library tradition is based on the popular book The Elf on The Shelf.
The elf-spotting mission starts on Saturday, December 1.
Children’s librarian Gayle Byrne explains the tradition: “The story behind it is that every little elf reports at night to Santa. He or she flies over to Santa and reports who has been naughty or nice. After she reports to Santa, she comes back and hides somewhere around your house.”
Byrne attended an event at R.J. Julia Booksellers by one of the book's co-authors, Carol Aebersold. Kids and adults alike were fascinated with the book and tradition, and thus the Killingworth Library now has its own elf and copy of the book.
Over 2.5 million copies have been sold in North America. The elf attended the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in balloon form this year, and became an animated special in 2011.
“This is really the behind-the-scenes grownup who takes this little elf and hides it somewhere in the house,” she informs. "The next morning the kids wake up and they look for the elf. She’s always in a different spot and that’s where she’s going to perch for that day and watch and see who’s naughty and nice.”
The kids are always aware the little elf is watching. Some families enjoy the tradition for the month of December while others play from Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve.
At the library, before the doors open each day, someone will perch the elf somewhere in the building.
“As kids come in, regular patron visits, they’ll look for it. If they spy it, they'll get a candy cane. It says in the story that the children don’t touch it – it’s part of the magic,” says Byrne.
The next day someone will relocate the cute little elf who will “just be perched there and look for things naughty and nice and then go back to Santa and report.”
Children of all ages can enjoy the elf finding activity.
“It’s such a family kind of story and tradition, I’m not sure there is an age cutoff on it,” she says and adds, “That’s the beauty of picture books. They really can be read on so many different levels by just about any age audience.”
Byrne says she thinks part of the attraction is tradition. “So much of what 'holiday' is revolves around traditions! Families have traditions, nationalities have traditions, religions, communities, it seems everything has a thread of some kind.”
“This cute little story with its cute little elf gives us all an opportunity to start something that's not only fun but continuous, binding. We'll be building memories with this little guy, year after year after year!” she says.
Author Carol Aebersold had an elf, Fisbee, as a young girl.
“When I got married, of course, he came with me. When I had children, they grew up with the elf tradition,” she said.
One afternoon, she and her grown daughter Chanda Bell were sitting at the kitchen table and Carol told her where she was in her her life. “I was at the very rock bottom and I was trying to put into words what I was feeling on the inside. She said to me, “Mom, you’re such a good writer. Why don’t you write a book?” Carol said there were plenty of books in the world already and that she really didn’t have anything to say.
“Chanda looked up and Santa had been so gracious and let Frisbie stay over because he knew that I was down. She looked up on the shelf and said, 'Mom, we should write about our elf tradition and share it with the world!'”
“That was when we started writing the book and sort of the beginning of my therapy – it gave me purpose and something to do. It also gave me something to do with my grown daughter, which was quite a blessing for me,” Aebersold said.
Some of Chanda’s favorite memories include jumping out of bed and finding where the elf might be hiding.
“I remember talking to the elf, telling him what I wanted for Christmas. My other memories, now, as a parent, involve the magic of the children telling me about where they found their elf and all that’s involved as a parent getting to experience this through their eyes,” says the co-author.
Aebersold says the book/tradition is not geared toward a specific age range. "It’s a family tradition that lasts for a lifetime. I started the tradition when my daughters were just six months old for their first Christmas, and my elf from when I was a child still comes to see me."
The idea is incredibly popular, she says, because "We are all about creating family moments and I think it does create family moments. It creates one when you sit down to read the book, and it creates another when the family decides on a name for their elf. It’s the letter back from Santa and the adoption certificate."
"It also creates family memories and moments when every morning the child or children looks for the elf. As you get older, the parents too start to look for the elf," she adds. And, it's something that's not difficult.
After numerous rejections from publishers, the co-authors decided to self-publish. Obviously, the naysayers were wrong.
Aebersold found that publishers "were looking for somebody who has a name ... somebody who’s famous and we certainly weren’t famous."
And, they were told that nobody liked rhyming books and or would buy rhyming books. "Being the fiery person that I am, I went to Barnes & Noble and clearly 90 percent of the Christmas books in there are in rhyme," she said.
Aebersold reported her "unscientific findings" to the publishers, to which they replied someone else should write it. "We said no, we’re going to do it the way God gave it to us and had it self-published," she said.
And, yes, she finds that children with an elf do behave better during the holidays. "Mine behaved better, and I just finished a book signing and parents just kept telling me it was working wonders and it was a great thing. Apparently it works!"
The Elf on the Shelf book can be found at the Killingworth Library and, unlike the new pixie scout elf, is not hidden.