Guest Edition

Erin Dealey–What Was on Her . . .

Anyone ready for Christmas shopping? Too early, you say. Well, you might have other ideas by the time you finish reading this post about Christmas Ahoy, the latest picture book by Erin Dealey

Christmas Ahoy is a delightful twist on the holiday counting and rhyming book. Having lived most of my life in landlocked towns, this joyful book was my first introduction to the holiday boat parades that line the coasts of America. As we go from 1 to 10, each boat outdoes the next with its lights, decorations, and inventiveness. Even Santa does his best to outshine the others! What is fun is that the backmatter includes descriptions of each of the boats featured. Whether your little one lives on a coast or simply loves boats, this would be a fun book to slip under the tree!

Christmas Ahoy! (Sleeping Bear Press)                                    Written by Erin Dealey, Illustrated by Kayla Stark 

Ahoy! A spectacular Christmas boat parade is underway! Count up to ten as the dazzling crafts bob pass . . . but wait! Where is Santa and his reindeer? Surely, they aren’t missing the parade? Never fear, little mariners, Santa simply has a surprise in store. With backmatter on the bevy of boats featured!

Erin wrote Christmas Ahoy during the pandemic when her local holiday boat parades were cancelled. She wanted a picture book to share with the boaters in her family. I’m curious to know if she wrote it with photo reminders from parades past or straight from her imagination—and whether she shared any research with Kayla Stark, who illustrated the book. I’d also like to know, if landlubbers like me are in California at holiday time, where are Erin’s favorite parades—boat or otherwise?

So, with no further ado, let me turn things over to Erin, so that she can tell us, What Was on Erin Dealey’s…

Prep List for Writing: My list was short. Once I realized that a picture book about Holiday Boat Parades did NOT exist, I dove in to see WHY? Could it be possible there wasn’t a picture book because this was just a California thing? I only knew about the boat parades in Santa Cruz (our family tradition), Sausalito, and Newport Beach. Fun fact, Newport Beach has one of the oldest holiday boat parades, which started in 1908 with a gondola and eight canoes decorated with Japanese lanterns.

I found my answers both online and from family members. There are Holiday Boat Parades everywhere–not just in northern California. In SoCal, I found 14 annual events from Santa Barbara to San Diego—as well as lighted boat parades in Washington state, Hawaii, Texas, North & South Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and the British Virgin Islands. Bonus: There was a treasure trove of fun photos of their parades posted online!

A lighted sailboat in Santa Cruz the year the parade was cancelled.

Exchanges with Kayla Stark: I was so excited when Sarah Rockett, my editor at Sleeping Bear Press, brought illustrator Kayla Stark on board… (pun intended). Kayla’s art is so lively and fun! Our interactions thus far amount to me following Kayla on social media. However, I did send selected boat photos to my editor so they would have examples. We have lots of boaters in the family, so it was very important for me to get the boats & backmatter facts right!

Erin and her favorite SUP companion. (Her dog Charlie swam out and tried to climb on the paddle board by herself so Erin pulled her aboard.)

More fun facts: The gondolas in the book are a tribute to the earliest parades in Newport Beach. The “pirates” on SUPs* are based on photos I took of paddlers in Santa Cruz CA, who dressed up (in everything from pirate gear to Christmas trees) and paddled around the harbor the year the parade was cancelled.

Favorite Parade: Ha–since I’ve never been to any of the others, my answer is Santa Cruz. But the more I hear about the others, the more I’d love to visit them all!

Favorite Holiday Boat Ever Seen: That’s a tough one. Every one of them is so unique. The sailboat mast made to look like a light house is for real! The “Sugar Plum Ferry…” was also inspired by a boat full of dancers.

Mind: Thank you so much for helping me celebrate this crazy summer book launch of CHRISTMAS AHOY!, Sandra. (For those who are curious WHY it’s so early, holiday books are traditionally released months in advance so that booksellers hear about them in plenty of time to have them on the shelves for the holidays.) As it happens, I just finished making the book trailer, so boats are definitely on my mind right now. I can’t wait to share our book with family, friends, and boat-lovers everywhere!  

Thank you so much, Erin! You’ve got me in the mood for boats–and holiday shopping! After all, it’s never too early.

*SUPs = stand-up paddle boards

To keep up to date with Erin Dealey, check out her website at, Twitter at @erindealey, Pinterest at @erindealey, Instagram at @erindealey, and Facebook at @erindealeyauthor.  You can also find the Christmas Ahoy! trailer HERE.

If you would like to order Christmas Ahoy, click on the book below.

4 thoughts on “Erin Dealey–What Was on Her . . .

Leave a Reply