Christmas story leads Lockwood principal to write children's book

2011-12-03T00:00:00Z 2011-12-03T14:49:44Z Christmas story leads Lockwood principal to write children's bookBy ROB ROGERS Of The Gazette Staff The Billings Gazette
December 03, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The idea for “Santa Came a Day Late” had been rolling around in Mike Bowman’s head for years, so last year he decided to do something with it.

He sat down, typed out a manuscript and brought it to school.

Bowman is principal of Lockwood Elementary and during reading time with some of the younger grades last Christmas, he shared what he’d written to see what kind of reaction he’d get.

“I kind of had a captive audience,” he said with a laugh.

The story, about a young boy who asks Santa Claus for a puppy and ends up with a special visit from Kris Kringle himself, was a hit. In fact, the students started telling Bowman he needed to turn it into a book.

So he did.

“We self-published it just to have some fun with it,” he said.

He didn’t expect much — the book was supposed to be just a nice Christmas memento for family, friends and the school.

But it immediately became popular in the community and started quickly selling. Bowman worked with Gainan’s, which made copies available at its downtown store. The book sold out so quickly there that Bowman ended up having to order more copies from the publisher.

“The response has been overwhelming,” he said.

When he started the project last year, Bowman called his daughter, Robyn Bingham, who lives in Pennsylvania, and asked if she wanted to illustrate it.

“My first thought was I’m not sure I can do this,” she said.

Bingham, a Skyview High grad, has been drawing since she was a girl. But as she started sketching ideas for the illustrations, she realized the story really needed lush and rich visuals to make the book feel real and to do justice to the story.

“I wanted the illustrations to be vibrant and colorful,” she said.

To do it the way she thought it needed to be done, she taught herself to paint with oils, which tend to be richer in tone. Typically she works in acrylics.

“It was a long process,” she said. “It really stretched me.”

The finished product couldn’t have been better, Bowman said.

“I think it’s a fun story,” he said. “Parents love to read it to kids. The ending makes it a perfect bedtime story.”

The book also gave Bowman a little curriculum inspiration for teaching reading and writing. The fifth-graders at the school are writing their own books, which they’ll go read to the school’s first-graders and coach them on reading and writing.

It’s been a satisfying project, he said.

The book is still available at Gainan’s, as well as online at http://etsy.com. Bingham even has it placed in some bookstores in Pennsylvania.

She enjoyed the experience of creating a children’s book and loved working with her dad on a personal project.

“My dad means the world to me,” she said.

Contact Rob Rogers at rrogers@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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