By Abigail Haddock
The Keys may never have a white Christmas, but 17-year-old author Holly Eddleston has written a children’s book about an island Christmas adventure in which a Key deer saves the day.
The book, aptly titled “Can a Key Deer Save Christmas,” follows the journey of Winnie McKee, a Key deer who must travel throughout the Keys to help a stranded Santa when one of his reindeer loses a magic bell. Along the way, she visits many famous and charmingly illustrated Keys landmarks, and gets help from other Keys animals. Proceeds from the book are being donated to Big Pine Key’s National Key Deer Refuge, and Eddleston’s goal is to raise $500.
Originally from Rhode Island, Eddleston began visiting the Keys with her family when she was 14. She never really thought of herself as a writer, though, until about two years ago, when she was living in Duck Key in early 2020.
“Since then, it’s been a really fun journey, figuring out what my style of writing is,” she said. “And children’s books are fun to write.”
Growing up as a fan of Junie B. Jones and Dr. Seuss books, Eddleston enjoys the upbeat, positive story telling of children’s books and combining writing with illustration.
“I’m not really the best artist,” said Holly about the book’s art. “We reached out to Blueberry Illustrations to find a good illustrator who matched the style I wanted in the book. Every children’s book has a different style, and I wanted a very bubbly, happy and colorful one. It took a good five to six months for every drawing to be done. I’m very happy about it; everything is perfect to what I imagined.”
Holly knew right away that her first book would “of course” be a Christmas story. “My family puts the Christmas tree up on Nov. 1, and I’ve always loved Christmas,” she said. “It’s been my favorite holiday since I was little, so that was an easy choice right off the bat. Christmas has always been a big deal to my family.”
For other writers who are just starting on their craft, Eddleston advised, “If you have an idea that you think works, just start writing. Write it all down. And write multiple drafts. Eventually it’ll all come together. If you think it’s good, it is probably good. It took a lot of encouragement from my family to finally get (this book) published, so I think another important thing is having people around you who support your ideas and your vision.”
With more Winnie McKee story ideas in the works, Eddleston’s vision is to continue featuring different Keys animals like manatees and sea turtles while still continuing Winnie’s journey.
For a chance to meet the artist in person, visit Eddleston at the Islamorada Holiday Fest on Friday, Dec. 2 for a book signing. “Can a Key Deer Save Christmas?” is available online from Amazon and Barnes and Noble and has already sold more than 100 copies. It is also sold in Islamorada at Florida Keys Kayak and Ski at Robbie’s, the Sea Turtle Gallery and Gifts, One Drunk Monkey gift shop, the Islamorada Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Center and in Duck Key at Hawks Cay Resort.