C. Halpern: For what ages is Merry Myrrh, The Christmas
Bat intended, and what did you do to address the
specific needs of this age group?
Regan W.H. Macaulay: “My publisher, Guardian
Angel Publishing, tends to categorize picture books
like Merry Myrrh as intended for ages 4-7. Personally
I think there’s a little bit of wiggle room on
both ends, particularly for very young children who
love to listen to bedtime stories and pore over the
artwork. Christmas is a special time for many people
of all ages, but there’s much about it that’s
extra special for the very young. I hope I am showing
these youngsters the wonder of Christmas through the
eyes of a very young and innocent animal, full of awe
at the beauty that surrounds him, which is meant to
commemorate the holiday.”
Halpern: What is the message you hope readers get from
Regan: “First, I hope the joy Myrrh feels
that comes from Christmas reflects how the children
who read/listen to the story feel, too. I also hope
they see that the things that touch our hearts can touch
others as well—including those who are very different
from us. And perhaps they’ll look at bats differently—not
just as scary little creatures reserved strictly for
holidays such as Halloween. The compassion the farm
family shows Myrrh, rather than fear, is something important
to teach children, I think.
Halpern: A bat seems like an unusual topic for a Christmas
book. Where did you get the idea?
Regan: It’s a story I’ve been toying
with since high school, actually. When I lived in a
particularly lovely older house in Oshawa (Ontario)
with my mom and my step-dad, occasionally a Little Brown
bat would find its way inside from somewhere up in the
mostly inaccessible attic. They would be rather discombobulated,
of course, and it got me wondering what it would be
like for a bat to get caught up in a Christmas tree,
with all its lights and ornaments. Likely very confusing
and overwhelming, despite also being a beautiful sight.
And when I was a child, I would often peer right into
our Christmas trees over the years, trying to picture
what it would be like to be very small and seeing it
from the inside out. Merry Myrrh sort of unspooled from
Halpern: How did you find an artist to illustrate your
worked with Alex Zgud on two of my other picture books—Beverlee
Beaz the Brown Burmese and Sloth the Lazy Dragon
(this one’s also published by Guardian Angel Publishing).
I met her when we both worked for a couple of years
in a pet shop called Pet Cuisine and Accessories, where
I learned she had been an OCAD student (Ontario College
of Art and Design), and it was her ambition to become
a tattoo artist, which she has accomplished. I saw some
of her artwork and instantly wanted to work with her.
I asked her if she’d collaborate with me on my
first picture book, Beverlee, and she agreed and created
sample artwork for me to submit along with the manuscript
to publishers. She’s actually getting very busy
with her work, so I’m glad she was able to find
the time to finish Merry Myrrh with me.
Halpern: How does this book compare to your other children’s
Regan: As with all of my other books, the main
characters are animals. But this is the first book I’ve
written with a holiday theme.
Halpern: What else would you like people to know about
Regan: There’s a short note on the title
page of Merry Myrrh that mentions the troubles Little
Brown (and other) bats are facing with respect to White
Nose disease. I hope this encourages parents and children
to learn more about how they can help bats like Myrrh,
so they don’t become yet another extinct species.
Bats are critical to our ecology—without them
and similar creatures, insect populations would grow
out of control. This is not the theme of the story,
but I do hope that the positive light in which Merry
Myrrh portrays bats causes a few more hearts to soften
towards them. They truly are amazing creatures and deserve
to survive just like any other species.