It started with a simple question. Dan Beard was sitting with his grandson, Ryan, at Christmas more than a decade ago when Ryan asked his “Poppi” why Santa didn’t leave any tracks.
“He had some brains to him,” said Beard, a West Manchester Township writer and former president of Beard Printing and Publishing.
Intrigued, Beard wrote a poem in an attempt to answer the question. When he found the poem again in January last year, he decided to clean it up a bit.
In August, he published it as a children’s book, “Santa’s Magic Bootprints.” In the story, Mrs. Claus worries about Santa’s spotty memory and decides to create a way for him to trace his route and never forget a house for future Christmas Eves.
“I kind of did it to do something, and one thing led to another,” Beard said.
He chose to self-publish after hearing some “horror stories” from authors who relied on publishers, he said. Much of the time between finishing the poem and holding the published book, which sells for $29.95, was spent going back and forth on printing glitches and finding a narrator for the CD that comes with the book. And, of course, designing the bootprints.
The book includes a set of 15 “magic bootprints” for parents to lay down and kids to discover on Christmas morning, plus an envelope to “mail” them back to Santa so Mrs. Claus can reuse the magic dust for next year.
“I think that’s a really cool twist,” Beard said. “I think there’s a great message to draw the family together.”
Adam Nugent, a family friend of Beard’s, said he and his wife read the book to his two young sons last holiday season.
“The whole time when we’re reading it, they’re very active in the book,” the York resident said. “It kind of entices them to ask a lot of questions.”
Illustrations for the book came from a California-based artist, Jenice Lan, who Beard found online.
“She was just awesome,” Beard said. “I would tell her what my thoughts were on each spread, and she did it,” all the way down to inserting each of Beard’s five grandchildren in the last pages.
Ryan, who first inspired the book, is now 16 years old. But Patrick, Beard’s youngest grandson, is 4.
“It’s kind of like a really cool circle,” Beard said. “Because now Patrick is getting the answers to what Ryan had asked all those years ago.”
Meet Dan Beard
Lives in: Manchester Township
Family: Wife, Donna; children Cindy and Shawn; grandchildren Ryan, Noah, Tyler, Anna and Patrick
Hobbies: Walking his dog, Jack; golf; landscaping; traveling
To purchase: Copies are available locally at Irvin’s Books, Collage Gift Shop and NeFra, or online at www.santasmagicbootprints.com
If you go: Beard will read from and sign copies of the book from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 30 at Irvin’s Books, 2159 White St., West Manchester Township. Call Irvin’s at 717-843-2947 for details.