December 2008 Issue
To Flora Johnson, the magic of Christmas was everywhere.
“She was a kid at heart,” recalls Rick Johnson about his mother, “who made a big deal about the season. Mom didn’t just put up decorations. Everything that wasn’t related to the holiday was packed away. She transformed our house into a Christmas castle.
“I was one lucky kid.”
In 1984, Flora decided to share that happiness with young readers. The Atwater resident delved into her imagination and created “Christopher Pop-In-Kins,” a children’s tale about a North Pole elf who “pops in” to visit kids waiting for Santa between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Flora published the story and crafted a handmade elf doll to accompany each book. Throughout the last two decades, more than 10,000 sets were sold in local bookstores and by word-of-mouth.
“Mom had great fun with the project,” Rick recalls. “Since Christopher’s look was patterned after her grandson, Shawn, it was almost as if he became a real little guy to her. We teased her a lot about it.”
When Flora died three years ago, Rick was committed to keeping his mother’s legacy alive. This holiday season, Christopher has been given a makeover, complete with a 9-inch doll and lavish picture book with illustrations by Alliance artist Brian Bradway.
“You can’t help but look at the book and smile,” Johnson says. “The story has a touch of nostalgia parents love, and kids respond to the character and the concept that he comes to visit your home. It’s pretty cool.”
Christopher’s popularity has led to a musical about the impish elf, which will be performed by The Harmony Players at Canton’s 2nd April Galerie & Studios through December 14, as well as book signings throughout the month.
“Mom would have loved this,” Johnson says.