Our story behind the Candy Cane Legend

Posted on December 09, 2014 by David Haidle | 0 Comments


David had been producing Fine Art for 15 years, when God directed Helen and David to focus on writing/illustrating for children. During the past 26 years. Helen has written 50 books with major Christian publishers, with sales of over 1.5 million. Helen and David’s books have won two Gold Medallion nominees, one of which was The Candymaker's Gift, and three C.S. Lewis awards, with nine books on CBA Bestsellers lists for a total of 34 months. In 2006, David and Helen established Seed Faith Books which has published 17 books and 5 curriculums for church ministry and outreach. Over 50,000 books and booklets have been given for ministry outreach throughout the USA, Europe, Mexico, Central & South America, Africa, and the Philippines. Haidles produced/distributed 120,000 Christmas cards (4 designs) for prison ministry/missions outreach through their non-profit HEART GIFTS.

The candy cane story or candy cane legend has different versions as to its origin. In our research we found there is not verifiable information on who, when, and where its creator first came up with the idea for a candy symbolic of Jesus. But the symbolism and meaning of the candy cane lives on and that's what is most important to us.

So, here's our story of why and how we wrote and illustrated The Candymaker's Gift - a legend of the Candy Cane

Our story behind The Candy Cane Legend picture book

One Christmas season over 18 years ago, I looked around for a treat to give my Sunday School students and I found a box of candy canes with a description of the symbolism on the back of the box.

At the end of class the next Sunday, I got out the candy canes and shared its various meanings with my students. Then I had them practice telling the meaning to each other before I sent them home with two candy canes--one to eat and one to share. The children were excited to tell others the hidden meanings in this common candy treat.

Much to my surprise, many of the children came back the next Sunday and related the stories of all the ways and places where they had shared the candy cane and its meaning. Several students asked their parents to buy more candy canes and they took the candies to basketball practice where they shared its meaning with their team members.

One girl was bold enough to share it with the school's biggest bully! Many students shared with their neighbors, young and old.

After Christmas I told my husband David about what happened when the children heard the candy cane symbolism and told others what they had learned. I said, "This is the best thing I have ever done to help children share the meaning of Christmas with others."

He nodded his head. "Someone should write a book about the meaning of the candy cane," he said.

I agreed. "That would be a great idea for a picture book!"

As we finished eating our salad, we looked at each other and said, "Do you think we should consider doing a book on the candy cane?"

We didn't even know where to begin. As we considered writing a fiction story about the candy cane, we did some research to find out how the candy cane began. Only different versions and nothing verifiable led us to the decision to create a story-legend

We conceived a story-legend in a European-style backdrop within a timeless period to present a classic story on the real meaning of Christmas within the symbolism of the candy cane.

The whole Gospel message is presented in this tender story of a grandfather and his granddaughter who join their hearts and minds to create a unique candy as gift to all the children in the village.

In The Candymaker's Gift picture book we also included extra resource ideas for parents and teachers to help celebrate Christmas by using the Candy Cane.

Helen narrates the picture book of the candy cane legend. The candymaker struggles to comes up with an idea for a Christmas candy as a gift for his granddaughter, and to his delight, her thoughts add to the final creation of the Candy Cane.

Download Candymaker's Gift video

Candy Cane Legend DVD video

Watch the video  Candy Cane Legend video - The Candymaker's Gift

Illustration process for The Candymaker's Gift
32 Page thumbnail page layout for picture book

Writing and illustrating a picture book is something like writing a screen play for movie or animation but a picture book has the limitation of space and words dictated by the size of the book and number of pages.

We start with a story board concept with 32 pages divided into 16 facing pages for a 32 page picture book. The first pages consist of copyright, title page, dedication ( not necessarily on a separate page). The location and style of these pages varies according to the publisher and designer.

You may be thinking a picture book should be easy, Right? After all, the story is only 28 to 29 pages. Well..... think again. Think about the age bracket and their attention span. Think about age appropriate vocabulary of your readers (listeners). Think about the stage or setting, the main characters and a host of other things related to the story. After you've thought about all this.....give it your best shot. But plan on writing and rewriting, making every word count and making it all fit within the space allotted.

32 page layout for the candy cane story

Dividing up a picture book story presents another challenge. The saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words", means a lot when you're pondering what to say in words and what a single picture or sequence of pictures could tell.

Think about the sequence of events. How to make someone want to turn the next page. The transition is really important!

The story has to flow in logical sequence from spread to spread and you don't want to waste precious words telling something the picture could or should do. Now you know the story "behind the scenes".

  Storyboard Rough Thumbnail Sketch - Rough sketches in facing page spread 5x3.25" dimension  box

Rough sketches in facing page spreads 

Rough sketches at this scale serve two main purposes. First reason is to develop a quick overview of the whole story and to divide up the story into 12 to 14 segments (facing pages).

Second reason is to quickly sketch out the scene in each spread which includes an approximate placement of text as an integral part of the whole page. Rough sketches at this scale can quickly be altered or replaced without much time invested.

Final Sketch Actual Page Size 8.5x11"

Finished line drawing for actual size layout
Finished line drawing is transferred to water color paper

We make sure there is room for the story text within the picture composition before I begin painting in water color.

We chose a European setting in the past but not specific to a place or time period. These Images were from a travel guide as well as places I photographed when we lived in Europe. The village or town square outside the candymaker's shop is a composite of different photos.

Candymaker's shop exterior for Candy Cane Legend

Following are a series of researched reference photos used for some of the scenes in the candy cane story.

The nativity set came from a photo of old antique wood carved figures. Just perfect for this scene in the story. Looking out at the children and village 

Combination of different reference photos brought together in this scene where the candymaker begins his creation of the candy cane.Reference images for Candy Cane creation in Candymaker's shop 

Sketch of the candymaker's shop serves like a stage set for a play or movie. Since most everything took place inside the candymaker's shop I imagined some possible floor plan layouts so I could position background elements like a stage setting. Very helpful to figure out what furniture items would go where.

Candymaker's shop - sketch of floor layout 

Ideas for candymaker's tools came from a variety of sources all of which gave specific definition to a variety of perspectives.

Cabinets for  scene with Katie holding unfinished candy cane

Large storage cabinets for backdrop - I went through magazines and books looking for old antique furniture that added warmth and atmosphere of the candymaker's kitchen area.

Grandfather and Katie excited at what was next

Cabinets and chair In my mind the old shop would have years of accumulated stuff like a china cabinet and other cabinets with drawers and shelves.Supplies and cooking tools would be typical of the candymaker's kitchen where he also cooked and ate his meals. Of course he had his favorite chair.

Cabinets and store shelves full of various containers - perfect for the kind of candy shop we wanted to picture.

Images of display cabinets and pot belly stove were useful for depicting the candy display case, shelves and the pot-belly stove....just what I wanted.

Ideas for candymaker's tools came from a variety of sources all of which gave specific definition to a variety of perspectives.

In my mind the old shop would have years of accumulated stuff like a china cabinet and other cabinets with drawers and shelves. Supplies and cooking tools would be typical of the candymaker's kitchen. A spot where he also cooked and ate his meals.  

Candy Cane Legend in a new format 

Look Inside the small pocket book 4.25x6"

Candy Cane Legend pocket book 4.25x6"

This pocket book fits in your pocket, of course, or it can be used as a stocking stuffer. It's more affordable than a picture book. It's just the thing to give along with the candy cane. There are lots of ways to use this little pocket book along with candy canes to show and tell the story of Christmas through through meaning of the candy cane.

We came up with a new design for the cover and interior. Now the proportions ratio is different - 4x6 instead of 8x10 inches.
This meant more vertical layout that needed to be filled, so I filled it with a horizontal candy cane banner across the top.

With Photoshop software I created a candy stripe in layer stages. Starting with two dimensional flat candy stripe. Then I add an underlying yellow band. I use a 3D tool to transform a flat image into candy cane stripes with a three-dimensional look.

Cane Cane design and borders

The candy cane border at the top of each spread compensates for the extra length and adds to our new layout design and theme for this pocket book. 
We wanted an old leather photo album feel as part of the new look. In Photoshop, I created a final embossed texture overlay to add that finishing touch to the cover and back cover as well as the horizontal candy cane banner top and bottom. 

Candy Cane Legend pocket book double page spread

This is it! Everything should be edited, proof read, color corrected and in the proper format and resolution.
Do mistakes happen? We do our best to spot them. But some slip through and we live with them until the next reprint or redesign like this pocket book.

 Candymaker's Gift a Legend of the Candy Cane front and back cover






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