Years ago when I hosted my show at a Melbourne, FL radio station, I interviewed dozens of best selling authors who were coming through to do book signings further south at the Vero Beach Book Center. As a result, I have bookshelves lined with autographed hardcovers by James Patterson, Les Standiford, Mary Higgins Clark, Stuart Woods, Burt Boyar, Brad Meltzer, Stephen Cannell, and so many others that the shelves groan with the weight of them.
One in particular stands out this time of the year. It’s “The Christmas Ship”, written and illustrated by Dean Morrissey. Dean came into my studio Nov. 7, 2000 and joined me for an interview I’ll never forget.
Dean is an artist, and the images he paints are magical. Considered fine art, the prints are available in limited editions.
The story of “The Christmas Ship” is sweet, but what made it come alive for me are the images on each page, evoking the nostalgia and wonder of childhood Christmases.
As I said, I have interviewed dozens of authors. But there was something special about this one. And I think what made it so memorable was something this talented artist shared with me during a commercial break. Though it came about casually, within moments I had a lump in my throat.
Dean had mentioned that he had two children. As I paged through the slim volume, I noted that the book was dedicated For Shan and Ian.
“Your children?” I asked.
He replied that Shan was his wife and Ian his son. Puzzled, I asked why he didn’t include the second child.
The next few moments were quiet. His face grew pained, his eyes saddened as he softly answered my question. While working on the book, they lost their second child.
That precious child lives on as Joey, the little boy who experiences the adventure of Christmas on the book’s pages.
Ten years later, I recently came across this sweet little book, stored in a box under a bed along with dozens of other childrens’ books long since put away.
I’ll give those books to my grandchildren for them to keep or dispose of. But “The Christmas Ship” will remain with me for a little while longer. I want to again marvel at the story and its images.
Dean autographed the copy to my two firstborn granddaughters, then four and five years of age, now in their teens. I’ll preserve this special treasure for the day when they can read it to children of their own.
A search on the internet for information about Dean Morrissey brought me to several sites. One of them gives this description of Dean and his work:
“Dean Morrissey has been drawing and creating characters since his childhood in Boston. Inspired by Disney matte paintings and comic book heroes early on, he grew to appreciate the works of the masters, such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Pyle and N.C. Wyeth. Morrissey worked a variety of job until deciding to paint full time in the late 1970’s. He worked as a freelance book cover illustrator for over 15 different publishers in New York and won numerous awards.
Morrissey is self taught, and considers the demands of cover illustration to have been his “art school”. In 1991, Morrissey began to paint some images from a story that he was creating. His books include Ship of Dreams Harry N Abrams (1994), The Great Kettles: A Tale of Time Harry N Abrams (1997), The Song of Celestine Little, Brown and Co. (1998), The Christmas Ship HarperCollins (2000), A Christmas Carol Greenwich Workshop Press (2000), The Moon Robber HarperCollins (2001), The Winter King HarperCollins (2002), and The Monster Trap HarperCollins (2004).
His awards include The Society of Illustrators Gold Medal for The Great Kettles, The Chesley Award for The Light Ship (2002), and he is a current nominee for this year’s Chesley Award for Anna of the Celts (2003). Morrissey lives with his wife Shan and his son on the South Shore of Massachusetts.”
Please enjoy the images I’ve included here. Merry Christmas to all and especially to Dean Morrissey, who has shared his vision of the magic of Christmas past and yet to come. A wonderful gift for young and old alike.