Years ago when I hosted a radio program at a Melbourne, FL radio station, I interviewed dozens of authors who were coming through to do book signings further south at the Vero Beach Book Center. As a result, I have a collection of 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 book in particular stands out at this time of year. It’s “The Christmas Ship”, written and illustrated by Dean Morrissey. Dean came into my studio Nov. 7, 2000 and joined me for what would be a memorable interview.
Dean is an artist and the images he paints are magical. Considered fine art, his prints are available in limited editions.
The story of “The Christmas Ship” is sweet, and what really brings it to life are the breathtakingly detailed images on each page, evoking the mood, nostalgia and wonder of childhood Christmases.
Though I had interviewed dozens of writers, there was something special about Dean Morrissey. Besides his exquisite book, what made it memorable was something he shared with me during a commercial break. It came about casually, but within moments I had a lump in my throat.
Dean Morrissey had earlier mentioned that he had two children. As I paged through the slim volume, I noted that the book was dedicated to Shan and Ian.
“Your children?” I casually asked.
He replied that Shan was his wife and Ian his son. Puzzled, I asked why he hadn’t included the name of the second child.
He became quiet. His face grew pained and his eyes saddened as he softly answered that while working on the book, they had lost their second child.
So instead, their precious boy lives on as Joey, the little guy who experiences the adventure of Christmas on the book’s pages.
Fast forward ten years later… I came across this sweet little book, stored in a box under a bed along with dozens of other of my grandchildrens’ books long since put away.
I’ve since given those books to my grandchildren for memories of their babyhood. But “The Christmas Ship” will remain with me for a little while longer. I want to each Christmas marvel again at the story and its images.
Dean had autographed the copy to my two firstborn granddaughters, who were 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 their children.
A search on the internet for information about Dean Morrissey brought me to several sites. One of them gives this description 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.”
Feel free to 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 gift, no matter what your age!