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More than just a children’s book

Cover art submitted by Bryne

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Ever since she was in elementary school, Liz Bryde, technology services manager for the Mequon-Thiensville School District, has known she wanted to become an author. She explains that, even in her day-to-day life, she concocts stories for inanimate objects.

“I see something,” Bryde says, “and think, okay, how can [I] make this alive?”

It is that very imaginative capability that enabled Bryde to write her first published book, When Santa’s Hat Fell from the Sky.

The idea for the book came to her while on recess duty at Oriole Lane Elementary School in December 2008.  While watching children playing tag, she noticed a Santa hat drift to the ground.

I just thought, wouldn’t that be the strangest thing if that was Santa’s hat flying out of the sky?”

— Liz Bryde, author

Bryde says, “I just thought, wouldn’t that be the strangest thing if that was Santa’s hat flying out of the sky?”

From there, the seed for the fulfillment of her lifelong dream was planted.  She jotted the idea down on paper and then wrote the full story in the following weeks. She took suggestions from students at Oriole Lane on where they wanted the story to go. She also took suggestions from William Marton, Homestead English teacher, on how to fix grammatical errors.

The book, illustrated by Bryde’s sister-in-law, Dara Oshin, was finally released in September 2014.  Since then, around 700 copies have been sold around the United States, and it has especially been popular among elementary school teachers due to the story’s main theme: the importance of kindness.

However, what parents and teachers may not realize while reading the book with their children is that for Bryde and her family, this book is much more than just a product of Bryde’s vivid imagination, or even an actualization of her childhood dream.

Hannah had a strong purpose in her very short life. The sense of love, friendship and family was so powerful.”

— Liz Bryde, author

On Jan. 11, 1990, almost fifteen years ago, Bryde gave birth to daughter Hannah, the namesake of the book’s main character and inspiration for the book itself. Six days later, Hannah passed away from complications due to surgery. In hindsight, as Bryde writes on her blog, “Hannah had a strong purpose in her very short life. The sense of love, friendship and family was so powerful.”

Baby pictures of Hannah and pictures of Bryde’s other daughters were incorporated to create the appearance for the main character. Additionally, nearly 20 images of balloons are interwoven throughout the book, representing the balloons Bryde’s family releases every year on Hannah’s birthday.  “It’s very subtle… but for me and for my family, it’s very personal,” Bryde explains.

According to Bryde, the job of carrying on Hannah’s legacy through books is far from finished.  She shares that she has a few other story ideas that she may pursue and definitely plans to release a sequel to When Santa’s Hat Fell from the Sky within the next five years.

“There’s so much untapped I can do with this book,” Bryde said, “[It has] been a true work of love.  So I’m proud of that.”

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