‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays 2017 with Kamilla Benko

‘Tis The Season: Authors Talk Holidays is a special seasonal feature on Pop! Goes The Reader in which some of my favourite authors help me to celebrate the spirit of the season and spread a little holiday cheer. So, pour yourself a cup of hot chocolate and snuggle in by the fireside as they answer the question: “What does the holiday season mean to you?” You can find a complete list of this year’s participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!

About Kamilla Benko

Kamilla Benko spent most of her childhood climbing into wardrobes, trying to step through mirrors, and plotting to run away to an art museum. Now, she visits other worlds as a children’s book editor. Raised in Indiana, she currently lives in New York with her bookshelves, teapot, and hiking boots. 

Author Links: WebsiteTwitterInstagramGoodreads

Trapping Angels

At the Benko household — which used to consist of one mustached dad, one curly haired mom, me, and a fluffy orange cat — Christmas wasn’t about Santa Claus.

It was about trapping angels.

The Christmas Angels, to be exact. The ones who, sometime in early December, would fly into our house and decorate it overnight, putting the holiday-themed books on the shelves, hanging the stockings, and setting up a tree covered in Hungarian candies called szaloncukor. Then they would fly away…only to return again on Christmas Eve to miraculously bring the presents.

And it was miraculous. Because the transformation from ordinary room to Christmas Miracle only ever took one minute. One. Minute.

In less than one minute, a pile of presents would appear under the tree, the living room would be filled with lit candles, and the stereo would somehow start playing Christmas bells…while my parents were in the same room with me.

And it became my mission to catch an angel.

I had practice making traps for mythical creatures. The night before St. Patrick’s Day, I’d set out a cup of dyed green water and very cleverly put duct tape, sticky side up all around. For the tooth fairy, jawbreakers under a carefully set up shoebox were the perfect lure. While I hadn’t managed to catch either, the leprechaun that year had left behind a tiny handkerchief embroidered with shamrocks (the stiches so small, clearly only tiny fingers could make them) and the tooth fairy had exchanged the jawbreaker for a very magical gold coin that had an engraving of a loon and a queen on the other. And in the past, I’d managed to secure a white feather or two from the angels.

But in the year of 1997, I knew I would need something more than a memento to prove to Blake and Brett in my second grade class that the angels were real, and not some sort of Hungarian Santa Claus stand-in. I’d need a picture.

The plan was simple enough.

Step One. Beg for a disposable camera for my eighth birthday, which was conveniently only a few days before December 25.

Step Two. Home Alone the fireplace with yarn and enough Legos to delay the angels long enough to snap a photo.

“Your mom spent hours cleaning,” Dad said, frowning as he stepped into the living room. “And now you’re making a mess.” But once I explained, he completely understood.

That night, during Christmas dinner, I was allowed not just one glass of sparkling apple cider but five entire glasses of the drink that made me feel like a real grown up. And while Mom and Dad started to get the dishes ready, I went to the living room, camera in hand, and hid behind the couch.

I kept my eyes on the chimney. Everything was going perfectly except…

Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle.


Dad took the camera and position, while I sprinted down the hall. I kicked off my stockings as fast as I could, did my business, splashed water onto my hands when the carols began to blast the living room.

“TAKE A PICTURE!” I yelled. Heart pounding, I thudded back into the living room. It was the same as before: the candles were lit. A mound of beautifully wrapped presents was under the tree, and the Vienna Boys’ Choir was in full crescendo.

But I didn’t notice any of it, because my eyes were fixed on the front door window where sparkling bits of fire danced outside: the angels flying away.

I grabbed the camera: click.

I smiled. Proof.


And it was proof, but not the kind eight year-old me thought it was (and that Blake and Brett accepted as actual evidence, sparing my second grade pride). Because of course, years later, when I was playing the angel for my little sister and brother, I help Dad set up the sparklers outside the window and time it so that when my siblings went into the living room on Christmas Eve, it’d look like angels flying away. In their excitement, my sister and brother, like me, didn’t notice the suspicious bulges under the living room blankets and forgot about the backdoor that was perfect for sneaking out.

But in my family, we know angels definitely exist.

Title The Unicorn Quest
Author Kamilla Benko
Pages 320 Pages
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Genre Fantasy
To Be Published February 6th 2018 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Find It On GoodreadsAmazon.comChaptersThe Book Depository

A missing sister. A secret fireplace. A dangerous world of magic and adventure.

Claire Martinson still worries about her older sister Sophie, who battled a mysterious illness last year. But things are back to normal as they move into Windermere Manor…until the sisters climb a strange ladder in a fireplace and enter the magical land of Arden.

There, they find a world in turmoil. The four guilds of magic no longer trust each other, the beloved unicorns have disappeared, and terrible wraiths roam freely. Scared, the girls return home.

But when Sophie vanishes in the night, it will take all of Claire’s courage to climb back up the ladder, find her sister, and uncover the unicorns’ greatest secret.

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