Story Box Diary: The Making of Countdown to Christmas | One Third Stories

Story Box Diary: The Making of Countdown to Christmas

by | Dec 4, 2018 | One Third Stories, OTS' Story, Story Box Club

This year, we’ve made our very first holiday book called Countdown to Christmas, all about five children in five different cities and their Christmas wishes. It’s the 21st book we’ve published, and the last to go to print in 2018, so we thought it would be a great time to share how we make them…


First we make a list of all the foreign vocabulary we want to include in a book. This time around the topic was a no brainer- Father Christmas, reindeer, presents…all things Christmassy!

We pick an author for the project and together we start coming up with different ideas of the stories we could tell that would include all the vocabulary.

Anna Roberts, the author of Countdown to Christmas, wanted to explore how Christmas is celebrated in different countries. But what was going to tie them all together? Once we realised it was going to be there Christmas wishes, the writing process began.


There might not be many words in a children’s book but they can take a long time to write! It’s particularly difficult to make sure all the vocabulary we want to cover is introduced through our Clockwork Methodology, whilst making sure the story is still lots of fun.

First we put together a plan and then lots and lots of drafts go back and forth. Once we’ve got a story we’re happy with, we send it to our translators to add in the French and Spanish vocabulary.


Most publishers wait for a finished manuscript to get started on the illustration process. We start much earlier, giving illustrators a chance to give their input on the story and authors lots of opportunity to make sure their vision appears on the page.

Hannah Hutchings, the brilliant illustrator behind Countdown to Christmas, had the challenge of dreaming up what the five main characters should look like.  She decided to base each character on a child she knows, so every illustration came out brimming with personality.


We’ve just had a new designer, Charlotte, join the team, so coming up with activities for this Christmas book was lots of fun!

We spent a lot of time thinking about the sorts of games we used to play with our families when we were little and then put a language learning spin on them.

We’ve had lots of feedback about how much people love using our flashcards, so we’ve redesigned them to make them bigger and more colourful for this box. They’re also much more durable, so should survive years of use from little linguists!

Go to print

Printers get very busy at Christmas, so getting everything ready in time was even more hectic than usual.

There’s lots of final touch ups to illustrations, a little bit of rearranging and endless checking by proof readers and translators. We finally got everything done at 7am on the day we had to send it out Christmas book off to the printers…

But it was worth the last minute rush, because we’ve really enjoyed making a special Christmas pack and we can’t wait to bring a bit of French and Spanish to families all over the world on Christmas Day!

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