TODAY (Friday) is Christmas Eve; the day Santa prepares his sleigh, feeds his reindeer and double checks his list of who’s been naughty and nice.

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Marisa Laycock

But this year, he has something of a dilemma – what do you get the unsung heroes of Christmas?

The soldiers spending Christmas in foreign lands? The on-call emergency service workers?

Those who give their time to help the homeless, poor and disadvantaged?

That is the scenario jolly old St Nick faces in Santa’s Delight, the first published children’s book by St Albans-based writer and Montessori teacher Marisa Laycock.

The story has been well-received by Marisa’s fellow teachers, who see the book as an ideal way to educate children about those people in a community who dedicate themselves to helping others.

But according to Marisa, 41, it’s not just the adults who appreciate the story.

“My three-year-old nephew likes the pictures, and my eight-year-old nephew likes the story,” the mum-of-one said.

“And a lot of teachers have bought the book – it seems to be taking the education angle.”

Educating youngsters about the work of soldiers, police, fireman, doctors and good samaritans was not, however, the initial inspiration for Santa’s Delight.

The book is dedicated to Marisa’s father, Mario, who died in 2007. She wrote the story the following year, during her first Christmas without him.

“I wrote it spontaneously out of a feeling of missing my father at Christmas time,” Marisa said.

“I thought ‘what about the other people who can’t be with their families at Christmas?’ Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I felt this compassion for everybody else and wrote it from there.”

Marisa has been writing children’s literature for 15 years, and published Santa’s Delight herself.

But she’s hoping the book’s success (almost 700 copies sold so far, plus a host of radio, magazine and newspaper publicity) will attract the attentions of a literary agent.

“I’ve been writing since I was 23,” Marisa said. “And I’ve written lots of other stories.

“It depends how this one goes, but if an agent takes me on, I think there’s potential there for a market.”

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