Raleigh County retired educator Irene Wilkes displays her book titled, “Elvie, Santa’s Ninth Reindeer.” The story of a blind reindeer who is called upon to help haul an unusually large sleigh of toys is designed to help overcome stereotypes about people with disabilities.

Irene Wilkes knows only too well how people with disabilities are often treated with disdain and ridicule.

The retired Raleigh County educator taught special education for a number of years at Beckley Junior High.

“It’s terrible the way people often make fun of the handicapped,” Wilkes said. “Why do so many people think they have a right to ridicule someone who can’t see or can’t walk or who is mentally impaired?”

Wilkes captured the message in an engaging Christmas story titled, “Elvie, Santa’s Ninth Reindeer.”

“Santa and his elves are having so much trouble trying to get through all the mail, and when Santa realizes how many toys are going to be on his sleigh, he doesn’t think eight reindeer — including Rudolph — can get the job done,” the author explained.

Santa went on a quest for a ninth reindeer, and through a series of interesting events, finds Elvie. There is just one slight problem that could disqualify Elvie for the job. The little reindeer is blind. For years, he has been made fun of by people, other reindeer and other forest animals.

Can Elvie come through for Santa and get all those toys to the children on Christmas Eve?

Well, only those who read the book will know how things turn out, Wilkes said.

“There are lots of things children — and adults — can learn from reading this book,” she said. “It’s a good story, but it teaches some good lessons, too.”

Wilkes has been writing stories, songs, poems and journals since as early as she can remember. Rearing five children and pursuing her education and a busy teaching career kept her from taking the steps to get something published.

“Writing has been my childhood dream,” she said. “I can be sleeping and a story will come into my head, and I have to get up and write it. I can be walking through the house, and parts of a story will come to me. It’s just something that is there.’

Wilkes earned a bachelor of arts degree in education from Fordham University in New York City. She earned her master’s in special education at West Virginia University and is 28 hours short of her doctorate from WVU.

She taught elementary education at Clear Fork for five years before going to Beckley Junior High.

When she decided to begin publishing her work, Wilkes started with the story she liked best, and “Elvie,” published by Inkwater Press in is now available on and at Copies of the $19.95 paperback book will soon be available locally, and Wilkes plans to enter her book to be juried at Tamarack.

Wilkes has other books in the hopper and hopes publishing her works will inspire other people to pursue their goals.

“Don’t ever give up on your dreams. Don’t let anything or anybody keep you from reaching your destiny,” she said.

— E-mail:

React to this story:


Trending Video