by Laura McGee Kvasnosky
Walker Books, London, 2000
Age group: primary school
A three chapter picture book about caring and appreciating gifts.
Two sister foxes, Zelda and Ivy, are together in three Christmas stories in one book. The first story sets the scene of what the girls and their friend Mrs Brownlie wish to get for Christmas. Mrs Brownlie’s husband has died since last Christmas so the girls make a gift to cheer her up this year.
In the second story, Zelda becomes the Amazing Zeldarina and tells Christmas fortunes through a Christmas bauble. The third story covers the excitement of Christmas Eve and checking the tree on Christmas morning.
This was a pleasant read and my five year old certainly liked it (mind you, her favourite part was that they cooked some biscuits which only happened on page one of the book!)
One Christmas is a realistic story as it shows children having very self-centred Christmas wishes and logic (pretending to sneak downstairs is not really sneaking down!), yet they also have compassion for their friend. The expression of that compassion in the form of making a gift is very realistic to me – I’ve seen children do it many times and it is always a precious thing.
Being in three parts, it can be broken over a few reading sessions but it is still short enough to read it all at once to a child. The text is easy to read, both in the wording and the length of text per page, but beyond an earlier reader to get very far.
As for the story, I enjoyed the simple concepts of Christmas and care. The lack of Mr B was a surprise – just not something I’d expect in a child’s Christmas story – but was done subtly and nicely so is not really an issue. Of course, taken as part of a series of books it makes more sense – although I couldn’t see any reference to Mr B dying in an online search of the other 5 books.
Zelda and Ivy are quite real – Zelda bosses her little sister and Ivy does as she’s told to be with her idolised big sister, yet they happily do things together. I found it a little strange that their parents are not mentioned or spoken to – they are in the Christmas morning pictures though!
I was impressed that the girls got something other than their wishes from Santa and Zelda was very gracious about it – there were no pouts, tantrums or sad faces. This was immediately overwhelmed by secondary gifts of exactly what they wanted which is a happy ending for the story but not so useful for discussions or learning!
The ending is very happy so the book leaves you with a sense of happiness about the enjoyment of Christmas. Dancing around together is just a perfect example of how Christmas is special through the little things, not the gifts.