Santa arrived at Knox today!

Some will just say “but it’s only November!” but Santa arrived at Knox Shopping Centre in Wantirna (Melbourne) this morning.

Santa arrived with Mrs Claus in a golf buggy (remember the reindeer are resting for the big Christmas Eve trip!)

Santa and Mary Claus arriving in a tinsel cover buggy

There was also a parade, including a band, elves, Rudolph and some golden bells.

The sun was out, the skies were blue and it was a lovely day for greeting Santa and his Christmassy friends!

Collage of elves, rudolph, bells and Mrs Claus at the Know 2018 Christmas parade

And as for those saying Santa shouldn’t arrive in November, bah humbug! Seriously, it makes sense to me as Santa must be so busy in December that parades and crowd visits like this must be much easier for him to fit into November!

Can Doctor Proctor save Christmas? – Christmas book review

Love Santa book reviews - a collage of covers

Can Doctor Proctor save Christmas?

book cover of Doctor Proctor save Christmasby Jo Nesbo
illustrated by Mike Lowery

Simon & Schuster Childrens Books, UK, Nov 2017

It is has recently (2 October 2018!) been released by Aladdin paperbacks as Silent (but deadly) night with more illustrations by Mike Lowery

Age group: 7 to 12 years old

Format: 24 page paperback

 

My family loves Jo Nesbo books – I read his crime books and my children laugh at his Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder series! So we were very pleased to find this Christmas Doctor Proctor book was released last year…

The story

The King of Norway sells Christmas to Mr Thrane, who bans Christmas from everyone unless they spent lots of money in his stores. Nilly, Lisa and Doctor Proctor want to save Christmas…

My review

Farts, inventions, school bullies, Santa, flying reindeer, annoying robots, secret passwords – how can any child resist this book?

Forth in the Doctor Proctor series, this book is well written, funny and entertaining – and my kids enjoyed it too! It is a kids’ book so it is easy enough to follow without reading the other books, although the characters will be more familiar and the background clearer if they are all read in order – it is sometime since I read the first book with my kids so I had forgotten most character names and had no memory of Juliette Margarine, but I had no trouble reading the book and understanding everything.

inside apges can Dr Proctor save Christmas (start of chapter)

Each chapter tells you when it is set

You may be wondering about the series connection and, if you don’t have a flying sleigh, how can you possibly get onto roofs to climb down chimneys? Well, you use Doctor Proctor’s fart powder of course! Simply take a spoon full then use the fart to propel yourself onto the roof and off you go, delivering gifts! This, of course, is a hilarious highlight of the book for youngsters.

One word of warning – there is a lot of ‘do you believe in Santa’ content in the first third of this book. It clearly implies that older children and adults don’t believe, and that Norwegian fathers usually play the role of Santa on Christmas Eve, so this may raise questions in young readers. The book follows through with Doctor Proctor saying “I don’t believe Santa exists – I know he does” and then we meet Santa in the story – but not entirely the happy, red clad Santa we usually know and love. As an adult, this is not a problem but just be careful of what children are ready for when giving them this book.

inside apges can Dr Proctor save Christmas

There are a few whole page illustrations throughout the book

The story moves along nicely – there is danger, adventure and surprise, but never any dull sections I felt like skimming over. And, despite being a kids book, it never felt predictable as you wondered what would happen next. There are a number of mentions of Australia – the reindeer are hidden down under, we have strange animals and we may have BBQd a Christmas icon…

There are some Norwegian traditions mentioned along the way, such are rice pudding, gnomes, leaving rice pudding in a barn, and calling the 23rd of December Little Christmas Eve. I enjoyed learning about these traditions, too, especially in a fun way. Christmas Eve is the big day in Norway – Christmas Day is quieter and somewhat private.

I do like the acknowledgement of nice children (and reference to Santa’s nice-meter) and a scene where Doctor Proctor helps the children build a positive mindset. Doctor Proctor tells the children to remember and delight in old adventures and remember that everything is a new adventure that could turn into something wonderful. They also have a conversation where Lisa comes to realise the real Christmas gifts she has (like keeping her nice home and friends). It is done in the context so it didn’t feel like moralising either.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely! It is a lot of fun, has a good dose of Christmas spirit and enough depth to be interesting to all age groups. Just remember my earlier warning and that (spoiler alert, sorry!) Santa has a number of children without there being a Mrs Claus in this story – decide if these are an issue for your children, but otherwise they will love this book!

Christmas movies – angels and calendars!

Santa in Christmas movie on a TVI went away with a friend and our children over the long weekend. Once the kids were all settled in bed, we watched a Christmas movie each night which was fun.

 

Angels in the snow

A 2015 movie from George Erschbamer, Angels in the snow is classed as a children and family movie and a drama, and goes for about one and a half hours. It stars Kirsty Swanson, Chris Potter and Colin Lawrence.

The story is based on a book by Rexanne Becnal, also called Angels in the Snow, although the names are different and the book blurb doesn’t hint at the same twist as seen in the movie.

Rich businessman Charles has built a ‘cabin’ in the woods to surprise his wife and children. Their first trip to the cabin is for a Christmas holiday together, but a blizzard quickly turns things cold. A knock at the door overnight, welcomes the stranded Tucker family into the ‘cabin’ (actually a luxurious two story house) and thus the two families spend Christmas together.

Charles continues to work during their holiday – alienating his teens by insisting they go tech free when he can’t manage it himself – and his wife is obviously unhappy with the state of things. On the other hand, the Tuckers are a loving family and set a very different example for impressionable (and precocious) eight year old Emily. Slowly, the Tuckers influence the Montgomerys and both families make a tight bond – but there are some strange comments and looks from the Tuckers that hint not all is as expected.

The movie has the message of communicating and spending time with the people you love, which is a valid message, although it was perhaps a bit heavy handed in this case.

collage of children making Christmas crafts

Kids making Christmas crafts is a highlight of this movie

Some of the scenery is this movie was spectacular, and there are some nice scenes like where the kids all work together to make decorations for the Christmas tree. And there is certainly a feel good element of the Montgomery family finding their way back to each other.

But… the ending is not fun. The twist, although we saw it coming, was unbelievable and shallow, and the follow up scenes to explain it were painful to watch. I can’t say I liked most of the Montgomery family (mum was self absorbed and weepy, the son was arrogant, Emily too Pollyanna-ish to fit her family and the teen daughter was superficial) although Charles was somewhat redeemed by his connection to Bella, and the Tuckers were all lovely.

And it was a bit harsh to send the Tuckers out after the blizzard, without blankets, on a two hour walk back to their damaged car! Charles perhaps didn’t learn as much as we thought we had!

It is rated ‘family’ but kids will be bored by all the talking and may be upset or challenged by the twist at the end, so I’d leave it as an adult movie. Then again, I think I’d just leave it altogether as there are just too many weaknesses in it.

If you have seen it, what did you think? Would you recommend it to anyone?

 

The holiday calendar

Released on 2 November (the day before we watched it so this is a very new movie!), The Holiday Calendar is a Netflix movie starring Kat Graham, Ethan Peck, Quincy Brown and Ron Cephas Jones.

Abby (played by Kat Graham) lives in a small town and works for Mr Singh as a photographer rather than as the artistic photographer she wishes to be. Her best friend, Josh, is also a photographer and just returned from far places as a successful travel blogger.

Abby receives an antique advent calendar from her Gramps. The calendar is beautiful and doors only open as each new day starts, showing a little toy. Along with Abby, we learn that the calendar is magical and perhaps predicts the future with the toy produced each day.

Wooden Santa advent calendar

A simpler advent calendar than in the movie, but I like it!

The movie has Christmas, romance, magic, family and self-realisations about dreams. It has some pretty scenes and the advent calendar itself is lovely. I do like that there was a diverse range of people and that some characters were more than stereotypes (for example, Mr Singh is a bit of the grumpy old boss out for a buck but also actually cares about the kids enjoying a visit with Santa).

I would have liked to have seen more of the advent calendar items – the first few days are shown but after that we only saw a couple of them. Sure, doing a day by day recap may get a bit boring in a movie, but a few shots with all the toys in front of the calendar or something would have been a nice touch.

The outcome was somewhat predictable but what do you expect in a feel-good Christmas movie, lol! It is comfortable and cosy, with no fake threat to Christmas, the town or Abby’s family, so it adds up to a nice movie – unlikely I’d watch it again but we had fun watching it.

Christmas movies…

So there are Christmas movies for families and romantic Christmas movies.

Generally speaking, you don’t expect a Christmas movie to be up amongst the great movies – and these two are certainly not amongst the best movies I’ve ever seen.  They are not even amongst the best Christmas movies I have seen, unfortunately.

I guess I will just have to watch some other Christmas movies to find better ones I can enjoy!

Santa’s Place

Over the long weekend I got to visit Santa’s Place and it was lovely!

collage of photos fo Santa's Palce Christmas tree farm and shop

Santa’s Place is a Christmas tree farm and shop in Moorooduc, south east of Melbourne.

There are a number of rooms, each of which is full of Christmas decorations and delights. One room has a Christmas village display, too.

Santa's Place images - Christmas village, fairy, Santa in workshop

I was very excited to see a huge sleigh pulled by two boomers!

And the neighbouring room has numerous Aussie themed Christmas items. I couldn’t resist coming home with a cute platypus decoration to join my other Aussie Christmas tree ornaments.

Collage of Aussie themed decorations at Santa's Place

The playground and cafe were also enjoyed by the children I was with, so we spent a fair bit of time happily visiting Santa’s Place! The staff were friendly and appreciated my eight year old helping them restock a display!

So I daresay we will be returning…

 

Evergreen – idyllic or commercial?

Evergreen – a magical town where things are beautiful and Christmas is wonderful – sounds idyllic!

In the movie

So Evergreen is the setting for a new Christmas movie called Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa, due to be released (on American TV) on 18 November.

Overall, it appears to be romance where two couples find each other and presumably kiss under the mistletoe! There is nostalgia and a concerted effort to make  Christmas wish, found in an old letter to Santa, come true.

If you like Christmas and romances, this could well be a lovely movie to watch.

Note it follows on from a 2017 movie, Christmas in Evergreen, where a small town vet wishes for her ‘most romantic Christmas ever’.

Santa in Christmas movie on a TV

Its origins

Evergreen is designed to bring to life the magic of Geoff Greenleaf’s card illustrations. Greenleaf is the master artist and illustrator at Hallmark, and Evergreen is a town based on illustrations forming the background of many of their Christmas cards.

If you have paid attention to enough cards, it may be sweet to see it come to life in a movie, and it adds an extra layer to the meaning of those card illustrations. And seeing things come to life (think books, stories, characters) can be comforting and exciting.

One review I have read goes on to list various iconic Hallmarks items that are included within the movie set of Evergreen. While this builds the authenticity of the town, it feels a bit strange to me.

For starters, I’m not sure that I would recognise things as Hallmarks property so the authenticity would be lost on me!

More than that, though, it feels very commercial and money-grabbing to have such icons in a movie – I want to relax and feel the Christmas spirit, not thinking about a big corporate and their profits!

However, this is perhaps expected on the channel showing this movie as part of their Count Down to Christmas – it is actually called the Hallmark Channel! Again, an entire channel owned and managed by a retail-based company feels strange to me, but I gather it has been in place for many years in the USA. I am curious to watch that channel and see how commercial it is – maybe the advertising is more subtle like including their icons and settings in programs.

What do you think – does this movie and channel feel too much of an ad for Hallmark, or is it just good that this company is putting money into making Christmas movies to watch?

 

* Image courtesy of Belchonock at 123rf

A proper family Christmas – Christmas book review

A proper family Christmas

Front cover of A proper family Christmas

 

by Chrissie Manby

Hodder and Straughton, London 2014

Age group: mid-teen to adult

Format: 448 page paperback

A nice family story that climaxes at a Christmas unlike what anyone expected.

The story

Sophisticated Annabel and Richard face emotional upheavals from their daughter’s mistake at a music festival.

My review

Annabel likes things to be perfect and stylish, right down to owning a fancy manor house she can show off to locals at an annual fete. However, her life is turned upside down when her sixteen year old daughter Izzy goes to a music festival and makes a huge mistake.

This book has both a mix of characters and contemporary issues which makes it interesting and more complex than just a simple assessment of life for rich and not-so-rich.

Personally, I didn’t grow to like one of Annabel’s sisters although various characters see her as the generous one, but she does help keep the story real and not so saccharine sweet as happens in some books. However, Chelsea and the two teen girls, plus the mischievous jack, I certainly liked and empathised with as I read the book.

The story deals with honesty and shame through {spoiler alert coming up!} adoptions, drug taking, transplant waiting lists, bulimia, single parenting and dementia, to more or less significance. The author has researched the medical elements for the transplant issue and used her own adoption history to ensure the story is based in reality.

Like other adult books with a Christmas title, this is not really about Christmas but used Christmas as a tool to highlight relationships. Let’s face it, Christmas is so tied up with family (which I see as a good thing!) that it can be a catalyst to facing up to issues or estranged relatives.

Would I recommend it? It was a nice read and I did enjoy it, and have contemplated reading the three others books about the same family (A proper family holiday was first and this book is followed by a proper family adventure and a wedding at Christmas).

The Christmas Cookie Club – Christmas book review

The Christmas Cookie Club
book cover The Christmas Cookie Club

by Ann Pearlman
Simon & Shuster Ltd, United Kingdom, 2010

Age group: late teen – adult

Format: 288 page paperback

Absolutely about Christmas, this book is an unusual look at individuals, relationships and people supporting each other. It also inspires yummy cooking!

The story

A group of 12 women meet on the first Monday each December to swap cookies and stories of their lives.

My review

So I wasn’t sure what to expect with this book, either in format or depth, so I was pleasantly surprised to quite enjoy it.

The story centres around one woman, Marnie, starting with her thinking of her daughters and preparing for the Christmas Cookie Club get together that night. After that, each chapter adds in a new woman, giving us a taste of her life and personality. I found that adding characters one at a time like that made it easier to remember who was who (although I did still have to flick back a few times!) and it also gave a real feel for each character.

The premise of the club (and it is based on a real club the author belongs to) is that each person makes some biscuits (cookies) of her choice, bringing a dozen for each other member of the club plus a dozen as a donation to a charity. Each women then goes home with 12 beautifully packaged biscuit dozens!

In presenting her biscuits, each woman tells a story about the biscuits and/or the packaging. We also get a copy of the recipe of the biscuits discussed so you can literally taste your way through this book! I haven’t yet used any of those recipes but intend to try at least a few of them. I also like that each recipe is in a different font, with some sort of connection to the woman or recipe.inside page of The Christmas Cookie Club, showing a recipe from Rosie

Yes, the book got me thinking of starting a Christmas Biscuit Club or something similar – and I note Pearlman has since written another book to help those inspired – The Christmas Cookie Cookbook: All the Rules and Delicious Recipes to Start Your Own Holiday Cookie Club. I haven’t yet done anything about organising such a club – have you been to one or started one? What did you think of it? I must admit the thought of cooking 12 or 13 dozen biscuits is somewhat intimidating!

Reading this book, I noticed a lot of relationship issues were raised (in a realistic and empathetic way). It turns out that Pearlman is a psychotherapist and marriage therapist so she has some insights, and her autobiography, Infidelity, sounds like a very interesting book about the impact of marital infidelity. The two books together would make an interesting Christmas gift, I think.

So do I recommend it? Yes, if you want a heart warming story that goes beyond shallow relationship and happy endings for everyone, and a story about Christmas traditions worth having.

Skipping Christmas – Christmas book review

Skipping Christmas cover of John Grisham's Skipping Christmas

by John Grisham

Dell (Random House), New York, 2001

Age group: mid-teen to adult

Format: 198 page paperback

I know John Grisham as a respected author, covering serious books such as The FirmThe Associate and The Rooster Bar, so I was pleased to see a Christmas book by him – I loved the idea of a Christmas book with some depth to it.

The story

A middle aged couple decide to skip Christmas after their only daughter goes overseas in November.

My review

I started this book with expectations of something to get involved in, although the length said it couldn’t get too complex, and pleasure at a serious Christmas read. It is only since starting it that I discovered it was promoted as a comedy – don’t get me wrong, comedy is great but it isn’t what I was expecting from John Grisham.

And comedy is not what I got – nor was a serious read with depth.

My expectations kept me going through the early part of the book as I had hopes of improvement. Further in, I did get more of an interest in the characters but the plot was still pretty mediocre.

Luther and Nora decided to save money and pass on the usual Christmas traditions – not just avoid decorating their house and not celebrating on Christmas Day, but to avoid all things Christmas including attending work Christmas parties, sending cards or even giving service people their annual tip/gift. It seemed a little drastic to cut out everything (but of course I am biased by my love of Christmas!) but I suppose that is where the humour lies and the social comment on how much Christmas pervades our lives in December.

I felt uncomfortable with some of the reactions to Luther and Nora – it just seemed rude to me that people come to the door expecting them to buy a Christmas cake or tree, and then arguing when the answer was no. To then offer $100 later in the year as compensation also seemed pointless – they weren’t saving money that way and seemed to accept the rude expectation on them.

As an Aussie, I found the name of one scout hilarious though – Randy Bogan! Could you imagine going to school or a party and saying ‘hi I’m Randy Bogan’?

Luther had my sympathies by the end of the story, and I liked that the neighbours rallied around him and Nora. There was a bit of ‘no matter what, when you really need us we’ll be there’ from the street, which is lovely, but given their earlier attitudes and behaviours it felt a little ‘aren’t we good’ instead of generous – and it was aimed at Blair (the daughter) anyway. This was during the slapstick part of the book where Christmas was no longer being skipped and things were looking a little lonely. In a movie, this part may look funny but it was sad in the book, I thought.Back cover of book Skipping Christmas

So I guess a few questions arise as I think about this book… shouldn’t people be able to celebrate or not as suits them, without fear of ridicule? Is it reasonable for a neighbourhood to band together against one household for no real misdemeanour? Should Christmas carols be used as a weapon to humiliate people’s choice of not decorating their front yard?

Good parts to the book – it has a happy ending, it has a few funny moments (like a risqué charity calendar that didn’t go to plan), it is well written (no awkward sentences to trip over, no long winded descriptions, assumption you can understand rather than repeating details over and over, good grammar, and so on), and it was easy o read and follow. Oh, and of course, it was definitely about Christmas, even if it wasn’t!

Would I recommend it? As a Grisham novel, no. As a cheery Christmas spirit story, no. As a comedy, definitely not. As a light read a bit different to the usual, yes it is an ok story.

Follow me Santa – Christmas book review

Follow me Santa

by Roger Priddy
illustrated by Steven Wood
This book was made by Nicola Friggens, Robyn Newton, Penny Worms and Kylie Hamley

Priddy books, New York, 11 September 2018

Age group: toddler to pre-school

Book cover of Follow me Santa

The fun starts on the front cover!

Format: 14 page thick pages

This is exciting – a new release Christmas book that is colourful and fun! I think this should be under many Christmas trees this year!

The story

A quick overview of Santa’s activities on Christmas Eve, from leaving his workshop to arriving back home ready for a nap.

The story as such is short and simple but you get to follow along by finding the way for Santa through a finger maze.

My review

This book is a delight! I discovered Roger Priddy’s work earlier this year when I reviewed Let’s Pretend Christmas and was happy to find this book was going to be released in September (and I may have ordered it on the spot as a pre-release!)

Let’s start with the mazes – I like that they are cut outs so that little (and not so little) fingers can trace their way through the maze. Much more fun and easier to use again and again than a maze you draw on. The pattern is not the same on every page so there is challenge to it, even more so if you get distracted and look at the pictures rather than focussing on the maze from above. My favourite is the maze up and down chimneys so the correct path is all over the double page spread.

Inner pages of Follow me Santa showing the ocean

Steven Wood has done some lovely illustrations, too. Each image is cute and colourful, and there are fun details to notice (like the bike covered in Christmas paper and the air traffic controller elf).

As well as the maze, there is a search activity on each page. And I like that it has a little twist on some pages – for instance there are five polar bears but only four are wearing jumpers as listed to find.

Santa does travel the world but is only shown in cold, icy places unfortunately, but it great to see elves male and female, and different skin colours. Maybe one day Priddy can do a second book to include those of us with warm Christmas celebrations!

I also love the details of Mrs Claus having a present for Santa at the end, although it must wait until he has finished his well deserved nap with his teddy!inside pages of Follow me Santa

 

So do I recommend it? Absolutely! It will entertain young children for ages while helping them observe, count and gain fine motor skills. Older children may solve the mazes faster, but can still enjoy the illustrations and feel of the book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cosy Christmas Teashop – Christmas book review

The cosy Christmas teashop

Front cover of the Cosy Christmas teashiop

by Caroline Roberts

HarperImpulse (Harper Collins), London 2014

Age group: mid-teen to adult

Format: 384 page paperback

This is actually my daughter’s book, but the title gives a Christmas link and sounded cute so I gave it a go.

The story

Ellie runs a teashop and weddings in an old castle, alongside her husband and a mixed team. The story covers their lives over a few months, including weddings, a Christmas Fayre and a Christmas wedding.

My review

I hadn’t realised it was the second book about Ellie, and the summary of the first book was a surprise – poorly written and not introduced as a summary made me wonder if it was a poor prologue!

Frankly, I think this book could be about one third shorter simply by removing the repetition! In the first fifty pages I lost count of how many times I was told Ellie had started a new tearoom and was lucky to have met the wonderful Joe. Then there was the mention of her father and brother in overalls in front of their van labelled “Hall & Son” – followed a page later with an explanation that her brother had moved into a trade like their Dad and joined the family business. I found it insulting to imply I couldn’t understand or remember anything and needed to be told it over and over.

Aside from the repetition, I found the writing very simple, over detailed and the conversation stilted.

The story itself varied between sweet romance with Ellie, Joe and their friends running a teashop and tourist castle, and humorous interactions with customers such as a Bridezilla wanting to arrive on a unicorn!

Running a Christmas Fayre followed by a special wedding, gives the story the tinsel, mince pies and Christmas cakes I enjoy. The Fayre does sound beautiful with a huge tree and lots of festive stalls inside the manor hall of an old English castle – I would enjoy being part of that!

So do I recommend it? I can’t say I would recommend this, unless you read book one and want to know more about Ellie and Joe, but it’s not bad for a light read if you can get past the repetition.

A cheese Christmas wreath

So we went to a Christmas in July dinner last week and I wanted to take something special to add to the Christmas spirit. I think I ended up with a Christmas look and, as everyone kept coming back for more, a yummy treat all in one.

Baked cheese Christmas wreath on a wooden board

Making the cheese Christmas Wreath

 

In the simplest of terms, I prepared a baked cheese and surrounded it with green and some red ‘decorations’.

Ingredients

325 g ricotta cheese
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped grilled red capsicum

decent handful of rocket leaves
bunch of basil
cherry tomatoes (or use stuffed bell capsicums)
couple of pieces of grilled capsicum, sliced into strips
some roughly chopped parsley leaves as a garnish

Method

The baked cheese is very easy and based on a recipe from Taste – I just adjusted it by using herbs we had growing at home and added the capsicum to give it more Christmas colour! Basically, you just mix the ingredients and bake it in a cake tin.

Baked cheese wreath before cooking

After 25 minutes baking, I turned the cheese onto the serving board facing up (ie don’t just turn the tin upside onto the serving dish! Facing up has a bit of colour showing and keeps a better shape as the top is firmer than the bottom of the cheese.) I decided to have a rustic look so used a wooden chopping board underneath the wreath.

Once it had cooled a little, I surrounded it with rocket and basil leaves.

I then added some Christmas baubles (being cherry tomatoes and stuffed baby capsicums).

baked cheese surrounded by green leaves to form a Christmas wreath

For fun, I draped capsicum strips over the baked cheese and greenery as ribbons of tinsel and then scattered chopped parsley leaves over it all for flavour and to break up the red decorations a little.

Baked cheese Christmas wreath on a wooden board

I was really pleased  with my Christmas cheese wreath – it looked festive and tasted delicious!

Do you think this would be a good snack to leave out for Santa (well maybe leave in the fridge for him to get if it’s a hot  night!)?

 

Artul’s Christmas hamster – Christmas book review

Artul’s Christmas hamperFront cover Artul's Christmas hamper

 

by Richard Brown
illustrated by Paul Howard

Cambridge Readers, UK, 1996

Age group: 4 to 7 years old

Format: 24 page paperback

Another lucky find at our holiday house, this is a year one reader that originated from a school near home! My kids are above this reading level now but we still had fun reading it together.

The story

A young boy meets a hamster for the first time and is hopeful his parents are getting him one for Christmas.

My review

This is a sweet story that is actually based on a true story from 1973 when Artul Pandy was new to Cambridge (England).

When visiting a friend, Artul sees a hamster and very excitedly tells his parents how much he would love to get one for Christmas. His parents were very non-committal to this request but had some mysterious shopping trips.

Reading the book, it did seem very likely Artul would get a hamster on Christmas morning but a beginning reader book isn’t likely to have a lot of depth or complexity in the plot! Having said that, the book did have an unexpected twist for Christmas morning that added to overall enjoyment of the story (and luckily the potentially bad ending didn’t eventuate!)

Would I recommend it? For a child learning to read, this is a great Christmas story to practice with. For everyone else, it is simple but enjoyable so yes I’d say it deserves to be recognised as a good Christmas book!

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