THE TEDDY BEARS’ CHRISTMAS SURPRISE
Written by Bruno Hächler
Illustrated by Anastasia Arkhipova
Michael Neugebauer Publishing 10/1/2019
32 Pages Age 4—7
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Themes: Community, Togetherness, Including Others
It’s Christmas Eve, and the teddy bears have a secret plan. One by one they disappear from houses and shop windows. They gather at the stroke of midnight before setting out on their mysterious errands. Where could they be going? What could they be up to? Children can help solve the mystery as they follow the bears from house to house, as they complete their mission to remind everyone of the true spirit of Christmas. (from jacket flap)
It was Christmas Eve. A teddy bear with a red bow tie sat forgotten on the bookshelf, waiting for something to happen. He had been waiting there for years.
Why I like this book
On Christmas Eve, long forgotten teddy bears leave their warm homes for an abandoned shed. At exactly midnight, thousands of bears set out to do their night’s work. While families sleep, the bears unwrap every present and swap out gifts for a piece of paper. When finished, the bears return from whence they came. Later, confusion runs rampant across town as people find slips of paper instead of gifts. On each slip of paper, the teddy bears wrote a message.
“I love you.”
“I often think of you.”
“I’ll visit you soon.”
The teddy bears, tucked in back closets or drawer bottoms, miss the celebrations with the child they love. I thought this would be an unusual story and wondered how the author would bring this together. But he went another direction. Those messages, which may have begun as the teddy bears’ attempts to find affection again, instead brings the towns folk remembrances’ of family, friends, neighbors, and others who are alone. The messages become, “A beautiful reminder that Christmas is about more than just receiving gifts. It’s about togetherness and community.”
Families forget about their lost gifts and visit family and friends, loved ones who would not have a holiday, or at least one they remembered. No one stops until everyone in the community has celebrated Christmas Day with others. While families slept that night, the teddy bears went back to work replacing every gift in its proper wrap and bow.
Story construction is orderly yet still seems jumpy. The bears’ sections flows a bit better than the parents, yet all of this is like a broken storyboard: here to here, jump to here then here, and so on. A flow is missing. It is difficult to relate, maybe because the story grabbed me so quickly then dropped me just as fast.
The illustrations are wonderfully mix-dated. Images of people look modern, while those of the teddy bears and their contributions seem pre-1950. The effect is art that can reach multiple generations. Teddy bears are symbolic toys for many generations. All ages can be comforted and made to feel safe when holding a teddy bear.
I like the idea of communities coming together for everyone on Christmas (actually any holiday or time of year). The message of Christmas being less about gifts and more about togetherness is important in this age of selfies, solo gaming, and increased time spent indoors.
“They climbed over fences and balconies, slid down chimneys, and crawled through doggy doors.”
I laughed when reading this sentence. I envisioned teddy bears crawling through doggy doors right into the nose of a massive Newfoundland. Any breed of dog would smell the bear crawling in the doggy door long before the bear crawled a third in; just enough to be caught, yet too far to back out.
Available at Amazon
THE TEDDY BEARS’ CHRISTMAS SURPRISE Text Copyright © 2019 by Bruno Hächler. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Anastasia Arkhipova. Published by Michael Neugebauer Publishing, Kowloon, Hong Kong.
Copyright © 2019 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
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