Illustrated by Mirna Imamović
For ages 4+
Really, this has to be one of my favourite Christmas-themed picture books this year! It just so happens that I'm back with another Owlet Press published title again for KS1 book club this week. I couldn't resist. Not only is this a story about a little boy's love for a polar bear, but a window into his world at Christmas time when the school play, big noises, sparkling lights and crowds feel very overwhelming. The reader finds out about Arthur's passion for the Arctic and that one day he would even like to become an Arctic explorer.
Although it is not mentioned in the text, Arthur is autistic. If you are familiar with the traits of autism, as I am, then you will easily spot his neurodiversity (ND). This story will easily grow a caring attitude amongst children for another child who might display similar traits to Arthur, which is just wonderful. A diagnosed autistic child or a child who displays possible traits will hopefully find this story comforting and enjoyable as it reflects some of their own thoughts, feelings and lived experiences.
You have to take my word for it - this story is so so CUTE! Mirna Imamović's illustrations are engaging, inviting and extremely heart-warming. I brought in a rather sizeable, very soft and adorable polar bear plush for the children to cuddle during storytime. Awesome!
When the story begins, Arthur is 5 years old and we see him holding his mummy's hand and clasping his little toy polar bear Barney in the other hand. At this point in the story, one of my group, called Barney, was very very pleased to be featured in the book today! Win!
Arthur and his mummy are heading away from the town's busy Christmas scene, and when Arthur gets home he realises he's lost Barney. One of the children in the group was so surprised that Arthur doesn't like the bright and loud Christmas festivities, she exclaimed as such with a gasp.
It's a real EEK moment. Mummy comes up with a genius idea to write a letter to Father Christmas to ask for a replacement. Phew. However, the wind catches Arthur's letter and instead of the envelope falling into the post box, he has no idea that actually it ends up flying all the way to the North Pole and ends up being chased by the most gorgeous polar bear cub... who ends up chasing the envelope right into someone-very-important-who-says-ho-ho-ho-alot's sack of presents! Well you can guess what happens next.
It's an unforgettable Christmas morning as Arthur opens his bedroom curtains to see a happy little polar bear pouncing about in the snow in his back garden. He names him Björn (Norwegian for 'bear') and they become the very best of friends. At this point there are concerns that some are hugging the polar bear plush too long and others aren't getting long enough. I pause reading for polar bear cuddles management duties.
Cleverly tackling the topic of endangered animals and conservation, author Samuel Langley-Swain, tells readers how the polar bear grows and grows until there aren't enough frozen peas or a freezer big enough to keep Björn safe and well all year round. Perhaps, heartbreakingly for Arthur, Björn needs to go home to the Arctic where he truly belongs. With such bravery and sensibility Arthur, now aged 6, once again writes to Father Christmas, and as if by magic, Björn is gone. Silence, we are all feeling quite sad for Arthur.
Missing Björn is so hard, so a 7-year old Arthur, writes him a letter on Christmas Eve... and a magical gust of wind whirls it out of the window... We are all very excited at this point!
What follows is a gorgeous, happy ending and the right ending for both Arthur and for Björn - the best Christmas present ever; and what's really marvellous is that the children get to find out that Arthur becomes an Artic explorer as an adult who cares for and protects the Arctic polar bears.
I have to add in here too that the end papers for the book are totally brilliant with beautifully labelled illustrations of Arctic wildlife including different birds, seals, whales, polar bears, arctic foxes, arctic hares! We loved pouring over these pages to see what we could find with the children excitedly reading the labels and shouting them out. Such fun!
With themes of friendship, loss, loving parenting and saving the planet, this book is a bundle of Christmas joy.
I wanted to draw attention to the conservation theme in the story for out activity this morning. We were all very taken with Arthur and his bond with Björn the polar bear, and I wanted to capture the children's feelings about protecting endangered animals while the story was fresh in their minds. So, I asked them to think about an endangered animal and draw it.
We had lots of discussions about which animals might be endangered and where on the planet they are from, perhaps they are from the Arctic and suffer due to the ice melting, perhaps they live in the jungle or a forrest and are endangered due to fires... and so on. I'm happy to report the children created amazing pictures that featured monkeys, koalas, puffins, arctic foxes and more. I hope you enjoy the activity too.
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About the creators
Samuel Langley-Swain (author)
Founder of Owlet Press, Sam's world changed in 2014 when he became a Dad. Having never thought of writing books, he was dramatically inspired by his children and the new universe he’d entered into. His book What Wesley Wore has now been translated all over the world.
"I self-published my first book in September 2017 and sold over 7,000 copies in the first 12 weeks. As I toured the book it became important to me to be able to create positive change for children through stories, working with new authors who have the same beliefs as I do."
Mirna Imamović (illustrator)
A very talented illustrator from Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Father Christmas / Christmas
losing a comfort toy
saving the planet
Grab a copy
Buy here through my affiliate link at Bookshop.org or purchase from your local independent bookshop...
Publication date: 3 November 2022
Also for kids aged 4+ by Samuel Langley-Swain (some of my favourites, more on my store):
Also for kids aged 4+ illustrated by Mirna Imamović:
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