The Dog That Saved Christmas
Written by Nicola Davies
Illustrated by Mike Byrne
Published by Barrington Stoke
Publication date: 15th October 2018
Summary (from Barrington Stoke):
Christmas is a nightmare for Jake. He hates the bright lights, all the noise and the disruption to his routine. But everything changes when he finds a lost dog. He names her Susan and adopts her as his own. Jake and Susan form a special bond that helps him to cope with the things that usually stress him out. With Susan around, maybe there’s a chance that this Christmas will be one the whole family can enjoy.
Read the first chapter on the publisher’s website here.
Jake hated Christmas. Nothing was normal. There was no routine.It felt like anything could happen. Even the food was weird. And it went on for days. Sometimes, Jake would go back to bed on the days between Christmas and New Year, and get up all over again. He hoped that a second start to the day would iron out the bumps in it. It never worked, of course.
First impressions: I had to read this as soon as I saw the title! Then the author! Then the cover! Everything about this just made me want to read it so I was delighted to be offered a review copy from Barrington Stoke.
This tiny, beautiful book made me cry – twice! It is absolutely perfect in every way!
I am planning to read this to my class this week in the lead-up to Christmas, but am a little nervous that I won’t be able to read it without tearing up.
The story follows Jake, at the time of year he finds most difficult. Christmas is a time when all of his routines change and his normal becomes difficult to maintain. School and home both cause him distress and there are plenty of people who aren’t very understanding about just how important it is that things are done in the same, right way.
I liked how this book got inside Jake’s shoes and helps readers feel sympathy towards him, without making overt references to his autism. Christmas can be a tough time of year for many people, particularly with absent family members and the pressure for everything to be perfect, but it is important to realise that something that can be magical for one person (e.g. flashing lights), could cause sensory overload for someone else.
This is a beautiful, hopeful story which should be in every primary classroom!
Jake felt like he had begun a whole new life now he had Susan. So many things were different.
He didn’t need to stare at the ground as he walked, because if he saw something scary up ahead, he had Susan beside him. And if it was something really scary, then Jake had to see it first so he could make it OK for her.
Now it felt like even Christmas would be better, because Susan was with Jake, no matter what happened. Susan had become Jake’s normal – always warm, always waggy and always there.
What I liked: The warm storyline, the deep sympathy for Jake, how his family handles everything, the dyslexia-friendly font and high interest, low challenge writing.
Even better if: I don’t know how this could be any better!
How you could use it in your classroom: This would be a fantastic festive read in the run-up to Christmas, particularly if it serves to start a discussion about autism, neurodiversity and thinking about others at this time of year.
(Thank you to Barrington Stoke for my review copy)
Thanks for reading!