‘At last he knew what Christmas was for. It wasn’t for blow-up snowman or fairy lights or school performances. It was for this – this feeling, this moment, this warmth that filled him up.’
The Dog That Saved Christmas
By Nicola Davies, illustrated by Mike Byrne
Published by Barrington Stoke
A Christmas for Everyone with Nicola Davies
Christmas can be a bit mad can’t it? The Christmas tree gets stuck in the door, the fairy lights blow a fuse, you forget to buy a present for old Uncle Whats-His-Name. Just when you think you have a bit of peace and quiet the carol singers are shrieking out of tune at the front door!
I love Christmas trees and fairy lights, Christmas carols and the mad chaos of my family all getting together but, even for me, it can all be a bit tiring. Children who rely on routine for their happiness and well being, also really struggle at Christmas because nothing is normal. Their school, their street, their home is taken over by this thing we call Christmas, and they find it really disturbing. Jake the hero of my story The Dog That Saved Christmas is one of those children. He dreads Christmas and just wants it to be over as soon as possible!
Some years I feel just like Jake. I would rather give Christmas a miss; all that rushing about buying presents and food, all the adverts on telly and in the shops telling you to buy Christmas this and Christmas that. Some years it drives me nuts and I can’t wait to get back to my nice safe predictable ordinary life. But for Jake and other children like him, who have Aspergers spectrum disorders, the chaos of Christmas is more than an irritation – it makes them feel afraid and insecure, angry and upset. Of course this can make family life tricky – part of the family is getting excited about Christmas, but another part hates everything about it.
For children like Jake, Christmas is just the extreme version of some of the problems they struggle with every day. Their reaction to what’s going on around them can seem strange, so I wanted to write a story that tried to show what it was like from their perspective. As I was thinking and researching the story, I found out about how trained companion dogs can help children like Jake feel happier and calmer even when the world about them is doing something a bit bonkers, like Christmas.
We all assume that Christmas is something that everyone looks forward to but for many people Christmas is a really difficult time. People who live alone are reminded of how lonely they are; families who have lost loved ones miss them even more and people who are struggling to make ends meet just feel left out of the whole jamboree. It’s easy to forget that Christmas isn’t really about buying things but about being together, being kind and making sure that everyone has a Christmas that suits them – even if that means perfect toast fingers instead of turkey!
The Dog That Saved Christmas by Nicola Davies and illustrated by Mike Byrne is published by Barrington Stoke, priced £6.99
Another Christmas recommendation: A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig and illustrated by Chris Mould, published by Canongate Books, priced £6.99