The Dog That Saved Christmas
Nicola Davies; illustrated by Mike Byrne
The Dog That Saved Christmas, written by the magnificent Nicola Davies is a wonderfully heartwarming book published by Barrington Stoke. We are absolutely delighted that this book is dedicated to all the bookworms and want to mark that with something special. We will have an exclusive interview with Nicola coming soon on the blog, and we thought it appropriate that all five of us should review the book for you. Five reviews for one – should give you a balanced view of the book!
For most kids, Christmas is the best time of the year. For Jake, it’s a nightmare. He hates the bright lights, the noise and the way everything around him feels different and strange. But then Jake meets Susan, a little dog who is lost and scared. Jake takes Susan home and the special bond they share helps him to cope with all the things that usually stress him out. Maybe there’s a chance that this Christmas will be one that the whole family can enjoy.
This book is a treat for the whole family. Kit and I read together, although he read on after bed-time and finished before me, meaning I enjoyed the last chapter on my own. Kit was very keen to tell me what happened, but I managed without the ‘spoiler’!
“Super-readable”, the narrative is a moving account of how the familiar joys of Christmas can create great unease for those with autism such as Jake. The bond between Jake and Susan, the Collie dog is central and develops the theme of the importance of enabling animals to soothe those in distress. The joy of Christmas is saved, and lessons learned will resonate long after the festive season comes to an end.
Kit – Age 6
My favourite character is Susan because she is like our dog. Our dog is called Tedi and he makes me happy. Susan makes Jake happy.
I think Jake is brave because he struggles with things most people enjoy – like Christmas. Jake doesn’t like Christmas because it changes things around. In the first chapter, Jake is upset when a big blow up snowman is outside his window! When Susan is with him he feels OK, so it was sad when she goes away, but I did like the ending.
I think people who like dogs would really enjoy this story. It’s for anyone aged 6 (like me) to 94.
Nina – Age 9
This is a great book to read aloud – I really enjoyed sharing it with Daddy and I would rate it 100 / 10. There is something for everyone to enjoy in this book – Jake proves that anyone can do anything. He meets a dog (Susan) who makes him less scared. He usually gets scared when things change – he likes to know what he is doing. That’s why he does not like Christmas because the lights make him agitated. Jake has autism which means he doesn’t like change. So Christmas time in school is a bad time because people are singing and there is a Christmas play to produce. Susan the dog calms Jake down when he is nervous. Thank you Nicola Davies for a wonderful Christmas book!
Noah – Age 11
This unique story by Nicola Davies is not just a good book, it helps people understand how Jake feels and Jake is autistic.
People with autism like Jake like to keep everything the same. Christmas is not normal – it changes a lot of things. Like the houses in your street that get covered in lights and those lights shine in through other people’s windows and for Jake that is very annoying. So when he finds Susan, she comforts him and that makes Jake very happy. In a way, when he’s got Susan, he doesn’t mind the flashing lights anymore.
The wonderful illustrations show how close Jake is to Susan.
The Dog That Saved Christmas is a rollercoaster of emotions and as you read you get to understand Jake’s feelings and you may treat people differently.
As a zoologist, Nicola is well known for connecting readers with the natural world. It always strikes me though that she is entirely focussed on the human element of the story, in order to bring about a change (of heart / of perception / of understanding). So many of her books encourage empathy as characters struggle with belonging, being compassionate or showing understanding. Jake is on the autistic spectrum and this book will help readers understand how he is troubled by stimulating lights and noises; how changes in routine can be unsettling and how worries and frustrations can boil over to outpourings of anger. It is also testament to the calming nature of pets. Dogs are a great source of comfort and companionship for their owners and Susan relieves Jake’s anxiety giving him purpose and feeling valued.
As always, there’s a compelling and touching story here, and even though the chapters are short you’ll be hard pressed not to find yourself engrossed in Jake’s daily struggle – likewise, you’ll find it hard not to shed a tear in the moving final pages.
Throughout, Mike Byrne’s illustrations delight and engage making this a simply irresistible package.