Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Christmas caravan by Jennifer Beck illustrated by Robyn Belton

The Christmas caravan is one title on my top ten Christmas book list.  The town is holding a Christmas Competition for the best decorated house.  Simon and his mother live in a run down caravan park on the outskirts of the town.

Are you thinking ahead?  Simon lives in a caravan.  It is his home but will the judges even come to look.  Simon works hard.  He has no money but he has an ingenious plan using recycled materials. He makes garlands from old tin cans, plastic bottles in to bells and an old spare tire to support his small tree.  Finally he makes a huge star from tin foil which they hang from the aerial on the caravan roof.

The local newspaper publishes a map showing all the entries in the competition.  We have houses like this is streets near me with huge collections of flashing lights, inflatable Santa Claus and Snowmen coming down chimneys.  Simon's address is listed but no one comes to look. On the evening of the actual judging Simon waits anxiously but again no one comes.

"Perhaps they got lost,' his mother said as she comforted him and tucked him into his bunk. Next morning she telephoned the Mayor.  ... 'This caravan is our home. ... and it was my son's idea to decorate it.  He's very disappointed that you and the other judges didn't come to see it."

Well done mum and well done to the Mayor who does come with the Councillors in his big black car.  He talks to Simon about the decorations and even though the prize has already been awarded the Mayor has a wonderful solution.  Simon receives a special award, one that will change their lives forever but I am not going to spoil the ending.  I can only say it will make you smile.

This is a truly heart warming story about the value of dreams and perseverance and about the importance of community.  I am also pleased to discover Jennifer Beck comes from New Zealand.  I found a set of teaching notes.  We have other books illustrated by Robyn Belton in our school library including the wonderful Bantam and the Soldier.

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