Quite the opposite approach [to nostalgia] is taken by Alaskan writer Monica Devine (Carry Me, Mama; The Iditarod) in Hanna Bear’s Christmas, the vividly illustrated plot-driven story of an anthropomorphic bear who requests that her forest friends wake her from hibernation so that she might experience Christmas. Suitable for reading aloud to preschool children or being read alone by primary readers, the story unfolds in a more familiar and repetitive style and features less-common northern wildlife, including a mountain goat, spruce grouse, moose, and hare. The animals go to significant trouble as they try to keep their promise to wake the bear. Unfortunately, when the bear finally sees Christmas, it’s somewhat anticlimactic for the reader – although Hanna Bear goes back to sleep quite satisfied with what she has seen.
Talented Ontario illustrator Sean Cassidy (Good to Be Small; Wake Up, Henry Rooster) uses vivid and distinctive watercolours to flatter the author’s storytelling style. The northern settings and expressive depictions of the animal characters are memorable and distinctive, giving the holiday story an uncluttered richness.
As is true with most children’s seasonal stories, both books will heighten anticipation leading up to the all-important date in childhood’s calendar, only to be put aside after the big day.