I was lucky enough to request and receive a copy of this from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. All views and opinions are my own.
So this review might just win the prize for tardiness! We were sent the hardback version of this last Christmas. Life with a small baby took over and I promised myself I’d get a review up this Christmas instead. The paperback came out, I found my copy. And life once more took over. I have no excuse – when I did finally read this I did so in less than a half hour break. So, very late (but in plenty of time for next Christmas!) here’s my review…
Winnie and Wilbur: The Santa Surprise by Laura Owen and Korky Paul
I am a big fan of the original Winnie the Witch picture books, by Valerie Thomas, but I’d never read one of the illustrated early chapter books, featuring the same characters but written by Laura Owen, until now.
I think it helps that Korky Paul has illustrated both the picture books and early chapters, both in terms of familiarity and continuity and also just because his vibrant illustrations are so well-suited to this madcap pair!
Winnie has lost none of her slightly dishevelled look and chaotic ways. She means well but her good ideas somehow cause all kinds of trouble, and poor Wilbur is still there patiently helping her through it!
In The Santa Surprise, she is horrified when she realises that while Santa is busy giving out presents to everyone, no one has got anything for him. So, she and Wilbur decide to rectify it.
They consult their friends on what to get, resulting in Winnie attempting both knitting and baking (with mixed results!) and a whole host of school children offering up some very imaginative ideas.
This would be a great talking point/Christmas lesson springboard with children thinking of, designing and possibly making the gifts they’d buy Santa too!
Presents made, bought, sourced and magicked, and with giant rescued polar bear in tow, they are ready to set off on Wilbur’s home made sleigh with his new tablet acting as sat nav.
I really liked the way technology was portrayed with real balance in this story too. Like it or not, it’s a big part of a lot of children’s lives and will be on a lot of Christmas lists.
This deals cleverly with that by having Wilbur get one, which Winnie is at first sceptical of. We do see its failings and times when it’s real people/hands on activities etc that are needed, but we’re also shown its uses and positives and Winnie comes round.
Of course, things don’t quite go to plan! They soon realise they’re at the wrong pole and Christmas is getting ever closer! The elves scarves are given to penguins, the giant socks are used as sleeping bags and the gingerbread house collapses…
Eventually they arrive at Santa’s House…just as he’s left to deliver everyone’s presents! With nothing left to give him anyway and no way to get home, Winnie and Wilbur come up with a plan that results in a happy ending all round.
This is an energetic, feel-good caper with two thoroughly lovable main characters, zingy illustrations and a festive journey with lots of fun along the way. Glorious.