Reviews /

Operation Nativity

Authored by Jenny Pearson
Illustrated by Katie Kear
Published by Usborne

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Operation Nativity is a Christmas story with a twist which sees the Angel Gabriel fall from the sky and crash into the barn of the unsuspecting Lord and Lady Cuthbert Anderson. Luckily for them, their grandchildren are on the case and make it their mission, alongside Gabriel, to find his fellow travellers and save Christmas.

Barlington Hall in Chipping Bottom is not where Oscar and his family are planning to spend Christmas. Grandma has ‘cordially’ invited the family to the one hundredth Cuthbert Anderson Nativity – not to watch – but to take part. After past mishaps it is not something that they are keen to repeat but when Oscar and his sister Molly discover that their Grandfather is ill, Oscar is determined that Christmas at Barlington is exactly what they must do. However, what they don’t bargain for is the Angel Gabriel crash landing in the barn, giving them only a few days to save Christmas. Until his fellow travellers are found, Gabriel’s powers will not be restored so Oscar and Molly are left to juggle extensive rehearsals with the search for Mary, Joseph, a Wise Man called Balthazar and a Shepherd called Steve – not to mention the acquisition of a donkey and a Turkey whom they name after Grandma.

There were so many moments throughout this book where I laughed out loud, in particular, the scene where Grandma the turkey, who doesn’t want to be eaten for Christmas, throws herself in front of a drive-on lawnmower, which is being erratically driven by two children, an angel, a shepherd and a wise man, in search of Mary and Joseph. Or the fact that the characters have to be hidden in a downstairs bathroom and have their very own ‘throne’ to sit on! However, there is more to this book than the whimsical escapades of two children and an Angel. Jenny Pearson has an innate gift of bestowing her readers with characters who have such wonderfully nuanced relationships. This leads to some heart-warming moments – many of which brought me to tears. There is so much that can be taken from this book and explored with children. Without Molly’s curiosity and imagination, Gabriel would never have been discovered. Without Oscar’s determination events may have turned out very differently. Without the wise words of his Grandfather and the Angel Gabriel, Oscar may not have fully understood that ‘sadness and joy cannot exist without the other‘ and that he should never be sorry for loving someone and trying to save them.

Each of you will carry a little part of me inside. No one is ever truly gone.

It is impossible to not feel uplifted when reading this story, especially at Christmas – the time of year which is centred around coming together as families and friends. It is perfect for a read aloud because the adult reading it can draw out the humour and the witty exchanges between the characters. There are brilliant illustrations, interspersed with the text, which add to the story in their own right. Even the chapter headings have been lyrically designed so that they can be sung if required. It is a book that everyone should have in their classroom or on their bookshelves and one that I will be reading to my children each year!