With an angel as a guide, your child learns the story of the first Christmas, everything from Gabriel telling Mary she would be the mother of Jesus, to the shepherds visiting Him in the stable. After telling your child all of this, an angel transitions:
"Each night as you sleep, I return to the stars in the skyFrom there, the angel asks your child to be the best he can so she can give a good report to the other angels each night. And she warns your child that when she returns to your house, she'll be in a different place - and she likes the game of Hide and Seek.
I meet with other angels to tell them how hard you try."
What I Like: While I haven't personally done the Elf on the Shelf thing with my children, I've heard about it a lot from friends. The second I opened this book up and started reading, I knew it would be a solid alternative for parents reluctant to embrace a more secular tradition.
The artwork is great. Ashley Adorno is truly a gifted artist, and the illustrations are impressive. I really felt they helped convey the story in a very visual manner for non-readers.
Before you even get started, your kids get to name your angel (a blonde-haired angel is included in the gift box.) That part is fun. What's even better is at the end, there are instructions to go to MySecretAngelAndMe.com, where you can register your child's angel doll, and the angel will send periodic e-mails to your child. I know my kids will enjoy getting e-mails!
At the end of the book, there's a "Child's Prayer," which, while it stops short of being a sinner's prayer, comes right up to that line. Definitely a nice touch, and could open things up to more discussion.
What I Dislike: There's a section of the book where Santa is brought in, and the whole theology behind it kind of lost me. Santa was presented in an "okay" manner - he receives instructions and acknowledges Jesus as our Savior - but I honestly thought that for families who try to de-emphasize Santa (like mine), this is a turnoff. The section is four pages (most of it pictures) so it would be possible to skip it if you so chose.
Additionally, there were a couple of formatting errors that caused me to stumble when reading the book aloud, as well as some phrasing that was difficult to get right.
Overall Rating: Good, hedging on Very Good after having an opportunity to compare it directly to Elf on the Shelf
Age Appeal: 3 - 8, perhaps broader depending on the child.
Publisher Info: For the King Press, 2011; ISBN: 978-0-615-49480; Gift Box + Hardback, 36 pgs., $34.95
Buy it at Amazon.com for $34.95.