By: Callista Gingrich
Illustrated by: Susan Arciero
Publisher: Regnery Kids
Publication Date: October 2015
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: November 19, 2015
Ellis the Elephant smiled as he waved his flag and prepared to put on his skates. The tree at Rockefeller Center was really something with all those lights and big star at the very top. Ooops, there’s one skater down, but not to worry, she’ll get right back up and try again! “It was Ellis the Elephant’s favorite time of year, / full of wonderful stories he wanted to hear— / tales and traditions of Christmases long ago, / a cherished part of the America we know.” Ellis began to think back to those American Christmases in our nation’s history, Christmases that began even before the colonists set foot in Jamestown.
Ellis pictured himself at that rather sparse Christmas dinner on one of the three ships that had set sail for North America. Life was good and the men all said grace and “celebrated with what was on hand.” So many died of disease and starvation, but they were going to establish an English settlement in Jamestown. During the American Revolution, times were pretty tough as well. Ellis the Elephant soon found his thoughts wandering to the Delaware River. Is that Ellis sitting in front of George Washington in the bow of a boat? Why yes, it’s Ellis the Elephant!
There were small ice floes in the river, but the men continued to row. “He crossed the Delaware River late Christmas night, / with what remained of his army ready to fight. / In Trenton the Hessians were caught by surprise / and the Patriots’ victory began the British demise.” Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah! Ellis the Elephant continued on thinking about the history of the American Christmas in his mind’s eye. Did George Washington have a humpback camel at Mount Vernon? You’ll just have to read this book to find out!
This is a fun, fabulous journey with Ellis the Elephant as he journeys through historical American Christmases. What’s fascinating are the little odd facts that Ellis talks about as we see him celebrate an assortment of Christmases. Kid-friendly facts like Teddy Roosevelt’s Christmas carnival and that humpback camel are not only entertaining, but are forgotten vignettes in American history. These little facts could easily be stepping stones to a school report. In the back of the book are brief discussions of resources about places where Ellis the Elephant recreated Christmases.
Quill says: This is a fun story-in-rhyme about the American Christmas that children will love.