Always Together at Christmas

Book review by
Regan McMahon, Common Sense Media
Always Together at Christmas Book Poster Image
Reassuring look at how Christmas 2020 is a little different.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Shows different ways families can celebrate the holiday -- getting together online or by phone, dropping off gifts or food baskets without going inside, for example. Models wearing masks to stay safe during the pandemic (though the pandemic is never mentioned). A two-page spread at the back of the book offers a list of new holiday traditions to try, including delivering food to neighbors, "especially elderly and at-risk people who can't leaver their homes."  




Positive Messages

"Christmas will always mean love, even if love feels a little different this year. Christmas is a time for family, even if family gathers a little differently this year." "Dream up new traditions, and give thanks for each blessing." "Whether we fly, or drive, or walk, or call, our cheer stretches across the miles."

Positive Role Models

Multigenerational families are loving and happy. Neighbors are kind to one another. Kids, adults, Santa, and his elves all wear masks, modeling safe and compassionate behavior during a pandemic. There's diversity among the kids and adults, who have a variety of skin tones and ethnicities. One spread features a kid in a wheelchair.

Violence & Scariness

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Always Together at Christmas, by Sara Sargent and illustrated by Mark Chambers, shows how different the holiday may seem this year due to the pandemic (though the pandemic is never mentioned). People on the street and even Santa and his elves are wearing masks, and family members are getting together on screen rather than in person. Even the book's cover looks like a Zoom screenshot. But kids will find it reassuring to to see how families manage to have fun and share the love in this unusual holiday season.

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What's the story?

In ALWAYS TOGETHER AT CHRISTMAS, we see families getting ready for the holiday -- chopping down a tree, bringing it home and decorating it and the house, putting wrapped gifts under the tree. But things look a little different this year: Santa and his elves at the North Pole as well as kids and adults on city streets are wearing masks, and family members are connecting with relatives through computer screens or smartphones. People find a way to share the love and holiday cheer, even if they can't be physically together. 

Is it any good?

This timely, gentle holiday book acknowledges that Christmas 2020 may look different from family celebrations in previous years, but assures readers they can still have a fun, cozy time. With simple language and appealing cartoon-style art, the warm message comes through that family is important, as is community and caring for your neighbors, and that even if you can only see a loved one on a screen, you can still share the love and holiday cheer. There are also some worthy suggestions for new holiday traditions to keep you in the spirit. This year will definitely be different for many people, and Always Together at Christmas can help kids picture what will be new and what will stay the same.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the different ways people celebrate in Always Together at Christmas. What traditions look the same as always? What seems different? 

  • How will you be talking to relatives this holiday season? At home? Through a computer screen? On a smartphone? 

  • A list of new traditions at the back of Always Together at Christmas suggests that instead of going to the mall to see Santa, you could write him a letter or send him an email. Think you might try that?

Book details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love holiday books and stories of family

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