"A real gem". Hannah Murray. Host of The Book Show on Talk Radio Europe (Southern Spain). October 2018 review

"It is funny, and heart-warming, thought-provoking. It could spark conversations between parents and children about what is important in terms of ‘need’ and ‘want’. At the same time, it very cleverly raises awareness of depression.

This book is a delight for children and adults alike. The poetry is very well written and there are exquisite illustrations on each page... I really liked the rhythm of the rhyme and I think children will love the bright pictures which are quirky and funny. As Jem says, this is a book that should be read aloud at Christmas!"


Lord Chris Smith review 9/10/18

"...the delightful “Santa Goes on Strike” .  It’s great fun, beautifully drawn and written, and makes a very serious – and brilliant – point. 

Many congratulations."


Lord Chris Smith

Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge

Good Reads 5 star 12.10.18 PATRICIA JAMES

"I absolutely loved this book, it's great for children and adults.
The artwork is superb, Santa and the reindeer came alive for me.
I don't want to say too much as I don't want to spoil it, do get it for Christmas, and read it out loud...
You will love the end, and want to read it again and again.
The true meaning of Christmas."

The Book Bag REVIEW 12.10.18

"Something's gone horribly wrong. It's Christmas Eve and everything is very busy in Santa's grotto. The presents are all ready and waiting to be loaded onto the sleigh and the reindeer are itching to get going. But Santa? Santa is just not in the mood. He is tired of delivering the latest toys to children who only play with them for five minutes. He wishes people would remember what Christmas is really about - a time for families to come together for love and friendship and goodwill to one another.

In fact, Santa is so fed up that he has decided to go on strike. This upsets the reindeer because it's their duty to deliver those presents and they don't like to see Santa so upset. And what will happen when families wake up on Christmas morning to discover no presents?

Don't worry and do read on: you might be surprised and gladdened by how it all turns out!

Gosh, this is a lovely little story. The main message is about greed and it could easily have missed its mark by coming off as dour and miserable but this doesn't happen at all. Jem Vanston packs the rhymes with genuine concern for Santa's disappointment and love and goodwill, not only for Santa, but everyone else. And the presentless families, far from being miserable, rediscover the joy of family and companionship. And they do get their presents in the end, so all's well that ends well. The result is a genuinely uplifting story that parents can use to talk to their children about materialism and the big difference between what we want and what we need. Adults might want to have the same conversation with other adults, too!

The book also does a wonderful job in raising awareness about depression and mental health generally. It's subtle and gentle so won't scare any little person horses but it does open the door to some early discussion about the invisible ways we can be unwell. I liked the kind and quiet way Vanston went about this.

Santa Goes on Strike will be a joy to share on family occasions. The rhyming text scans beautifully and even a clodhopping reader aloud such as me will be able to find its rhythm. And there is a lot of delicious alliteration and fanciful imagery: Silence settled with the snow/As snowflakes tickled reindeer toe. Jay Rixon's illustrations of Vanston's designs are bright and impactful with plenty of detail to pore over. I particularly enjoyed the very expressive eyes of all the reindeer, shocked to their very cores at the idea of Santa on strike.

Here at Bookbag, we're happy to recommend Santa Goes on Strike as a seasonal sharing read. It's thoughtful and kind with some clear messaging. And, most importantly, it's fun."


Link to review:


Barbara Plant, head of GMB union (via thank you card sent in the post)

"It's a lovely poem". "I really enjoyed reading it."



Archbishop of Canterbury's Office letter

"It's a lovely book that...raises some important points. We have very much enjoyed it in the office!"



Tina Donnelly CBE, Review 5.11.18

Santa Goes on Strike is "...superb and moving!" "I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and was touched by its heart-warming message." "It is a wonderful tribute to your mother..." "I also commend you on your efforts to raise awareness of depression..."

This is a fantastic book written as a short poem, it has a beautiful message for everyone at anytime…”

Tina Donnelly CBE FRCN, Director of the Royal College of Nursing in Wales since 2004


MIND Cymru Wales by email

"It certainly is a lovely read."


Net Galley 6.11.18 (Han Hunter)

"This would make for a perfect pre-Christmas read for any little ones in the home. I personally can’t wait to get it for my little nephew."

Net Galley Review 7.11.18 (Etienne Breton, Canada)

"Santa is sick of materialism and that Christmas is all about gifts and nothing about family values anymore. What a good idea. A book that bring Christmas back to what it should be, great way to introduce a dialogue with your kid bout this subject, and the writing is all in rhymes so it's pretty to read at loud with your children. Really really love the message of this book!"

Net Galley 11.11.18 (Ursula Clarke)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
I've read this a few times now to my 7 year old son. He really enjoys it. Although he was horrified at first when Santa went on strike. The message behind this story is wonderful and something that we all need to step back and remember that family is the most precious gift we can actually have. Well done on a lovely children's story that I'm sure we will be reading again and again.

Net Galley 21.11.18 (Katy Noyes, Librarian)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Full Text:
"I've had enough, say what you like. This Christmas, Santa is on strike!"

A few good lessons here for children, good reminders for families as well... Santa goes on strike, tired of children playing with and breaking his gifts quickly, depressed by the focus on presents, not
"Christmas comes and we should be, Together, friends and family."

Its heart is definitely in the right place, and the illustrations give us a very Christmassy scene of Santa and his reindeer. The ending is sweet and fits in with the book's tone and the season.

My one qualm as I read were a couple of word choices: the reindeer ask each other if Santa is 'tight' - does this mean drunk? And later on, he uses the word risqué, not a word commonly seen in either Christmas stories or those intended for a primary-aged market.

Those aside, the flow, rhythm and rhymes work well, both written and aloud.

I"ll be trying this with my 7 year old a little nearer Christmas and hope to update with this reaction.


(AUTHOR NOTE: this book is intended for both adults and children - not soley primary age kids - and ideally should be read out loud amonst families and friends. Also, I am fiercely opposed to the dreadful dumbing down one sees in so many children's books these days, using googoo-gaga words that even toddlers can understand! They even Bowdlerise + censor Beatrix Potter and remove all big words in new editions, replacing them with basic, short words. Grrrr! Children and adults, for that matter, learn new words by being exposed to them in context and working out what they mean, or asking someone or looking them up in a dictionary if all else fails. It's vocabulary-building. THAT IS WHY I decided to use words such as 'risqué' in the poem, and I am unapologetic about it. I HATE dumbing down! And yes, 'tight' does mean drunk).

Thank You Letter from Santa at the Canadian North Pole!!!(22/11/18)

Well, today is a very special day, because I received a lovely letter from Santa himself at the Canadian North Pole (which has the wonderful address, SANTA CLAUS, NORTH POLE, CANADA HOH OHO). It states 'brought to you by volunteer postal elves' so a BIG THANK YOU to all my friends in Canada for that!


A printed letter then this hand-written underneath the main text:


"You can be sure it will be read by many members of our community not only during Christmas time. Wish you merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Lots of love and health, Santa."


Well thank you Santa, even though I do call you Father Christmas usually. But not in my book SANTA GOES ON STRIKE, because Father Christmas Goes on Strike just doesn't work, does it?


Email from Wales TUC (22.11.18)

I've just received this email from the Wales TUC:


"Thank you for sending a copy of your book 'Santa Goes on Strike' to the Wales TUC.  We were very grateful to receive your book and enjoyed reading it in honour of your mother Marjorie.


I hope you don't mind but I have personally taken it home to read to my two young children as it's a very pertinent message and one which I want my children to learn from an early age, they have both enjoyed it too.


We wish you many successes in your aims to raise money for charity and raise awareness of depression, thank you for sharing this book with us.  We wish you a very Merry Christmas and hope that your book can be a continued source of joy and fond memories in memory of your mother."


Best wishes




Wales TUC

Policy Officer



Review from 27/11/18

November 2018 Review from

Santa Goes On Strike Book REVIEW

Santa is down in the dumps about his Christmas role? Would Christmas be in ruins if Santa goes on strike? Jem Vanston’s new book tells us what will happen if Santa goes on strike on Christmas eve.


Christmas has turned into a day about possessions. All anyone worries about is what they are getting. Lots of toys with only moments of play. Lots of plastic gadgets. All Santa can see is greed and selfishness. Santa has had enough. He no longer wants to deliver this stuff. Santa is depressed and down in the dumps.


If Santa goes on strike will people remember the true meaning of Christmas? Will they no longer be greedy and worry about things? What will people make of a Christmas day without any gifts?


What I Love About The Book Santa Goes On Strike

This book is written as a poem which flows really well. Not only does this book teach you about the true meaning of Christmas. It also makes you aware that anyone, even Santa, can be prone to depression.

It really is a great reminder that Christmas is about love. Family is more important than the gifts received. This really is a book that you should read each year to your children.


Letter from Anne, Lady Dodd 28/11/18

Today I received a letter and a Diddy Men pop-up book from Anne, Lady Dodd, wife of the late Sir Ken (who I chatted with backstage at Forme theatre for half an hour in Aporil 2017). She writes:


"Thank you for your...delightful book 'Santa Goes on Strike'. How beautifully produced it is and I hope you had great pleasure in seeing it finally produced."


Ken wrote to me twice, on both occasions ending letters with the advise: "Enjoy your creativity." Wise words.


My memory of our meeting is in ABSENT FRIENDS - A TRIBUTE TO SIR KEN DODD, complied by Mike Bartram, a recently-published book to raise money for charities in Liverpool (I am on page 33). ISBN 9781786233233. £12.99. All proceeds to charity.


From 30.11.18

Here is the review: "Hearing about a book being inspired by a real-life story of when an Amazon delivery failed to get through the snow to deliver presents to the authors house totally piqued my interest in this book.

I've never been a big fan of Christmas so a book about Santa being fed up with it all sounded like just my cup of tea. As a big fan of picture books I was excited to receive Santa Goes on Strike to review.

At aged 6, Miss T is fast becoming a confident reader but she still adores picture books and to have a rhyming picture book gives an additional sense of excitement as she loves rhyming stories too.

If I'm honest, I get fed up of reading the same kinds of stories around Christmas time, which is why it is the stories with a bit of a twist that I enjoy the most.

So to find a story where Santa is sick of Christmas too is most refreshing and we thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

On a serious note, the blurb on the back of the book mentions that "It also aims to raise awareness of depression". The rhyming story itself is lighthearted and a fun read but if a family is facing issues around depression or wants to talk to a child about this topic, this story could be used as a starting point for that discussion.

We love to share a book together as a family on Christmas eve and this year, this is THE book we'll be reading."



Email from the Frank Bruno Foundation to say the book has been passed to Frank 30/11/18         

3/12/18 Email from Dame Vera Lynn

The book is engaging and entertaining in equal measure and I’m sure it will be a good stocking filler at this time of year.

Congratulations and I hope the book is really successful.

Sending you best wishes for a very Happy Christmas.


Dame Vera – sent by my PA

3/12/18 Pat Eggleton, Sicily, Italy. Teacher and Blogger at


"When your envelope arrived and it really cheered me up.  Thank you so much.


The book is lovely. I can picture and hear Marjorie reading it and imagine the joy it must have given her. I'll be using it in the classroom but at the moment I'm hugging it to myself. Love the illustrations too. It must be making so many people, of all ages, happy. Well done, Jem.



"Santa Goes On Strike is a new addition to our collection this Christmas - a tale about how Santa gets fed up with people being so greedy and ungrateful at this time of year so he goes on strike. This books teaches children how important it is to be with family and friends and not just receiving gifts. Fortunately it has a happy ending and Santa does deliver the gifts in the end - to much more grateful recipients!"



Net Galley 9/12/18 (Charlotte Steer, Reviewer at The Bookteaque Blog, UK)

"Fantastic read, great story to read to children on the run up to Christmas. Imagine what would happen is Santa ?? went on strike? Great message in the story, Santa’s fed up with boys and girls not respecting their toys, and not appreciating them. It’s not about presents it’s about family. Will definitely recommend this book."


See news of upcoming publications and events


31st August 2015: Children's illustrated version of A Cat Called Dog by Jem Vanston published (by Austin Macauley). Available online and at all good bookshops.


If you'd like to get in touch, please just email:


Twitter: @acatcalleddog

Print Print | Sitemap
© PJ Vanston