"A real gem". Hannah Murray. Host of The Book Show on Talk Radio Europe (Southern Spain). review 18.11.20

A wonderful review here:


Santa Goes On Strike by Jem Vanston. Children's Rhyming Picture Story Book Review (sent for review)

I've got a Christmassy book review today,  Santa Goes On Strike, which has been sent to us from the author Jem Vanston for review. Especially suitable for reading together, this is a rhyming book based on a poem which the author wrote several years ago... 
Santa Goes On Strike Rhyming Picture Book Review by Jem Vanston
Santa is beginning to get demoralised. He's fed up of delivering shiny new devices and modern toys that'll just be played with for 10 minutes and thrown into a corner. He is sad that we don't seem to realise our loved ones are the most important thing about Christmas, not all of the presents. (I think this year we'll all appreciate that one!) 
Santa decides he doesn't want to do it, and goes to bed. I think most adults at least know what it's like to just want to go to bed and forget about the world. Who can blame him really? Christmas can be hard work, especially for Santa. 
Christmas eve story book for children review Jem Vanston
There are no gifts on Christmas morning, but it doesn't spoil Christmas. Everyone appreciates what they have. Santa sees this, and it lifts his spirits. He decides that he will still deliver the presents in the few hours of Christmas night that he has left. 
The illustrations by Jay Rixon are clear and bold, and the reindeer have great expressions. Santa could maybe be a little less stern looking. This is a picture book, and every page is fully illustrated. The poem has a great tempo and I love some of the little comment 'asides' and colloquialisms "they all got nowt". 
inside page illustration with Santa and reindeer
It's a good poem. I can see why the author has a tradition of reading it on Christmas Eve, and it makes a great addition to the Christmas Eve story box or Book Advent. The message is clear, and I do think it's going to be especially pertinent, and possibly a little tear-inducing, in 2020. 
Santa Goes On Strike is suitable for reading together with children aged around 2+, and for independent reading from around 6 (or younger if they learn the words and use the rhymes as cues). 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."


Edwina Currie - thank you postcard and a ten pound note! - December 2018

Mike Hedges AM - thank you note and cheque for £7.99! December 2018

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 solely primary age kids - and ideally should be read out loud amonst families and friends. It's not a text book either - it's a comic poem! 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 Latoya Ford @PureNourish 29/11/18

"It's almost the first weekend of December which means most of us will be well into the Christmas shopping stress. 'Santa Goes On Strike' by Jem Vanston is a fabulous book written in poem form which discusses how commercialised Christmas has become, and how the pressure of pleasing everyone has caused Santa to become stressed at the selfishness and greed of people, and in turn has caused him to become depressed and cancel Christmas. As you can imagine the reindeer become very anxious about what they should do. Should they do what Santa says and let the children down? After all, it's their job to deliver presents every year.


Even though this book covers a serious topic in mental health, it's done in a very easy to digest way and encourages children to focus on family time and the gift of family over Christmas. It is beautifully written with bright large illustration, making it ideal for kids of reading age and above. Amber understood the topic and had lots of questions which was great, we talked about the real meaning of Christmas. As Amber attends a faith school this is a topic which her school already covers during worship, but it's so important to cover it at home too.



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         

Letters from the offices of Prince Harry, Prince William and Sir David Attenborough 1/12/18

3/12/18 Email from Dame Vera Lynn (age 101)

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."


Net Galley 17/12/18 Kelly Allen, writer in Cardiff


We love receiving a good book in the post, so when we were offered the chance to review Santa Goes on Strike by Jem Vanson we jumped at the chance!


Book Review: Santa Goes on Strike by Jem Vanston

Santa Goes on Strike was inspired by real life events. When the Christmas gifts didn’t arrive due to snow, Christmas happened anyway! Santa Goes on Strike tells the tale of Santa and how fed up he is of everyone taking him and Christmas gifts for granted, so he decides to go on strike! The beauty of the story lies in the fact that people enjoy Christmas regardless, because they’re together…

I really like the concept of this book. It’s so true that Christmas is more about being with those you love rather than receiving loads of gifts.

The book is written in rhyme, and the flow is pretty good but some of the rhymes feel a tad forced. This doesn’t detract from the vibe and sentiment of the book, offering a different way for children to view Christmas.

I think this would be a fantastic family read in the build up to Christmas! review 17/12/18 by Holly Gunn

"An original and thought-provoking story, which gets to the real heart of Christmas. There is a great rhythm to the verse narrative, and children will love it. I would just question the vocabulary choices in places, for example ‘ I have thunk’ , simply for a rhyme with ‘junk’, does nothing to help children’s learning of irregular past tenses, Christmas presents are hopefully not junk anyway! Also ‘Then get all bored and chuck it, bin it’ is not particularly appropriate terminology for children to copy."


Author note: Hmmm, a bit of an odd and prim critical review there really. I'd argue playing with words IS actually allowed in poems - and children know that. This is NOT a text book for learning irregular verbs! It's also not only for children as the blurb clearly states. That awful smelly word, not 'appropriate', crops up here too - and again I disagree strongly. 'Chuck it' and 'bin it' are colloquial and fine - not in ANY way wrong or 'inappropriate'. I think this reviewer should give children more credit, frankly - even the dimmest ones will get that this is a poem which plays with words. But each to their own, I suppose.

Net Galley 20/12/18 Kimberly (UK)

I found this book really enjoyable. The pictures were gorgeous. I would recommend this book to my sister to read to my nephews.


12/1/19 blog (Eva BOLTON, UK)

"This is a good Christmas read for children with a meaning. Santa goes on strike due to seeing the greed in the world and people forgetting the true meaning of Christmas. This is one I’d recommend for a Christmas Eve box."

Signed Personal Letter from Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour party 22/12/18.

"Thank you very much for sending me a copy of Santa Goes on Strike, which I enjoyed a great deal...I'm fond of poetry and I thought the rhymes were a lot of fun. It has brought an extra bit of festive cheer to my office. My condolences for your loss. I think your book, with its heartfelt message about consumerism, must surely be a fitting tribute for your mother, Marjorie, and her commitment to Labour values. All the Best, SIGNED Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party" Roxie Watt Review

"Santa Goes on Strike By Jem Vanston is the perfect picture book to read with your little one on Christmas Eve. The inspiration for the story came one Christmas when there was too much snow for the Amazon delivery drivers to get through but Christmas happened anyway! It’s a fun rhyming story and a heartwarming reminder that Christmas is about spending time with family and friends, not just presents and things.


“Santa is depressed. Tired of the selfishness and greed of people, he decides to go on strike. But what will the reindeer do? It’s their duty to deliver presents to the world’s children every Christmas…”


It’s a story that parents will love just as much as children. Penny is still a little young to understand the message but this is the kind of story you can read year after year together and never get bored of."



Scrap Book Blog - December 2018

Santa is a bit depressed, so he explains how he feels to his reindeers and goes on strike for a day.


From the author of ‘A Cat called Dog’ this book is another written in rhyming couplets with a lovely message – that Christmas is about the people you spend it with and not the presents you get.

NetGalley Review 29/12/18 Donna Maguire

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a really fun Christmas read so perfect for this time of year!

I loved the images and the story was excellent.

It is very well written, has a great flow to it and I thought it was great!

No hesitation in giving it 5 stars!!

NetGalley Review 7/1/19 Nicola Tiffin (UK)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Full Text:
I am so glad that I read this book, I have just ordered it on Amazon for my Christmas stash (we do a book advent for the children) and for the nursery that my son goes to. I love books that rhyme anyway so it was on to a winner from the start.
I don''t give spoilers to any of my reviews, but note that everyone who has a distaste to consumerism will love it. Excellently illustrated, a definite 5 stars from me Blog 16/1/19

Now I know it’s January, but it’s not too early to start planning for Christmas 2019. Many parents like to create a book advent for their children. In the lead up to the big day, children get to open a book a day to read and enjoy with their loved ones. Santa Goes On Strike (aff) is perfect for advents, and if your children are anything like mine, they will enjoy it all year round!

Written by author and songwriter Jem Vanston from South Wales, Santa Goes On Strike tells the story of a tired and quite frankly fed up Santa who decides to hang up his jingle bells and go on strike. With Santa refusing to deliver presents, what will the reindeer do?

Santa Goes On Strike is a poem sure to get you into the Christmas spirit at any time of the year, it’s charming, heart-warming and incredibly funny. Both Mia and Theo love a festive story and Santa Goes On Strike has won their seal of approval.

The book also aims to raise awareness of depression.

As long-term readers will know, mental health is a topic very close to my heart. I think making children aware of mental health difficulties can be hugely beneficial to their emotional wellbeing in later life.

Add the titles mentioned above to your bookshelf and watch in wonder as the smiles and giggles stretch across the faces of your children. Mia is my little bookworm and loves nothing more than reading fantastic books, so if she loves them, it’s pretty much guaranteed that your child will too!


Letter from Nia Griffith, MP for Llanelli 23/1/19

"...thank you very much for the copy of Santa Goes on Strike which I very much liked, and which I now have by my office door, so people coming in to see me at my office in Llanelli can enjoy it while they wait for their appointments."


"I have fond memories of [your mate mother]; what a lovely tribute to pay her, to publish this book."



Letter from John Sentamu, The Archbishop of York. 25/1/19

"Thank you...for sending me a copy of your book 'Santa Goes on Strike' - a different take from Santa's perspective!"


"...we are in agreement about the increased commercialisation of Christmas. I wish you well with your book and hope that it helps some to think more about the true story behind the season. With every blessing."

NetGalley Review 6/3/19 Amanda Williams, Wales

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This was cute, original and entertaining. A perfect festive treat to add to your child's library. Good read


See news of upcoming publications and events for award-winning author Jem PJ Vanston:


I am proud to announce that The Nine Lives of Summer, my new cat story - for kids and cat-loving adults too - was published on 1st March 2023 via Two Fat Cats Publishing - on the tenth anniversay of class cat novel A Cat Called Dog being published. "A heart-warming tale with a life-affirming message." "Often funny, sometimes, sad, always hopeful." This diverse (and anti-racist) emotional rollercoaster crossover story for both kids AND adults starts in Syria, where the war forces a family to flee, then travels to a dozen countries (Australia, India, Japan/China, Greenland, USA/Canada, Italy, Spain, Wales) through the nine lives of Summer, via a vast array of diverse cultures and people.


For review copies or interview requests, just email or contact via Twitter @9LivesofSummer or via this author website.



My debut collection of poetry THE LOVED ONES - A COLLECTION OF PANDEMIC POEMS ABOUT LOVE AND LOSS was published 9 April 2022. It comprises 54 poems; including 10 lyrics with 9 online links to the demo song recordings provided via links in the book. Two poems are in National Museum Covis Archives: POEM OF THE PLAGUE YEAR and TWENTY-TWENTY: A YEAR IN THE LIFE, which was featured on Swansea TV and was called 'poignant' by a representative of Her Majesty the Queen. Available on Amazon or in shops worldwide to order or in Harrisons, Uplands and Cover to Cover, Mumbles, and also distributed by the Wales Books Council to any Welsh bookshop which wants to order stock. Like THE NINE LIVES OF SUMMER, a troll has targeted this book on Amazon/Goodreads and left a trash 1 * review without buying/reading the book (which I can prove, as the publisher). Disgracefully, the amoral corrupt Goodreads/Amazon do nothing as the abusive hatemonger troll is a selfappointed 'top reviewer' for them (provides FREE copy, over 1000 reviews in over a decade). Enabling a hate campaign against an author, with false allegations, disgusting lies, defamation, is very serious thing. Legal action against Goodreads/Amazon in USA is more than possible so I am adequately compensated for the abuse and hate aimed at me on their platforms, and they ignoring of my complaints bringing it to their attention. Watch this space. Big news story ahead, which will expose the haters and name names.


"THINKING TIME - 365 Inspiring, Amusing and Thought-provoking quotes to get you through the year",  my diverse quote book, is out now. Not in shops (except 2 in Swansea) but available on Amazon as paperback and ebook - the perfect Christmas or other present for all ages. Intelligent Mindfulness with funny, insightful quotes from individuals from throughout history up to the present day. To dip into, read through or use for mindfulness daily. The eBook sells very well, every year, and has since publication.


On 28th March 2020 my satirical campus/Brexit novel was published - my 7th book. SOMEWHERE IN EUROPE is a real epic - funny, moving and timely. A state of the nation novel which has something to say. A brilliant satire of wokery at UK universities and cancel culture - way better than lame TV drama on it I have seen. Unfortunately, published in the same week as Pandemic Lockdown SO that scuppered that then. But together with its prequel CRUMP (2010) it is a classic campus novel all interested in the genre has to read.


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


Twitter: @acatcalleddog @ThinkingQuotes7

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