When I was a child, my dad used to insist that ten reindeer pulled Santa’s sleigh: Dasher, Dancer,Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, Rudolph and Olive. When I asked where he got Olive from, he sang the line from the carol that went, “All of the other reindeer” – or rather, “Olive, the other reindeer”. J. Otto Seibold and Vivian Walsh must have heard the same joke, because that’s the premise for their book. In this case, though, Olive is a dog who mistakenly believes that she’s a reindeer and Santa needs her.
After hearing the catchy carol, Olive makes her way to the North Pole and gets there just in time to join the reindeer in helping Santa deliver toys. She is too small for a reindeer harness, so she is tied in place with ribbon. As the herd flies through the skies, the reindeer can’t help but stare at the tiny dog in their midst. This causes them to crash into a tall tree. Fortunately, Olive is able to chew through some pesky straps and set them free. When gumdrops start falling from the sleigh, Olive alerts Santa. When flutes fall to the ground, Olive gathers them all up (she’s very good at fetching sticks, after all, so flutes are no trouble). Finally, after all the toys are delivered and the team is headed back to the North Pole, they run into some fog. Olive uses her excellent sense of smell and sniffs out Mrs. Claus’ cookies, guiding them safely home. Santa gives Olive her own set of reindeer antlers for Christmas, and she then joins the other reindeer outside. For what? Reindeer games, of course!
This is a delightfully sweet and funny story to read at Christmastime. Here are some great ways to extend the fun!
Make reindeer food: Santa’s reindeer have a LONG flight – and they sure do get hungry! Help them out with a bag of delicious reindeer food. Just mix some birdseed, rolled oats and plain popcorn in a bag and have your child sprinkle it on the lawn before bedtime on Christmas Eve. The critters in your neighborhood will enjoy this tasty treat!
Hunt for missing toys: Olive helped Santa find all the flutes that fell out of his sleigh, so encourage your kids to do the same. Hide toys all around the yard (or, if you’d prefer, a room in your house) and have your children hunt for them and return them to Santa’s sack (a bag or box). If you’ve got a large group of kids, offer to time them and see how fast they can recover all the toys!
Make a night time scene: Get out your crayons and watercolor paints! Encourage your child to draw a picture of Olive and the reindeer pulling Santa on his sleigh. Make sure your child colors the pictures thoroughly with the crayons. When the picture is done, paint over top of it with black or dark blue watercolor paint. The paint won’t stick to the waxy crayon, so the drawing will still be visible against a beautiful night time sky.