The Elf on the Shelf

book written by Carol V. Aebersold and Chanda A. Bell
illustrated by Coe Steinwart

Aebersold and Bell's The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition
illustrated by Coe Steinwart

Children's book review by Sarah Denslow

Ages 3-8

How Santa Knows When You've Been Bad or Good

How does Santa find out who has been naughty and who has been nice? Okay, so theoretically, he “sees when you are sleeping” and is generally omniscient, but the story presented in The Elf on the Shelf provides a slightly more logical and decidedly more tangible explanation.

As you may have guessed by the title, The Elf on the Shelf explains how Santa sends a scout elf to every child’s home to observe his or her behavior and report back each night. Children are encouraged to whisper their Christmas wishes to their elves, but according to the rules, elves may not answer back to children. Phew! Now we have an answer for when kids want to know why the elf never talks.

And, yes, there is an elf. Each book comes with its own elf and your child gets to name it as part of the tradition. Our classroom elf is named Scout (because he scouts around the room). Every day, Scout is in a new place in the room, having traveled to report to Santa the night before. The kids love the hide-and-seek game that is built into the story.

Santa with the Elf on the Shelf

Apart from the elf-doll, the book itself is quite enjoyable. (Confession: I like the book significantly more than the doll, which is just an okay doll, but I suppose it would be difficult to package a nice book with a nice doll and still keep the price reasonable). It’s written in rhyming verse and told from the elf’s point of view. The nameless elf explains his mission and the rules (in addition to not being able to talk directly to the children, children may not touch the elf, ensuring it will actually last for more than one year).

The illustrations are primarily red and white, making for a very festive feel, and present smiling elves doing their Christmas duties.

We haven’t had our classroom elf on the shelf very long this year (our own class rule regarding the elf is that he only comes out after Thanksgiving), but it’s great to have an extra pair of “eyes” to keep the children on the best behavior. Moving the elf each day keeps the children engaged with the idea and provides an activity to distract from waiting and waiting and waiting for Christmas.

In short, The Elf on the Shelf is a lovely Christmas tradition, not only for your child, but also for you.

Visit our Xmas reading gifts page and our great Christmas books page.

Read more of Sarah's reviews.

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