Christmas Surprise

Christmas Surprise book

The children in the Copper Tree class are excited about Christmas. They’ve decorated their classroom, they’ve dressed up for their Christmas play and now they’ve been asked to go and surprise the elderly residents at Pine Lodge Residential Home. But little do they know that there is a surprise there for them too!

  • Author: Hilary Robinson
  • Illustrator: Mandy Stanley



This title is the second in ‘The Copper Tree Class’ series and shows the children planning for and making a visit to the local care home at Christmas. One of the children, Rupal, has parents who work in the home and when her mother suggests the visit, the children are excited at the possibility. Everyone has good ideas about what to do and Alfie Tate, the class character, even comes up with a real donkey to take along. We see interaction between the old and young in completely natural ways and the enjoyment of the occasion is mutual. My only caveat is that the supposed ‘retired’ working dogs (two huskies and a Labrador) that live in the care home appear to be puppies! Other than that, the pictures are a jolly amalgam of messy school life, chubby, cheerful children, bright colour, and happiness. This cheerful book will certainly encourage the understanding of the elderly by the very young.

Books for Keeps
Elizabeth Schlenther

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This is a thoughtful story about a class of young children who are invited to a local care home to help the elderly residents get ready for Christmas. Vibrant and colourful pictures are in tune with the words and the children experience that there is much more to this celebration than money can buy.

Carousel Reviews
Jenny Blanch

The children in Copper Tree class are asked to visit the residents of Pine Lodge Care Home. They think up ideas of what they could do, including singing, dressing up and decorating the lounge.

There are lots of interesting characters in this story, as well as sensitive ways in which to help children understand how we are all different and to not just see people as "old", but appreciate the richness and stories of their lives.

Juno Magazine
Saffia Farr

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I was very pleased to receive Hilary Robinson’s latest book 'Christmas Surprise'.  Hilary’s previous book The Copper Tree which I reviewed earlier in the year approached bereavement in the most sensitive, child friendly way and is a real gift.

Christmas Surprise is no less sensitive and this time approaches the very different topic of respect and friendship across generations.  The delightful Copper Tree class return and this time they are preparing for Christmas and are invited to visit the elderly people at the local care home. The children are encouraged to come up with ideas to help and entertain the residents and their suggestions include singing, decorating the lounge and dressing up in nativity costumes. The children are introduced to the people who live there and told some of their stories such as Violet Starr who use to be a singer and Mr Potts who use to be a gardener.

In a gentle child friendly manner this book teaches children that the elderly used to be young like them. It encourages kindness and promotes understanding even in the very young.

Ruths reads


The elderly residents at Pine Tree Lodge are missing Bonnie, a retired guide dog, who is recovering at the vets. But when the Copper Tree Class are asked to go and cheer them up for Christmas they discover a wealth of surprises awaits them too.

A book about the experience of life

Hilary developed the idea of celebrating the wisdom of age and the innocence of youth after hearing of a care home which insists on displaying photos of the residents in their younger days on the doors of their rooms in order to encourage visitors and carers to understand and appreciate more about their lives.

Rev. Canon Ann Easter, Chaplain to Her Majesty The Queen, said: “The book gently touches on areas of experience and facts about ageing, which may be new or difficult for children, and those who read with them, and encourages thoughtful reflection in a positive and helpful way.”

Story background

Hilary says …

“A few years ago I learned of a 91 year old man who was dying in hospital – he had no living relatives and had outlived all his friends.  He died alone and yet during his life he had been a pilot – in fact he was a pilot in the Second World War.  I thought it was so sad that someone who had given so much should be left with so little.

Later  I learned of a care home in which the carers displayed a photo on each of the doors of the elderly residents.  The photo was a picture of the elderly resident in their younger days.  The carers wanted to remind each other, as well as visitors, that the elderly people were young once – just like many of the visitors who come to the home.

So Christmas Surprise celebrates the elderly, their gifts, their talents and their lives.  We see the children from Copper Tree class enjoy their time with the residents who, in turn are entertained by the children and who help their new friends get ready for Christmas.

The children also discover that the three pets at the care home were also once working dogs.  Bobby and Bess were once huskies pulling sledges laden with goods and Bonnie, was once a working guide dog.

My dad used to train and then look after retired guide dogs.  Christmas Surprise is dedicated to Hal, the most patient guide dog who came to live with dad after many years of dedicated service to a blind man who was also a househusband.  Never once did we ever see Hal ever get cross or agitated.  He was tired after a lifetime of work and rested a lot.  Guide dog puppies would run around him, tease him and nip his tail and children would crawl all over him and stroke his ears even when he dozed,  Never once did Hal ever flinch.  He loved children and he loved puppies.”

Look closely at one of the doors, Mandy has drawn a man in an aeroplane – that is our tribute to the pilot who died alone.  We thought you could remember him with us.