Operation Birthday Celebration--Book Review & Giveaway

 by Sally Matheny

Photo: Operation Birthday Celebration--
A Journey to the Manger

I stumbled upon a gem for you all while reading Vonda Skelton’s blog the other week. 

She was interviewing author/illustrator, Angelika Martin, about her Christian children’s book, Operation Birthday Celebration—A Journey to the Manger.

I knew I wanted to review this book when the author said,

“Christian parents want creative resources that capture a child’s imagination and fuel curiosity while staying true to biblical teaching. Operation Birthday Celebration is entertaining while supporting Christian values and doctrine.”

Martin initially wrote the book for her grandchildren because she “didn’t want Christmas hijacked by an elf.” 

Soon, however, other families, and writing professionals, were reading her book. They highly recommended she offer it to the public. I think many Christian families will be glad to hear Martin has Operation Birthday Celebration ready to go for Christmas 2016.

So many things make this book special.

Faith-Based Story

This imaginative story of a shepherd boy, Jesse, and his feisty sheep, Bongo, is fictional. But everything about the book honors God's truths.

The story reveals that every year, the shepherd-drummer boys gather for special assignments. The desert wind from Bethlehem gently whisks them away for a month-long adventure. Jesse and Bongo, assigned to your home, lead the family to the manger, and to the true meaning of Christmas.    

There is no mention of magic, Santa, or elves.


Beautiful, full-color illustrations include two, distinctive lift-the-flap sections. These include text with the child’s name, city, and state. Siblings’ names may also be included. 

Orders for the book are placed by November 16 so the book can be personalized and mailed in time for kids to begin the fun activities on December 1.

Creative and Fun Activities

The book comes with a fantastic “Assignment Manual” with suggested activities and teaching moments for twenty-five days, ending with a birthday celebration for Jesus.

The activities are more fun to children if introduced along with their own Jesse and Bongo characters. I like Martin’s hassle-free ideas for making the book characters out of existing dolls. But she also provides easy patterns and suggestions for creating your own shepherds and sheep.

Use a doll you already have. Or make one like this,
 using instructions provided by the author.
Photo: Courtesy of Angelika Martin
For safety reasons, the homemade figures are not recommended for those under age three. The dolls should be used more for decoration than as toys.

Each day, the child will find Jesse in his usual place but his sheep, Bongo, is always missing. The storybook clues us in to Bongo’s wandering nature.

For twenty-five days, the child will help Jesse look for his lost sheep. Each time, Bongo is found set up in a different scenario.

Every set-up introduces a Biblical truth that will take the child, and his family, closer to the true meaning of Christmas.

Activities tie into various topics, from the Tree of Life in Genesis, to the prophecy of Jesus birth in Isaiah, and on throughout the New Testament. They prompt discussions of how there was no room in the inn, the roles of the shepherds, the angels, and the wise men. Included are the subjects of forgiveness, serving others, and the plan of salvation for those who are ready.  

An example of an acitivity:

“Bongo is found at a craft station wearing a small paper crown. Make and decorate paper crowns. Talk about the Wise Men who came to visit Jesus—the King of Kings! (Matthew 2:1-2) 
[Ask the child] ‘If you could go to Jesus birthday party, what present would you like to bring Him?’”

Often, more than one option is given. For this day, it suggests taking kids to Burger King. Buy an item (ex. a dessert) for someone in the restaurant. Give it to them and say, “Merry Christmas! Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords!” (See Rev. 19:16)

Don't you love that?

I highly recommend this book. I believe young children will enjoy the book and the characters as they learn the amazing truth of God’s love. The fun crafts and service projects will nurture family relationships and promote spiritual growth.

The personalized, interactive book and the fifteen-page assignment book package deal is well worth its price of $15.99.

Operation Birthday Celebration
Author, Angie Martin
Good news! The author has generously offered a free book for one of my blog readers. Woo hoo! 

You can get your name in the drawing by:

Visiting and Liking Operation Birthday Celebration Facebook Page

You’ll get your name placed in my Honest Hat twice if you do both! 

I need you to comment below and let me know what you did. It can be as simple as typing one word :“website,” “facebook,” or “both.”

The winner will be announced Sunday, Oct. 23.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher in return for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 


  1. This sounds great!! I really do not like the elf. I'll do both.

    1. Wonderful, Gail. This is truly a great alternative.

  2. Sally,

    Thanks for posting this review! What a delightful idea! I especially like the service orientation of the activities. Our children have aged out of this concept, but we have three nieces who would love this!

    I'm torn as to whether to say "both" or "Facebook". I spent several minutes navigating through every tab on the Jesse and Bongo website, but I never found anyplace to leave a comment; so, after visiting and liking the Operation Birthday Celebration Facebook page, I left a comment there.

    1. Hi, Janey! I'll put your name in twice, one for the Facebook comment and one for the website visit. Thanks for stopping by. I'm sure your nieces would love this book. :)



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