Christmas children’s books to dazzle and delight by various authors - book reviews -
Age 7 plus:
The Three Wishes
At long last… here’s the book that reveals all you have ever wanted to know about the origins of our Christmas traditions!
A contemporary Christmas classic that feels like it has existed for centuries, The Three Wishes is a beautifully written and stunningly illustrated book about the early beginnings of Father Christmas and comes from the imagination of bestselling children’s author and illustrator Alan Snow.
With a narrative that reads like a seasoned fable and a plot that fits together like a perfect festive jigsaw, this richly detailed and colourful story explains all the traditions and myths around Santa Claus, from how he travels around the world in one night, how his sleigh and reindeer can fly, why he leaves presents, and even the origins of his red coat.
A young boy is herding his family’s reindeer when they are drawn into a mysterious cave. The cave is the holder of eternal summer, looked after by three strange characters… a wooden creature, a bird and a fish.
Once entered, the cave cannot be left unless time in the outside world stands still. In his sadness at not being able to leave, the boy is granted three wishes and chooses freedom, happiness and time. He is told that they will all be granted… eventually.
After the first year of working hard in the summer cave, the boy is allowed to see his family in the outside world. Time stands still as he visits his parents, and he leaves gifts behind to show that he has visited.
As the years go by, this annual visit continues and he begins to call on not only his parents, but more and more other families... and Christmas traditions as we know them, are slowly but surely created.
With illustrations that capture the essence, atmospherics and quirkiness of the adventure through time, The Three Wishes is destined to become a Christmas family favourite.
(Pavilion, hardback, £12.99)
Age 8 plus:
The Beast and the Bethany
Jack Meggitt-Phillips and Isabelle Follath
If your fancy is thrilling adventure tales that put guffaws into the gruesome, and magic into the malevolent, then this modern classic is a must for gifting at any time of the year!
A major film deal has already been announced with Warner Brothers and Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts producer, David Heyman, for The Beast and the Bethany, the first of a brilliant new series from exciting new writing talent Jack Meggitt-Phillips and Zurich-based illustrator Isabelle Follath.
With his sharp eye for macabre humour and a storyline brimming with originality and zany fun, Meggitt-Phillips brings us a hilarious romp starring a nasty, ageless villain, a beastly beast with a hunger for children, and a little orphan girl who can (fortunately for us all!) outwit them both.
Ebenezer Tweezer is a youthful 511 years old. He keeps a beast in the attic of his mansion and he feeds him all manner of things (including performing monkeys, his pet cat and the occasional cactus) and in return the beast vomits out presents for Ebenezer, as well as potions which keep him young and beautiful.
But the beast is growing ever greedier, and soon only a nice juicy child will do. So when Ebenezer encounters orphan Bethany, it seems like (everlasting) life will go on as normal. But Bethany is not your average orphan… not only does she pull every prank and trick imaginable, she positively enjoys doing horrible things! Have Ebenezer and his beast met their match?
Wordsmith Meggitt-Phillips has a ball with this madcap adventure which delivers everything a discerning young reader desires… an extraordinarily naughty heroine to shout for, a villain who might just be tamed, laugh-out-loud antics, and some moments of unexpected tenderness.
With terrific twists to keep the pages turning, and Follath’s brilliant gallery of black and white illustrations which put extra life and energy into the story, this is a delightful and dazzling opener to what promises to be a favourite family series.
(Egmont, paperback, £6.99)
Age 8 plus:
The Good Bear
Sarah Lean and Fiona Woodcock
Escape into the winter wonderland of snowy Norway in a beautiful middle grade novel that will pull on your heartstrings and speak loudly about the importance of family.
The Good Bear is a moving animal adventure starring a troubled girl who finds solace in her mission to save a threatened bear, and discovers that making her way in the world might also mean learning to accept.
Written by Sarah Lean, bestselling author of A Dog Called Homeless, and beautifully illustrated by Fiona Woodcock, this is a story about unlikely friendships, family bonds, building bridges, and the fight against animal cruelty,
It’s the Christmas holidays in 1978 and 12-year-old Thea is looking forward to spending them with her estranged father Henry in Norway. She plans to tell him all about her dreams to become a writer and maybe, just maybe, he will buy her the typewriter she so desperately needs.
But when Thea and her father are reunited, everything feels wrong. Her father is as distant as ever and now she has to share him with his new family… his girlfriend Inge and her children. Unable to reconcile her feelings of rejection and jealousy, Thea wishes she had never come to Norway.
Then she makes a surprising discovery. Deep in the snowy woods by the house, is a bear. He’s scared and hungry and he desperately needs Thea’s help.
When the town hears about a bear living in the woods, Bear’s life is in even greater danger. Thea needs to show everyone that he’s not dangerous – he’s a good bear. But if she is to save him, she needs to accept the help of her new family.
Set in a magical snow-filled landscape, starring a captivating young heroine whose fears seem very real and relevant, and gently tackling sensitive issues about rivalry, trust and step-families, this is both a celebration of our amazing natural world and a thrilling and emotion-packed adventure.
(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £12.99)
Age 8 plus:
Code Name Bananas
David Walliams and Tony Ross
Tuck into the wit and wacky adventures that spill from the pen of multi-million bestselling author David Walliams in an epic new book set in the heart of wartime London.
Starring shy orphan boy Eric – complete with sticky-out ears and glasses with a cracked lens – this is a fast-paced, whizz-bang tale of action, laughter, secret plots, and the extraordinary friendship between a little boy and a huge gorilla that just might save the day.
Every secret military operation needs a code name... in 1940, Britain is at war with Nazi Germany and 11-year-old Eric, who lives with his fearsome grandma, spends his days at the place that makes him most happy… London Zoo.
His visits to the zoo are free and that’s all thanks to his great-uncle Sid who has worked there for longer than anyone can remember (including Sid!) and still possesses a fighting spirit despite losing both his legs in the First World War.
Sad and lonely after losing both his parents, Eric has one animal that he particularly loves…Gertrude the gorilla, one of the oldest animals at the zoo but also one of the most popular.
But with bombs now falling all over London, Eric must rescue Gertrude. Together with Uncle Sid, Eric and Gertrude go on the run through London and escape the city, but while hiding out at the seaside, they uncover a top-secret Nazi plot that will test the mettle of all three!
From London Zoo and Hyde Park to Victoria Station, London Bridge and all the way to Bognor Regis, Walliams takes young readers on a thrilling ride through danger, rip-roaring action and laugh-out-loud comedy alongside two unlikely heroes and a banana-loving gorilla.
With the glorious illustrations of Tony Ross to bring the madcap mission to life, this is wartime as you have never before seen it!
(Harper Collins Children’s Books, hardback, £14.99)
Age 6 plus:
Christmas Activity Book
James Maclaine, Lucy Bowman, Rebecca Gilpin and Erica Harrison
There won’t be a dull moment in the run-up to Christmas with this fantastically festive activity book from Usborne.
Packed with puzzles to solve, codes to crack, games to play and doodles to draw, there are lots of activities inside to keep youngsters busy and entertained.
Help Santa fill his sack with presents, decorate a Christmas tree, make snowflake decorations, discover the story of The Nutcracker ballet, solve Christmas mysteries and enjoy an advent calendar to colour in day-by-day.
The Christmas countdown starts here!
(Usborne, paperback, £8.99)
Age 6 plus:
My Very Very Very Very Very Very Very Silly Book of Jokes
Matt Lucas and Sarah Horne
Why is Cinderella no good at footie? Because she’s always running away from the ball!
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without some corny, cracking jokes so put this brilliant book of Matt Lucas one-liners and anecdote in the kids’ stockings and they’ll be giggling all the way to bedtime.
Actor and comedian Lucas, star of The Great British Bake Off and creator of Thank You, Baked Potato, an official UK download chart-topper and Amazon bestseller, is on fine form in this super-silly joke book – given added razzle, dazzle by illustrator Sarah Horne – and guaranteed to spread good cheer and good laughs.
As Lucas tells us, ‘Sometimes when I feel a bit sad, I tell a silly joke and then I feel at least halfway better. I think it is important to be silly, I wish more people would be silly and then the world would be a better place or at least a sillier one.’
So step into Lucas’s mad, mad world but be warned, there are some things you’re going to need… spare pants – in case you wet yours, needle and thread – in case you split your sides, and a large box – in case you laugh your head off and you still want to keep it!
(Red Shed, paperback, £6.99)
Age 5 plus:
If You Come to Earth
See planet Earth from a moving and gloriously human new perspective in an exquisite picture book from two-time Caldecott Medal winning author and illustrator Sophie Blackall.
Blackall, whose visually stunning book was inspired by the thousands of children she met during her travels around the world in support of UNICEF and Save the Children, imagines how a single, curious and imaginative child might explain who we are, how we live, and what we feel, to a visitor from outer space.
Through simple, yet resonant words, and pictures that somehow paint portraits of a thousand people, If You Come to Earth is simultaneously funny and touching, and carries a clear message about the need to care not just for the Earth but also each other.
If you come to Earth, there are a few things you need to know… we live in all kinds of places, in all kinds of homes, in all kinds of families. Each of us is different but all of us are amazing. And, together, we share one beautiful planet.
Blackall’s all-encompassing journey across the planet features the diverse people of differing abilities and disabilities, the clothes we wear, the weather we experience, our varied modes of travel, our places of learning, the creatures that share our world, the rivers that travel to our oceans, our ability to make music and so much more.
With its vibrancy, energy, intimacy and sense of togetherness and belonging, this beautifully created and comprehensive guide to the Earth comes packed with warmth and humour, and is the perfect gift for humanitarians young and old.
(Chronicle Books, hardback, £13.99)
Age 3 plus:
The After Christmas Tree
A lonely little Christmas tree gets an unexpected new home in a heartwarming picture book just made for the season of goodwill.
Beautifully packaged, and with empathy and caring written all over it, The After Christmas Tree is the perfect gift for young eco-warriors and comes from talented debut author and illustrator Bethan Welby.
On a cold, grey afternoon in January, Brian sees a little Christmas tree, stripped of its decorations and discarded by the roadside. He wonders why no one was smiling at it any more and decides to take it home with him and look after it. But will taking care of the forlorn little tree be as easy as he thinks, and why don’t his family seem as pleased with it as Brian is?
This magical book – which has a special appeal for youngsters who fall in love with what seems to be the strangest of things to adults – is wrapped up with love and features Welby’s expressive and atmospheric watercolour artwork.
(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)
Age 3 plus:
Merry Christmas, Baked Potato
Matt Lucas cooks up a feast of fun in this gigglesome Christmas picture book starring a chip off the old block… Santa Baked Potato!
This festive tale of potato pranks follows Lucas’s chart-storming charity song, Thank You, Baked Potato, which was turned into a laugh-out-loud picture book, with author and publisher profits going to FeedNHS, a charity providing hot meals for thousands of critical care workers in NHS hospitals across the UK.
With his trademark anarchic humour, Lucas invites little ones to look high up in the sky (and he’s talking higher than a parrot) to see a root veg flying by (and no, he doesn’t mean a carrot!).
It’s a romping, rhyming tale full of perfectly baked fun, all brought to life by Scott Coello’s colourful illustrations, and when the show is over, children can create potato art, play festive games or spread a little kindness with a bonus page of activities for the whole family to enjoy.
What are you waiting for… tuck in!
(Egmont, paperback, £6.99)
Age 3 plus:
The Twelve Cats of Christmas
Alison Ritchie and Marisa Morea
Look out… there’s twelve cats a-leaping!
Your little ones will enjoy the purr-formance when they curl up with this riotous, rhyming picture book countdown to Christmas which has adorable cats peeping out from every page.
Full of feline festive cheer, this follow-up to the bestselling The Twelve Dogs of Christmas is ideal for little people and cat lovers everywhere who will love reading aloud the joyful rhyme and counting cute cats on each page.
Twelve mischievous moggies are getting ready for the Christmas celebrations. But with two tangled tabbies, six caterwauling carol singers and nine curious kittens hunting for hidden presents, not everything is going to plan!
Author Alison Ritchie’s sparkling rhyming story and Spanish illustrator Marisa Morea’s gallery of charismatic cats capture all the madness and mayhem of a pack of pussycats, and the excitement of the run-up to Christmas.
A wonderfully imaginative way to introduce children to those favourite Christmas traditions!
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)
Age 3 plus:
Winnie-the-Pooh: A Pudding for Christmas
‘Food means friends and friends mean food.’
Enjoy a feast of Christmas fun with Winnie-the-Pooh, Christopher Robin and all the other family favourite creatures in an enchanting festive picture book.
Christopher Robin has played with all his toys and read all his books from front to back, and then back to front... so what else is there left to do on a dark, wintry day? Make a Christmas pudding, of course! All the friends from the Hundred Acre Wood gather to help make an enormous pudding that is fit for a feast. But when little Roo goes missing, Eeyore is inclined to blame the pudding...
With new colour illustrations that capture all the warmth and charm of A. A. Milne’s original characters, this endearing yuletide tale is the perfect stocking filler.
(Egmont, paperback, £6.99)
Age 2 plus:
A Thing Called Snow
The friendship between two animals becomes a beacon of kindness, friendship and community in a dazzling picture book from award-winning author and illustrator Yuval Zommer.
A Thing Called Snow, a gorgeous winter-themed book that celebrates both togetherness and the natural world, has all those perfect ingredients to delight children and their parents… warm, gentle storytelling, stunning artwork, and heartfelt messages that beautifully reflect the spirit of Christmas.
Fox and Hare were born in spring, grew up in summer, and were best friends by autumn. When winter comes, they can’t wait to jump, leap and, bounce in this thing called snow. But what exactly is snow? Little ones will love joining Fox and Hare on an exciting journey across the Arctic landscape.
Zommer, who puts the living world at the heart of his powerful storytelling, brings the very youngest children a lyrically written, warm and utterly charming story.
Add on the glittering cover, Zommer’s exquisitely expressive and atmospheric artwork, and gentle reminders about taking care of our environment, and you have a verbal and visual treat to treasure for yourself or gift to others.
(Oxford University Press, hardback, £12.99)
Age 2 plus:
Ruth Symons and Carolina Rabei
‘At the end of the day, as the winter light fades,
We’re ready to drive home for Christmas.’
Follow the journey of one little girl and her father as they drive home for Christmas on a starry, twinkling, snowy night.
Young children will love watching the pictures move as they turn the pages, lift the flaps and spin the wheels to watch the play of night light, colour and shadow in this gentle, wonder-filled book that was just made for bedtime reading in the festive season.
Clever paper engineering and turning devices make objects appear to move on every spread, from fairy lights twinkling, stars shooting through the sky, car headlights shining, and Santa and his reindeer flying high up above the treetops .
With Ruth Symons’ lyrical, calming text and the beautiful, richly detailed artwork of The Ride-by-Nights illustrator Carolina Rabei, coupled with the warm and loving shared adventure between a father and his child, this twinkly tale will have toddlers feeling sleepy in no time.
And with a sumptuous gold foil cover, and all the exciting anticipation of Christmas wrapped up inside, this is the perfect gift for your little ones.
(Templar Publishing, hardback, £12.99)
Age 2 plus:
Gigantosaurus: The Best Day Ever
Cyber Group Studios
Four curious and playful young dinosaurs try to get the most fun out of a short day in a roar-somely festive and action-packed adventure!
Timid Bill, courageous Rocky, pint-sized, playful Tiny and inquisitive Mazu return for a gigantic day out, based on an episode from the new French-American CGI-animated Gigantosaurus pre-school TV series.
The development by Cyber Group Studios of bestselling British author and illustrator Jonny Duddle’s award-winning picture book Gigantosaurus has been a major global hit, launching in the US on Disney Junior in 2019, in the UK in June 2020 on Tiny POP, and now airing in many countries around the world.
Here we find the little dinos feeling gloomy because it’s the shortest day of the year. Tiny promises to cheer everyone up with a big holiday party. But when everything starts to go wrong, she might need a little help from her friends to save the celebrations!
Youngsters will love following the crazy, fun-filled antics of the little dinos as they play in the snow and try not to disturb the massive Gigantosaurus.
(Templar Publishing, paperback, £6.99)