EXCLUSIVE: CHRISTMAS CHILDREN'S BOOK BONANZA

 

 

They fit nicely into a stocking, are easy to wrap, provide hours of amusement and don't require batteries. When you're stuck for a Christmas present idea for kids, you can't beat a great book – and with these choices for children of all ages (and all reading abilities) right up to teens, there really is something for everyone.

 

PICTURE BOOKS

 Burning bright: Seb Braun's The Tiger Prowls

THE TIGER PROWLS BY SEB BRAUN

With its beautifully textured cover and totally arresting tiger, I defy any child not to make a bee-line for this book. Acclaimed French artist Sebastien Braun has produced a perfect introduction to some of the world's best loved creatures for younger children. There's a simplicity and an artistry to his pop-up animals that is a joy to behold, and the accompanying text is short and lyrical. It would make a gorgeous gift. Simon & Schuster, age: 3+

 

Never mind Christmas stockings – it's the socks that Santa really cares about!

SOCKS FOR SANTA BY ADAM AND CHARLOTTE GUILLAIN AND LEE WILDISH

If you can't wallow in a funny picture book at Christmas, well when can you? Our little hero generous George sets off for the North Pole deciding that this year, he's the one who is going to return the favour and give Santa some presents. But after various mishaps along the way, all his gifts are gone by the time George has finally found Santa. Rhyming couplets make this funny, lively story zip along and there's even an opportunity to get the kids giving a big loud 'Ho, Ho, Ho!' Egmont,  age: 3+

 A familiar story with a contemporary perspective: Refuge

REFUGE BY ANNE BOOTH AND SAM USHER

At this time of year, it's always worth remembering the true spirit of the season. Refuge tells the story of the nativity in a timely and tender way, reminding us that there's nothing new about seeking refuge, and that refugees are totally dependent on the kindness and generosity of strangers. Inspired by refugee children everywhere, it's been described by Children's Laureate Chris Riddell as 'an important Christmas book' and publishers Nosy Crow are donating £5 from the sale of the book to international children's charity War Child. Definitely one worth sharing. Nosy Crow, age: 4+  

 Eco-fable: Levi Penfold's Greenling

GREENLING BY LEVI PENFOLD

From Greenaway Medal award-winning illustrator Levi Penfold comes a mystical, mythical tale with a surreal harvest. When Mr Barleycorn picks a green baby growing on his land, the strange and curious child casts a magical spell over the world around him. Listing the vast Australian landscape as one of his key influences in the illustrations, Penfold tells a modern fable that seems to serve as both a story and a warning; respect the environment, listen to  nature, and be grateful for the precious bounty our world so willingly yields. Greenling invites us to look much closer at our own world and think more deeply about what is going on in our backyards. Intelligent and thought-proving, it dares to open our eyes and ask some important questions. Oh, and it look sumptuous, too. Templar, age: 5+          

Rob Biddulph's bear necessities 

GRRRRR! BY ROB BIDDULPH

Last year, Rob Biddulph's award-winning debut Blown Away created quite a stir in the book world, and GRRRRR! is sure to make him plenty of new friends. When it comes to growling, Fred is the best bear in the whole wood and he has the medals to prove it. But when he loses his voice, Fred discovers that he still stands to gain all kinds of others benefits (including some true friends). Funny, inventive,touching, this book is designed to look as good as it it is fun to read. HarperCollins, age: 3+

 

EARLY READERS

 Move over Mog – Mister Cleghorn's seal is coming in to land

MISTER CLEGHORN'S SEAL BY JUDITH KERR

Judith Kerr is already riding the crest of the Christmas wave with her beloved Mog starring in the seasonal extravaganza that is the Sainsbury's TV ad. But there's another brand new story from the 92-year-old doyenne of children's books that proves she's at the peak of her creative powers. Inspired by an incident from her own childhood when the author's father kept a seal on the balcony of their home in Berlin, this lovingly crafted tale tells the story of a retired sweetshop owner who finds himself with time on his hands and a starving baby seal in his care. With Judith Kerr's own charming drawings, it illustrates Albert Cleghorn and his beloved Charlie as they form a strong bond (with a little help from their neighbour, Miss Craig). It's an ideal tale to delight children over the holidays, brimming over with charm. HarperCollins, age: 5+  

 Kerpow! Pink princesses despatched to the dark ages    

THE PRINCESS IN BLACK BY SHANNON & DEAN HALE AND LEUYEN PHAM

Not all girls aspire to be perfect little princesses dressed in pink and looking rather prissy. Take Princess Magnolia. OK, she may look like a stereotypical princess by day, but when trouble calls she transforms in to her alter ego The Princess in Black, a kick-ass superhero who proves herself particularly adept at battling monsters. What's more, bats don't bother the Princess in Black, and nor is she afraid of spiders and snails. Written as a graphic novel for younger readers by husband and wife team Dean and Shannon Hale, this finally puts paid to the myth that all little girls like pink and want to play with Barbies. Finally, a young female superhero for the modern era – monsters beware! Walker, age: 5+

Christmas classic frozen in time: the Snow Queen  

THE SNOW QUEEN BY HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN

Kids still dreaming of a white Christmas? Well if it doesn't materialise, here's the next best thing. The book is stickered to remind us that this is the story that inspired Disney's Frozen, but this frosty winter tale of wickedness and ice magic still has the power to beguile and enchant all by itself. Kay is cursed by the magic mirror (shards have lodged in his eye and heart) and ends up in the clutches of the wicked Snow Queen, but Gerda refuses to give up on her best friend. Setting off on a trek with only crows to guide her and bandits for company, Gerda's steadfast determination is an inspiring and enduring tale that will still enthrall kids today. This beautifully packaged edition from Pushkin Press would also make an awesome gift. Pushkin, age: 7+   

 Docter Zone withe a dog? Ooh-er, that sounds dangerous

DANGER IS STILL EVERYWHERE: BEWARE OF THE DOG BY DAVID O'DOHERTY AND CHRIS JUDGE

Docter Noel Zone (sic), 'the greatest dangerologist in the world, ever' is back for a second installment of his non-perilous lunacy. From his house (the Dangerzone) next door to the beautiful Gretel (who produces the world's most delicious cabbages) Docter Noel shares his advice and insights on how to avoid the dangers of the modern world. This includes the Shy-Five (it's like a high five but you stop before you actually hit hands and both say 'Danger' to remind yourselves that danger is everywhere), a yappy dog called Napkin (a very dangerous present from his sister Joan) and advice on how to check if a volcano is about to erupt underneath your home. If your kids have exhausted their Wimpy Kid and Tom Gates options, you'd best make them an appointment with Docter Noel Zone sharpish. Puffin, age: 7+      

 make it a model Christmas with Star Wars

STAR WARS STARFIGHTER WORKSHOP

If your kids are already getting excited about the next Star Wars installment (and frankly, who isn't?) this fully interactive book is just what Santa ordered. Luke and Obi-Wan are off on a mission to rescue Princess Leia and on the way they are going to encounter new friends, old enemies – and all kinds of danger. The interactive puzzle book provides all kinds of brain-busting challenges with mazes, puzzles and codes (it will knock the socks off the stuff that drops out of your average cracker) and – oh joy – you can press out the pieces to make your very own X-Wing and TIE fighter models, essentials for recreating the famous Trench Run scene from Star wars Episode IV: A New Hope, apparently. May the Christmas force be with you. Egmont, age: 7+   

 

 

OLDER KIDS

 More gripping than a soap Christmas special: Secrets of the Wild Wood

THE SECRETS OF THE WILD WOOD BY TONKE DRAGY

For fans of fantasy who like to submerge themselves in an epic adventure, there's only one choice this Christmas. Two years ago, Dutch children's author Tonke Dragt had her classic story The Letter for the King published in the UK for the first time, and it created a sensation. Now her legion of followers can get stuck in to the second installment of this classic story. Our hero Tiuri is back – he's Sir Tiuri now – and this time he is off on a quest, and one that has echoes of Arthurian legend. One of the king's knights has gone missing, and it's up to Tiuri and his squire Piak to explore the terrifying forest realm to unravel the secrets of his disappearance. Gripping and suspenseful, like all the best children's books it teaches its audiences as much about humanity as it does about narrative. A rare treat, indeed.  Pushkin, age: 10+ 

 

Bring up the bodies – it's Christmas! 

CORPSE TALK SEASON 2 BY ADAM MURPHY 

For those who don't know, Corpse Talk is a graphic novel spin-off series from The Phoenix, the independent children's comic book that has enlisted the great and the good (Philip Pullman included) of the children's book world to create bold and innovative comic strips for kids. In hugely popular Corpse Talk, creator Adam Murphy exhumes the dead famous from history and grills them in a chat show format. It's funny! It's informative! It's history made relevant and appealing to 21st century kids. In season one, we discovered all kinds of interesting secrets about folk as diverse as Winston Churchill (a great advocate of the power nap) and Marie Curie (who absorbed so much radiation during her life that even today her notebooks are considered too deadly to touch). For season two, Adam is digging up another host of famous names including Guy Fawkes, William the Conqueror and Queen Elizabeth. Top tip: if you take out a six-week subscription to The Phoenix, you get a free comic book too. Bargain. www.thephoenixcomic.co.uk/product/6-week-gift-sub David Fickling books, age: 11+

 

 Shing bright: Eva Ibbotson's collection of Christmas stories

THE CHRISTMAS STAR BY EVA IBBOTSON

Three wonderfully atmospheric short stories that capture the spirit of the season by the much-missed children's author Eva Ibbotson. Set in Vienna (where the author herself was born and brought up before her family fled to England as the Nazis came to power), these short tales cover a whole range of different Christmas experiences, from the loss of innocence and transition to adulthood in Vicky and the Christmas Angel to family upheaval after a visit to a fortune teller at a Christmas market in The Christmas Star, and finally the challenge posed by a father's amusing efforts to despatch a monster carp for the traditional Viennese family supper on Christmas Eve. Old-fashioned? For sure. But aren't the Christmas traditions we cherish the most the ones that date back over generations? And don't they remind us that even modern Christmas celebrations are meaningless without the evocative little rituals that remind us of our own childhood. Macmillan, age: 12+     

 

A blazing good read: Jenny Valentine's Fire Colour One 

FIRE COLOUR ONE BY JENNY VALENTINE

It's been too long since Jenny Valentine's last novel for young adults, but she's back and this quirky and provocative novel reminds us how much she's been missed. Fire Colour One tells the story of Iris, a troubled teen estranged from her father Ernest and living in LA with her alcoholic mother Hannah. When Hannah gets wind of the fact that Ernest is in the final stages of a terminal illness, she whisks her daughter across the Atlantic in a crude and desperate attempt to get her hands on her daughter's (potential) inheritance. Damaged Iris is an acerbic and intuitive character whose pyromaniacal tendencies lend a wayward unpredictability to the story. As Iris gets to know the father she has never had, some intriguing family secrets are uncovered – with lasting consequences. Witty, wise and at times, deliciously dark and spiky. HarperCollins, age: 12+     

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