The Best Children's Books this Christmas
From troublesome mice to swashbuckling pirates, there’s something for everyone in our round-up of the best children’s books for Christmas. Reviews by Emma Dunn and Sarah Mallon
Ages 0-5 The Midnight Fair by Gideon Sterer and Mariachiara Di Giorgio (Walker, £12.99) is a glorious, wordless delight. When the lights of the fair have darkened and everyone’s gone home, the woodland creatures wait patiently for their turn. The deer make a run for the carousel and a fox is the first on the hoopla. Can you spot a hedgehog who’s had too much pick ‘n’ mix? And is that a bear serving hot dogs? Surreal and striking, Di Giorgio’s artwork is full of magic and wonder. The soft glow of the fairground lights and the dark patches in between create a vivid sense that we are there, secretly watching and longing to join in.
When a little girl gets a magic ladder for Christmas, the first thing she does is take a star from the sky, then another, and then another. The Girl Who Stole The Stars by Corrina Campbell (Little Door Books, £6.99) is a smart debut about friendship and
growing up. There’s a lovely moment in the book when the little girl realises that the stars are happier in the sky and that their light is for everyone. With gorgeous illustrations of changing seasons and beautiful starry skies, this is an ideal book for bedtime.
A troublesome mouse and a very fed-up polar bear make for a brilliant comedy duo in There’s a Mouse in My House by Ross Collins (Nosy Crow, £11.99). When a mouse moves in, Bear just can’t get rid of him. No lure of Mexico or Timbuktu will
make him go, and even though Bear appreciates his fine chapeaux, he can’t sleep for all the rock music. Brilliant and hilarious this will have little ones in stitches, and soon you’ll know it off by heart.
Peas on Earth by Jonny Marx and Lindsey Sagar (Caterpillar Books, £6.99) is an adorable board book, with smiley, novelty peas and clever die-cuts. There are five little peas at the beginning, but one by one they disappear with each turn of the page. A fantastic rhyme and bold graphics make it perfect for toddlers this Christmas. – ED
Ages 6-9 The Robin and the Reindeer (Hodder, £12.99) by Rosa Bailey and Carmen Saldaña is the perfect festive story to snuggle up with this Christmas. When Little Reindeer gets separated from the rest of the pack, she needs the help of a new friend to find her way again. From the excitement of Little Reindeer’s first snowfall to her heart-warming friendship with the robin, this story is beautifully told, and stunning colour illustrations bring the winter scenes to life.
Maggie O’Farrell’s first story for children is another wintery treat for the family to enjoy. Sylvie wakes late one night to find a snow-white angel by her bed who promises to look after her, but in the months that follow she is determined to meet him again and will do anything it takes to summon him. Where Snow Angels Go (Walker, £14.99) is an enchanting fairy-tale, weaving together an original premise with gorgeous artwork from Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini, offering understanding and comfort to children in all of their hopes and fears.
Children interested in the world around them and how to protect it can learn a lot from Lottie Loves Nature: Frog Frenzy (Five Quills, £6.99) by Jane Clarke and James Brown. It combines a charming story about Lottie’s efforts to get her neighbours involved in caring for local wildlife with interesting facts and even an assortment of activities to try out at home. There’s plenty here to feed children’s curiosity and keep them busy in the absence of events and parties over the festive season.
For a more boisterous offering, look no further than Pirate Stew (Bloomsbury, £12.99) written by Neil Gaiman and vividly illustrated by Chris Riddell. In this rhyming tale, a crew of swashbuckling pirates make for unusual babysitters, leading to an evening of chaos, adventure, and a very strange stew, which the children are desperate to avoid. – SM
Ages 9-12 While spending the Christmas holidays at home, young readers can be transported to Norway in The Good Bear (Simon & Schuster, £12.99). Thea hopes that visiting her dad will provide an opportunity to spend quality time together, but she quickly realises the trip won’t live up to her expectations. The real adventure – meeting a bear – is something she could never have predicted. Author Sarah Lean and illustrator Fiona Woodcock build a beautiful, wintery world for this story about family and friendship.
Another book with a deep sense of family and community at its heart is The Night Bus Hero (Orion, £6.99) from best-selling author Onjali Q Raúf. School bully Hector is always the one getting into trouble, but this time he might be the only person able to help the police solve a string of thefts taking place across London. Raúf’s books tackle challenging subjects and this is no exception, illuminating both the tragedy of homelessness and the power of unseen acts of kindness in our midst.
More mystery, with an added science-fiction twist, can be found in The Griffin Gate (Barrington Stoke, £6.99) by award-winning author Vashti Hardy and illustrator Natalie Smillie. Grace’s family look after the citizens of Moreland, using the Griffin Map to teleport to scenes of emergency or crime. But when Grace can’t wait any longer to have her own mission, things don’t go as expected and she needs to use all of her skills to set things right. This is an action-packed tale which readers will race through.
For fans of planes, trains and automobiles, The World’s Most Magnificent Machines (Faber, £20) is the perfect Christmas gift. For each machine, from the Lunar Rover to Concorde, author David Long builds a fascinating profile, including the statistics that make these machines noteworthy, plus the human story behind each one. Taking inspiration from travel posters from the 1920s and 1930s, Simon Tyler’s bright, full-page illustrations show the vehicles off in style, making this one of the most interesting and eye-catching non-fiction titles available this winter. – SM
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