Chills and thrills for Christmas reading by various authors – children’s book reveiws –

The Ice Children by MG Leonard and Penny Neville-LeeThe Ice Children by MG Leonard and Penny Neville-Lee
The Ice Children by MG Leonard and Penny Neville-Lee
Meet snow angels and spectacular spirit animals in a tale of winter wonders, enjoy a book full of facts, fun and seasonal science, don’t poo-poo a hilarious caper that gets to the bottom of a zoo mystery, and have fun with a naughty robin who has hatched a wicked plan to steal Christmas in a super selection of children’s books.

Age 8 plus:

The Ice Children

M.G. Leonard and Penny Neville-Lee

What do you love best about wintertime? If it’s the alluring mystery of dark nights, wrapping up warm in the cold, and the thrills and chills of ice and snow, then dive into this dazzling, frost-covered adventure which packs in scenes of wonder as well as words of warning.

Exciting children’s author M.G. Leonard – who loves making up stories about beetles, birds, trains or anything that sparks her imagination – employs Hans Christian Andersen’s eternally loved The Snow Queen as her inspiration for this fantastical modern classic which comes gorgeously illustrated throughout by Penny Neville-Lee.

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From the magic of snow angels to the thrills of snowball fights and ice skating, The Ice Children is a celebration of winter in all its forms, but Leonard also reminds us that as temperatures rise and seasons change, the icy chills of winter could soon be a thing of the past.

At the stroke of midnight on the dawn of December, five-year-old Finn Albedo is found frozen in the city park standing on a pedestal of ice. His heart is beating, he is smiling serenely, but no one can wake him. Finn’s big sister, eleven-year-old Bianca, suspects that the beautiful sparkling book Finn got from the library has something to do with it, but the book has vanished. Does Jack Dewynter, the tall mysterious stranger who first discovered Finn, know more than they will admit?

Each day, more children are found frozen and Bianca realises she’s running out of time. Her quest to discover the truth and rescue her little brother hurls her into a fantastical winter wonderland, full of beauty, danger and irresistible spirit animals, where all is not as it seems. Can Bianca save her brother and the other Ice Children before they are forever lost?

The wild and wonderful glories of snow, snow and more snow form the glittering backdrop to this enthralling adventure which captures all the magic and mystery of traditional fairy tales but captivates us with its compelling, contemporary eco twist.

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Written with all this master storyteller’s warmth, vivid imaginative power, and genuine passion for saving the planet, The Ice Children is a tale to cherish and the perfect book for Christmas gifting.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 6 plus:

A Very Curious Christmas

Maddie Moate and Paul Boston

Have you ever wondered why crackers go bang, where Christmas trees come from, or why Brussels sprouts make you fart?

Feed your children facts, fun and some seasonal science with this tasty dish of a book from award-winning presenter and YouTuber Maddie Moate who is here to answer these questions and many more festive puzzlers.

From how toys work to where gingerbread comes from, youngsters (and their adults!) can explore the science behind fairy lights, snowflakes, reindeer knees and holly leaves! And, along the way, discover how different people around the world celebrate the Christmas period, and the curious history behind festive traditions.

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Prepare to be amazed at the wackiest Christmas facts including upside-down Christmas trees, flying panto fairies, and presents delivered by a goat. Plus, every chapter includes winter-time activities and craft ideas to get you in the holiday spirit.

Did you know that Rudolph and the other reindeers are actually all girls, that medieval food was served on a slice of bread rather than a plate, and that the world’s biggest gingerbread house is the size of a tennis court?

And find out how pantomime fairies fly, the real reason Father Christmas wears red, why people kiss under the mistletoe, why we have turkey at Christmas and, for some real science, why vinegar makes snowmen fizz!

Ideal for sharing with friends and family, A Very Curious Christmas is the must-have gift for all curious kids!

(Puffin, hardback, £14.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Robin Who Stole Christmas

Rachel Morrisroe and Richard Merritt

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A naughty robin has hatched a wicked plan... and it could mean the end of Christmas! Join Rotten Robin and his gang of feathered friends as they come bob, bob, bobbing along to steal Christmas in this hilarious twist on the conventional festive tales starring lovable hero robins. The Robin Who Stole Christmas is the funny, festive, rhyming creation of amazing picture book rising star Rachel Morrisroe and talented illustrator Richard Merritt. Star of the show is the little red robin who just so happens to be the world’s most wanted thief and has a rather unusual plan this festive season. He hates Christmas and so he’s going to steal it... baubles, mince pies, Santa, and all! But Rotten Robin hadn’t realised just how many feathers he would ruffle by taking away the Yuletide celebrations. And when he's forced to give back everything he’s stolen, he realises that Christmas might not be that bad after all. Packed with laugh-out-loud, alternative scenarios, Morrisroe’s rollicking, rhyming, read-aloud story with its unique and funny take on the traditional caring, sharing vibes of Christmas, is brought to life by Merritt’s glorious gallery of vibrant, characterful and richly detailed illustrations, and is guaranteed to capture the hearts of readers young and old.

(Puffin, paperback, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Poo in the Zoo: Merry Poopmas!

Steve Smallman and Ada Grey

Bottoms up as Steve Smallman and Ada Grey, the king and queen of splat, patter and plop, return with the festive fourth, hold-your-nose instalment of their much-loved Poo in the Zoo series! Few children can resist getting to the bottom of a poopy kind of mystery, and author Smallman and illustrator Grey’s gloriously funny new rhyming picture book, featuring everyone’s favourite little zookeeper Bob McGrew, has it – literally – in Christmas bucketfuls. It’s Christmas Eve and Bob McGrew is rushed off his feet. There’s so much to do and to make matters worse, all the poop has turned to ice in the freezing weather! But when Santa makes a surprise appearance at the zoo with a poorly reindeer in tow, it seems that Christmas really is in peril. Can plucky Rhino save the day and will collector Hector Gloop ever catch a flying festive poo? Smallman’s brilliantly fun-filled and anarchic story really is the bottom line when it comes to putting poo in the picture. Packed with animal poo at every turn, and given extra comedy power by Grey’s rib-tickling, action-packed illustrations, this is a Christmas-fuelled adventure that is definitely not to be sniffed at. Laughter guaranteed from first poo to last!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Pink Santa

Tanya Hennessy and Ben Whitehouse

Santa is most definitely in the pink in a bright, merry and multi-coloured picture book from Australian digital content creator, comedian, writer and television presenter Tanya Hennessy and illustrator team-mate Ben Whitehouse. It’s the night before Christmas, and all is calm in Santa’s workshop. The presents are wrapped, the cookies are baked, the sleigh is polished... the only thing left to do is to wash Santa’s suit. Uh-oh! Perhaps it wasn’t the best idea to leave Rudolph in charge because one hot wash later and Santa’s much-loved red and white outfit is now bright pink! Then Santa appeared. “Hey, what's all this noise? It’s time we got going. The sleigh’s full of toys.” ‘With a trembling hoof, Rudy pointed and said, “I’m SO sorry, Santa! Your suit is… NOT RED.” Ho ho hold up, everyone. Is this the cause of the flurry? A little mishap! There’s no need to worry. Now take a deep breath. You know what I think? I reckon this year. Let’s do Christmas pink!’ With a little help from Mrs Claus, the elves and the reindeers, the colour pink is soon the theme for the night! Hennessy’s joyful story – brought to life by Whitehouse’s gallery of lively and colourful illustrations – proves that far from being a disaster, Santa’s colour change is a moment for trying something new, for embracing change, and for exploring your true self. This year, pink is the colour and Christmas is going to be FABULOUS!

(Allen & Unwin Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Merry Whatmas?

Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar

The true message of Christmas speaks volumes through the simplest of words in a beautiful new book starring everyone’s favourite Hedgehog and Tortoise. Bestselling Irish children’s author Eoin McLaughlin and talented illustrator Polly Dunbar steal hearts (and win giggles!) again with Merry Whatmas?, another exquisitely imagined and illustrated picture book starring their adorable animal pals. With a quarter of a million copies sold in an outstanding series which has included the award-winning The Hug, this inspirational pairing are back with the same winning formula of subtle simplicity, humour and tenderness. ‘Merry Christmas!’ said Fox. ‘Merry whatmas?’ said Hedgehog. ‘Merry whichmas?’ said Tortoise. You see, it was Hedgehog and Tortoise’s first Christmas so they didn’t know what Christmas was. Fox thinks Christmas is about presents, Badger thinks it’s about pudding, Magpie thinks it’s about singing, and soon Tortoise and Hedgehog begin to feel rather overwhelmed with all the noise and fuss. But in a quiet moment of reflection, they learn the most important lesson of all... Christmas is about being with the ones you love. McLaughlin’s gentle, festive story and Dunbar’s exquisite and emotive illustrations are the perfect combination to convey to young readers the true, caring spirit of Christmas and the importance of being together with your friends and family. Made with love for every child...

(Faber Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Santa’s New Reindeer

Caroline Crowe and Jess Pauwels

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Santa needs a new reindeer when poor Rudolph sprains his hoof in a fun and festive picture book from the top team who brought us Santa’s New Beard and Santa’s New Sleigh. Author Caroline Crowe and illustrator Jess Pauwels deliver sackfuls of guffaws and giggles in this adorable new Christmas adventure which sees Santa’s big night saved by a miracle of robotic engineering! ‘One week to go till Christmas Day, The final touches underway, A ribbon here, a flourish there, And presents piled up everywhere. Santa smiled. ‘What could go wrong?’ He didn't have to wait too long. Out of the sky a whirling blur, Of antlers, legs and soft brown fur, Came crashing through the workshop roof, And that's how Rudolph sprained his hoof.’ Oh no, another Christmas disaster! The sleigh can’t fly without Rudolph. Fortunately for Santa and his team, head engineer Lizzie is on hand to help... with a robo-reindeer! Christmas is saved once more. With Crowe’s jolly, jaunty festive rhyme and Pauwels’ bright, beautiful and very merry illustrations, this enchanting story has Christmas written all over it!

(Faber Children’s Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Get Off, Bear!

Illustrated by Tony Neal

Learning science is fun (particularly when those crafty grown-ups don’t even let you know it’s a lesson!) There will be miles of smiles all round when children get stuck into the fourth book in a brilliant picture books series from the book boffins at Oxford University which offers a hilarious introduction to some early maths and science concepts. With helpful tips for adults about sharing and reading the books, the colourful and charismatic artwork of Tony Neal, and fun activities at the back to explore the topics further, these comedy-packed stories will have youngsters laughing and learning from start to finish. In this winter-themed adventure, Bear really wants to play on his sledge, but he's stuck. Will a push and a pull from his friends get him moving? It’s impossible to resist this hilarious first introduction to the scientific concept of forces. With simple language to give meaning to big concepts, and a cast of animal cartoon characters to love and share adventures with, this series adds up to mathematical genius!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £7.99)