Enjoy a winter wonderland of Christmas children’s books By various authors - book reviews -

Make your child’s Christmas extra special this year with a glittering array of books which are guaranteed to make the whole family smile.

Tuesday, 3rd November 2020, 3:45 pm
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland
Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

Age 7 plus:

Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland

Written by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by Chris Riddell

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Take Lewis Carroll’s eternally enchanting classic tale of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, bring them to life with the unique illustrations of the talented Chris Riddell, and you have this year’s dream gift book for readers of every age.

First published by Macmillan in 1865, Carroll’s iconic story – starring one the most popular female characters in English literature – has been loved and enjoyed by generations of children, and this sumptuous hardback, gold-foiled and jacketed edition is brimming with Riddell’s gloriously imaginative colour illustrations.

And Costa Award- and Kate Greenaway Medal-winner Riddell certainly works his creative magic on this stunning edition which has been published in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the book’s original illustrator, Sir John Tenniel, who was a cartoonist for Punch.

And in a pleasing stroke of serendipity, Riddell is also an exceptional artist and political cartoonist for The Observer, creating some of the best loved and instantly recognisable illustrations of the 21st century.

Riddell’s rich and evocative interpretation of Carroll's world brings new light and life to Alice’s memorable journey of trials and tribulations in the company of the charming White Rabbit, the terrifying Queen of Hearts, the intriguing Mad Hatter, the grinning Cheshire Cat, and many other well-known eccentric characters.

With a ribbon marker to complete the package, this is the perfect gift for families, children and all fans of an all-time classic.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £25)

Age 10 plus:

She Will Soar: Bright, brave poems about freedom by women

Ana Sampson

‘My soul is awakened, my spirit is soaring…’

What better words than Anne Brontë’s to illustrate this stunning gift book featuring 130 inspirational poems about wanderlust, freedom and escape written by an array of talented women down the centuries.

She Will Soar comes from bestselling anthologist Ana Sampson whose breathtaking collection of poetry in She is Fierce celebrated the brave, bold, beauty of women’s poetry and inspired a new generation of budding feminists.

And now she turns her eye and ear to the strength and beauty of women’s poetry which has too often been neglected or ignored, giving a welcome voice to a bold choir of women, from frustrated housewives and passionate activists, and from servants and suffragettes to some of today’s most gifted writers, all shouting for independence or celebrating their new-found power.

With works from classic, well-loved poets as well as innovative and bold modern voices, She Will Soar is a stunning collection and includes poems by Carol Ann Duffy, Christina Rossetti, Stevie Smith, Sarah Crossan, Emily Dickinson, Salena Godden, Mary Jean Chan, Charly Cox, Nikita Gill, Fiona Benson, Hollie McNish and Grace Nichols.

Cleverly collated and brimming with the resonant voices of women poets from the ancient past to the present, and from all corners of the globe, these impressively diverse poems are yet more proof that female poets speak loudly and eloquently, and are at the heart of literary life.

The perfect gift package for budding poets and all lovers of inspirational verse…

(Macmillan Children’s Books, hardback, £14.99)

Age 9-90:

A Poem for Every Winter Day

Edited by Allie Esiri

As the season of snow, ice, cosy fireside evenings and Christmas festivities draws near, there could be no better time to celebrate winter than with some of the best and most inspirational poems.

Expertly curated by award-winning and bestselling poetry anthologist Allie Esiri, A Poem for Every Winter Day is brimming with verse that will transport readers to sparkling wintry landscapes, from snowy woodland walks to the long-ago journey of the Magi.

The poems have been selected from Esiri’s bestselling poetry anthologies, A Poem for Every Day of the Year and A Poem for Every Night of the Year, and are perfect for reading aloud and sharing with all the family.

With a dazzling array of familiar favourites and remarkable new discoveries, these seasonal poems – together with introductory paragraphs – are full of the ever-changing light and darkness of winter, and have a link to the date on which they appear.

There are two poems for each day of the season, from December 1 right through to February 29, and the work covers a wide range of poets, both traditional and excitingly new, and includes Mary Oliver, Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Hardy, E. E. Cummings and Robert Burns who sit alongside Joseph Coelho, George the Poet, Benjamin Zephaniah and Jackie Kay.

Esiri is an insightful and sensitive anthologist and her introductions give readers a window into each poem and its relevance to topics like war, religion or simply the joys of the season, making the book ideal for reading aloud and sharing with all the family.

Soul-enhancing, comforting, enlightening and uplifting, this is the perfect pick-me-up gift for the year of pandemic.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £14.99)

Age 12 plus:

Poems to Save the World With

Chosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell

In a world where happiness and hope have too often been dimmed by the ravages of the pandemic, raise your spirits and find comfort through the panacea of poetry in an inspirational new book from award-winning author, illustrator, political cartoonist and former Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell.

In his follow-up to Poems to Live Your Life By and bestselling anthology Poems to Fall in Love With, Riddell plots a redeeming path of gorgeously illustrated verse through the turbulent, troubled world in which now live.

As a new lockdown beckons and more challenges lie ahead, this uplifting new anthology about positivity, activism, and hope during dark days aims to galvanise, offer strength and inspire readers to consider how humanity will heal the wounds that the pandemic has left behind.

Also designed to ignite your inner activist, these poems speak loudly of hope, happiness, rebellion and living through a pandemic, and feature famous verse, both old and new, and a few surprises… all brought to vivid life by Riddell’s intricate, richly detailed and exquisitely expressive black and white illustrations.

Classic verse from the likes of Emily Dickinson, John Dryden, William Wordsworth and Rudyard Kipling sits comfortably alongside the modern poetry of Neil Gaiman, Nikita Gill, Maggie Smith, Brian Bilston, Raymond Antrobus and Fiona Benson to create the ultimate collection.

Covering a whole spectrum of ideas and themes, and with a gallery of breathtaking artwork, this is a feast of words and pictures for nations starved of hope.

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

Age 7 plus:

The Iron Man

Ted Hughes and Chris Mould

Enjoy Ted Hughes’ classic, cautionary tale as The Iron Man gets a spectacular new look in this exciting edition which has been brought to vibrant life by award-winning illustrator Chris Mould.

A new generation of readers who have maybe not yet met Hughes’ larger-than-life and endlessly fascinating anti-hero will be entranced by Mould’s stunning artwork which captures perfectly the atmosphere and dynamics of the story.

The Iron Man came to the top of the cliff. Where had he come from? Nobody knows. How was he made? Nobody knows. Mankind must put a stop to the dreadful destruction by the Iron Man and set a trap for him, but he cannot be kept down. One little boy realises that the Iron Man is not here to destroy the Earth and when a terrible monster from outer space threatens to lay waste to the planet, it is the Iron Man who finds a way to save the world.

With resonant messages about not judging on appearances, a story filled with wonder, and a gallery of evocative and eye-catching illustrations, this modern fairy tale is a makeover made perfectly for Christmas giving.

(Faber & Faber, paperback, £9.99)

Age 6 plus:

Flags of the World Book and Jigsaw

Sue Meredith, Jos Poels and Ian McNee

Learn to recognise the different coloured flags of the world… and have fun while you’re doing it!

There won’t be a dull moment on long winter days when youngsters keep their hands and minds busy with this striking 300-piece jigsaw which shows the national flags of every independent country in the world.

With a 40-page book about flags to browse through and a colourful jigsaw to piece together and discover each country’s flag, there are hours of constructive fun to enjoy. And with each flag labelled, the completed puzzle provides a great learning and memory aid to return to again and again.

A gift for all the family to share!

(Usborne book and jigsaw, £9.99)

Age 5 plus:

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Grandma is Overly Generous

Alex T. Smith

The twelve days of Christmas have more of a chaotic ring than the traditional five gold rings in a hilarious, fun-filled seasonal special from creative author illustrator Alex T. Smith.

This gorgeously illustrated, warm and witty reimagining of the classic song is rewritten and illustrated by Smith, creator of the Claude series and How Winston Delivered Christmas, and comes packed with festive fun, madcap antics and brilliant eye-catching illustrations.

On the first day of Christmas my Grandma sent to me… Eloise’s grandma is very generous and sends her a wonderful gift on each day of the twelve days of Christmas. Her presents may start off sensible – she is delighted with her partridge in a pear tree and a partridge is easy enough to take care of – but as the days go by, her generosity soon gets wildly out of hand.

With mishaps and misadventures, a wonderful creative twist on an old classic, and bright and bold illustrations to enjoy, this captivating Christmas cracker is the perfect gift for your little ones.

(Macmillan Children’s Books, paperback, £9.99)

Age 3 plus:

Counting Creatures

Julia Donaldson and Sharon King-Chai

There are gorgeous baby creatures on every page in a thrilling counting book from the nation’s favourite children’s author, Julia Donaldson, and visionary illustrator Sharon King-Chai.

This exquisite exploration of numbers, and animals and their young ones, comes with a multitude of ingeniously designed and shaped peep-through pages, as well as visually exciting fold-out flaps, from the top team who created the award-winning Animalphabet.

With Donaldson’s delightful signature rhymes, written as a surprise search-and-find game, and all brought to life by King-Chai’s exquisite, eye-catching artwork and an exotic array of birds and animals, this stunning visual and verbal feast of counting is guaranteed to win the hearts of all young readers.

From a leopard with her cubs and a wild dog with its pups, to a frog and its tadpoles and an Arctic hare with its leverets, little ones will delight in counting each creature’s babies and seeing where they live.

King-Chai’s sumptuous, vibrant artwork, the cleverly designed and shaped pages, and Donaldson’s rhythmic words make Counting Creatures a rich learning experience and a delight to read aloud and share.

(Two Hoots, hardback, £14.99)

Age 3 plus:

Too Much Stuff

Emily Gravett

Too much of a good thing tips the balance into disaster in an outrageously witty and clever picture book from multi-talented author and illustrator Emily Gravett.

As Christmas draws near, Gravett – winner of two CILIP Kate Greenaway Medals – works her trademark animal magic on a beautifully imagined, cautionary tale about the dangers of having (or wanting!) too many things.

Packed with gorgeous illustrations, creative rhymes, and timely messages, Too Much Stuff is set in the same forest as Gravett’s award-winning book Tidy, featuring a host of gorgeous woodland animals, including clean-up king, Pete the badger.

Meg and Ash are a pair of magpies who are building a nest for their perfect eggs. Although they begin building their nest using the usual mud, sticks and grass, Meg and Ash are soon convinced that their nest doesn’t have enough stuff and begin to collect more and more things to add to an ever-growing pile. From cuckoo clocks to mops and socks, a pram, a waste bin and even a car, their need for stuff seems endless. Until – crash! – the inevitable happens!

Gravett again she uses her artistic skills, creative imagination and a cast of adoring animals to convey gentle messages to little ones as well as delivering a tasty visual and verbal Christmas treat full of exquisitely detailed artwork, storytelling surprises and laugh-out-loud fun.

And with extra special, artistic detail on the book jacket and end pages of this sumptuously produced hardback, this is the perfect gift for the season of giving… and receiving!

(Two Hoots, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Santa Sound Book

Sam Taplin and Violeta Dabija

Watch little faces light up as they hear the world of Santa come to life in this enchanting, illustrated sound book just made for little hands.

Step into a night of wintry magic where Christmas music plays, elves crunch through the snow and get busy in the workshop, where Santa reads his letters by a crackling fire and the sleigh whooshes through a starry sky to deliver all those exciting presents.

Curious youngsters will adore pressing the buttons and peering through intriguing peep-holes to join Santa and the elves on a night of jingling, jangling Christmas joy!

(Usborne, board book, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Dinosaur Play Pad

Kirsteen Robson and Christine Sheldon

Keep little hands out of mischief this Christmas with a roaringly good dinosaur play pad.

With lots of puzzles to get their teeth into, and thirty pictures to colour, youngsters will have fun completing all the dinosaur-themed activities in this practical and sturdy tear-off pad.

Spot the differences, find and count all kinds of animals, draw paths through mazes, and complete pictures by joining the dots, or drawing over dotted lines. And on the back of each sheet, they can learn about the dinosaurs and colour a simple black and white dinosaur picture.

And if they are still eager to learn more, there is even a guide to saying all those dinosaur names.

Hours of prehistoric fun!

(Usborne, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Lift-the-Flap Play Hide and Seek With Reindeer

Sam Taplin and Gareth Lucas

Play hide and seek with a cast of comical creatures in a beautiful, winter-themed, lift-the-flap book.

There’s an animal hiding behind each big flap, and some intriguing peep-holes to keep everyone guessing, in this brightly coloured and playful book.

Little children will love joining Reindeer, Fox, Owl, Squirrel and all the other animals for their game of hide and seek, and there is lots to look at and talk about along the way.

With Gareth Lucas’s adorable illustrations and a double fold-out surprise at the end that is guaranteed to get everyone in a flap, Christmas fun starts here!

(Usborne, board book, £7.99)

Age one plus:

Supertato Super Squad

Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Supertato, the chunky superhero who is always there when the chips are down, is on the boil again in a new, laugh-out-loud mini adventure!

This wacky new calorie-consuming caper amongst fridges, friends and foes has been cooked up by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, the much-loved, award-winning duo whose books have sold over 1.6 million copies to date.

Supertato Super Squad, which comes in a sturdy, super-tactile board book format with a shorter text and bold artwork, is filled with Hendra and Linnet’s trademark veggie fun, and is guaranteed to be an a-peeling gift for all pre-schoolers.

Supertato has enlisted his Super Squad – Pineapple, Carrot, Broccoli and Cucumber – in his plan to stop the Evil Pea from being so naughty. But first, he’s going to need a box, some string and some… cupcakes? What on Earth is Supertato up to?

There could be no better way to introduce little ones to everyone’s favourite swashbuckling spud and with message about kindness, a colourful array of curiously shaped pages, and baby-friendly format, one taste of Supertato will have little ones begging for more!

(Simon & Schuster, board book, £8.99)

Age six months plus:

That’s Not My Fairy Book and Toy

Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells

Five little fairies are taking flight… and they are heading straight into little ones’ hearts!

Get your hands on this gorgeous touchy-feely book and adorably cuddly toy in a bewitching gift set from top children’s publisher Usborne whose much-loved and award-winning That’s not my... series has been a bestseller and a favourite with both parents and children for over 20 years.

The simple text, bold, colourful illustrations and tactile patches are irresistible to babies and toddlers who love turning the pages and touching the ‘feely’ patches which are specially designed to develop sensory and language awareness

Here we meet five fairies with their shiny dresses, sparkly wands and fluffy wings, and as an added delight, children can cuddle the plush fairy as they listen to the book being read.

So let the youngest family members have a hand in all the fun of Christmas as they touch the textured patches, follow the story and look for the little white mouse on every page.

A gift guaranteed to fly off the shelves!

(Usborne, board book and toy, £16)

Age from birth:

Dear Santa

Rod Campbell

What exciting surprises does Santa have this year?

For over thirty-five years, Rod Campbell has been writing and illustrating children’s books and his classic lift-the-flap Dear Zoo has delighted millions of little ones across the world.

And now 2020 marks the fifteenth anniversary of his Christmas special, Dear Santa, another enchanting book which lets pre-schoolers lift the flaps to discover what gifts Father Christmas has sent… and then find the perfect present at the end.

Campbell uses simple, easy-to-follow sentences and bright, bold, appealing artwork to bring to life the wonder of Christmas and the joy of giving, and this chunky new board book edition, with its sturdy pages ideal for little hands, eye-catching gold foil cover, and touch-and-feel surprise ending, is the perfect gift to share and enjoy with your toddlers.

A hands-on winner!

(Macmillan Children’s Books , board book, £6.99)

Age from birth:

My Magical Snowman

Illustrated by Yujin Shin

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without an inventive board book to let the youngest family members get in on the fun, so let them push, pull and slide the tabs in this gorgeous interactive board book.

My Magical Snowman – a playful new adventure in Campbell Books’ exciting My Magical series – lets little ones enter a colourful, snow-filled world and go on an amazing Christmas adventure with a fun-loving snowman.

Children will love playing with the easy-to-handle mechanisms as they follow the simple, rhyming story, and have fun spotting lots of Christmas characters in four bright and busy magical scenes brought to life by Yujin Shin’s beautifully coloured illustrations

Perfect for little hands and with plenty to talk about on every page, My Magical Snowman provides gentle early learning and a magical introduction to the Christmas season.

(Campbell Books, board book, £5.99)