Book reviews: Step aboard for Christmas magic and mayhem

One Moonlit Night by Zanna Davidson and Seo Kim
One Moonlit Night by Zanna Davidson and Seo Kim

From magical journeys and make-believe worlds to ingenious activity books and musical singalongs, the season of Christmas comes alive in a fabulous selection of festive children’s books.

Age 3 plus:

One Moonlit Night by Zanna Davidson and Seo Kim

Life is an adventure for little ones and this magical book is guaranteed to carry them away on an unforgettable night-time journey!

One Moonlit Night is an exquisitely illustrated story… an enchanting, dream-weaving masterpiece of pop-up storytelling, bursting with dragons, starlight and adventure. You simply turn the pages to enter the magic and let your imagination take flight.

One moonlit night a little girl sails away in her silvery boat of dreams and follows the song of the breeze over stormy waters, on the leathery wings of a dragon who circles the moon, over islands with three-headed giants and onwards into an exciting adventure.

Perfect for bedtime, the incredible artwork from Seo Kim, Zanna Davidson’s lilting, lyrical text and remarkable paper engineering that creates spectacular pop-ups on every spread, bring this dream sequence narrative to glorious life.

With its atmospheric story, glittery cover, fabulous artwork and pop-up surprises, this is a truly spectacular gift book for readers young and old.

(Templar, hardback, £14.99)

Age 9 plus:

Winter Magic curated by Abi Elphinstone

What could be better on a winter’s night than snuggling up with magical stories about whirling snowflakes, husky-hauled sledges, frozen lakes, snow dragons and frost fairs?

Author Abi Elphinstone, who also teaches creative writing workshops in schools and loves the season of ice and glittering landscapes, has gathered together this beautiful, classic anthology of eleven fabulous, frosty short stories from a group of acclaimed children’s writers.

Michelle Magorian, Berlie Doherty, Lauren St John, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jamila Gavin, Emma Carroll and Katherine Woodfine are just some of the well-known names who have cast their own special spell over wintertime with exciting new versions of fairy stories, folk tales and thrilling lost legends.

Enjoy dancing with the Nutcracker ballet, skating on the frozen Thames and thrill to landscapes filled with snow queens, elf tunnels, time travellers, witches, pied pipers… and even renegade French teachers!

This is the joy and magic of winter captured perfectly in enchanting stories that will set young imaginations in flight and ensure children will return to the book time and time again.

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 8 plus:

Dinosaurium curated by Lily Murray and Chris Wormell

Follow in the footsteps of the most fearsome creatures ever to roam the world in this fantastic guide to the world of dinosaurs.

Dinosaurium is the perfect gift this Christmas, an exciting new addition to the Welcome To The Museum series from the Big Picture Press. It follows on from the hugely successful Historium, a collection of objects from ancient civilisations, Animalium, a detailed exploration of more than 160 animal specimens, and Botanicum, a super-sized book of stunning botanical delights.

Welcome To The Museum is a series of virtual museums which open 365 days a year and enable readers to wander the galleries from the comfort of home and discover a collection of curated exhibits on every page, all accompanied by informative text.

In this eye-catching new tour, which comes in the form of a large, high-quality book packed with amazing pictures and fascinating facts about dinosaurs, we learn how these creatures evolved, why some had feathers and others scales, what they ate and how they hunted.

Finely detailed and with incredibly coloured artwork from Chris Wormell, a self-taught artist who used a digital adaptation of the engraving process to create his stunning dinosaur images, each page also features an original wood cutting of plants typical to the age of the dinosaurs.

The Dinosaurium gallery, expertly curated to bring you the experience of a fascinating exhibition, features a comprehensive collection, from the much-loved Triceratops and legendary Tyrannosaurus Rex to lesser-known species such as Coelophysis and Tsintaosaurus.

So step inside the pages of this fantastic book and discover everything you need to know about the dynamic world of dinosaurs.

(Big Picture Press, hardback, £20)

Age 5 plus:

Beauty and the Beast by Katie Haworth and Dinara Mirtalipova

If the tale of Beauty and the Beast is starting to fall flat this Christmas, then watch it spring to life in this spectacular book!

This special edition of the legendary fairy tale recounts the classic story in a unique and magical 3D paper-layered presentation which is a triumph of paper engineering.

Watch little eyes pop out as Beauty and the Beast is retold in a magnificent ‘pop-in’ format. Each page has an aperture with a central picture, all lavishly illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova, and three layers of paper, cut to give the impression of a 3D scene.

When a merchant steals a rose from the garden of a terrifying beast, his youngest daughter Beauty agrees to go to the beast’s palace to save her father’s life. The story of how Beauty falls in love with the Beast and helps him to shake off a curse and turn back into a handsome prince is transformed into a visual delight through this breathtaking book.

A book to treasure for all fairy tale fans.

(Templar, hardback, £14.99)

Age 5 plus:

Press-Out and Colour: Unicorns Illustrated by Kate McLelland

Keep boredom at bay in the run-up to Christmas with an exciting and creative activity book from inventive children’s publisher Nosy Crow.

This unique and innovative spiral bound board book offers youngsters the chance to make 20 beautiful, press-out unicorns, all intricately decorated with pink foil and ideal for all ages to colour.

From flying unicorns and shooting stars to fluffy clouds and rainbows, these gorgeous press-out pictures, all illustrated with Kate McLelland’s detailed line drawings, are the last word in elegance.

Simply press out each piece, colour it in if the fancy takes you, and then slot them together to make ten magical, three-dimensional unicorns. These gorgeous, intricate unicorns are perfect to hang around the home or can be threaded into a super cute garland and will add sparkle to any setting, especially at Christmas. The unicorns are simple to take apart and press back into the book for easy storage, ensuring that they will last for years to come.

Ideal for older children to make on their own, or as a shared project with parents, these fabulous press-out unicorns are guaranteed to let young imaginations take flight …

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £9.99)

Age 4 plus:

Make and Play Nativity by Joey Chou

Also from Nosy Crow comes an exciting new activity board book which lets youngsters assemble their very own Nativity scene.

Featuring 20 unique and colourful designs, the press-out pieces can be simply slotted together to create bright and cheerful ornaments, ideal for making a festive display. The elements are simple to take apart and press back into the book for easy storage until next Christmas.

Featuring stunning artwork from hugely talented Joey Chou and with all the figures from the Nativity story – from Mary, Joseph and the three kings, to shepherds, cattle and even a tiny manger for Baby Jesus – these gorgeous models are perfect for teaching young children about the Nativity story and adding festive charm to any setting.

And after playing with the Nativity scene, the fun doesn’t stop! Children can also read the Nativity story, sing the Christmas carols and follow instructions to make some festive crafts, including an advent calendar and a Christmas angel.

Entertaining and yet educational too, this is the perfect book to keep little hands busy this Christmas.

(Nosy Crow, board book, £7.99)

Age 3 plus:

Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Karl James Mountford

If you are missing loved ones in far-off lands this Christmas, climb aboard the Reindeer Express and enjoy a thrilling adventure!

Peep-through pages, lift-the-flaps and breathtaking illustrations from star illustrator Karl James Mountford help to turn a festive fable into a magical odyssey in this wonderful winter-warming book.

Mia misses her Daddy. He can’t make it home for Christmas and everything has lost its sparkle. If only she could at least get her card to him. Mia’s wish seems to be granted when she discovers a world inside a mysterious post box and she is whisked away on a truly wonderful adventure over sparkling seas, snow-cloaked mountains and streets lit by paper stars. But what will Mia find at the end of her journey, and will she reach her dad in time for Christmas?

Maudie Powell-Tuck’s sparkling adventure encourages young readers to feel the warmth of Christmas, enjoy festive ingredients like cinnamon, sugar and smoky wood, and help them to understand that family is what truly makes the season special, no matter how far away they might be.

Mountford’s richly coloured and contrasting illustrations are full of intricate detail, inviting children to look a little closer and step beyond the beautiful cover with its intriguing cut-outs and onwards into a magical festive world.

The true spirit of Christmas in one enchanting book!

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Stink Before Christmas by Sam Nixon, Mark Rhodes and Tom Knight

It’s Christmas Eve and the wind is getting up… it could be an explosive night all round for Santa and his trusty reindeer!

Children and their parents will laughing their Christmas socks off when they whistle through the pages of this fun-filled spoof of a classic poem from BAFTA-winning children’s TV presenters Sam & Mark.

This is Sam Nixon and Mark Rhodes’ first ever picture book and with hilariously cheeky illustrations by Tom Knight, this parp-packed book is guaranteed to go down a treat with mischief-makers young and old.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, When all through the house, Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. But I’ll tell you what was stirring... ‘twas Santa’s big bottom!’

It’s time to deliver presents, but Santa’s tummy is feeling funny and he needs to let out parps along the way! But as a result, all the presents fall in the sea. Will Santa’s trusty reindeer come to the rescue after their brussels sprout snack?

The Stink Before Christmas comes complete with a suitably silly ‘Santa Stop Here’ door hanger to keep the laughs rumbling long after the last page has turned!

(Scholastic, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Supertato: Evil Pea Rules! by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Danger reaches boiling point again for Supertato… the most a-peeling veg in the supermarket!

Always there when the chips are down, Supertato is a picture book superhero with his eyes firmly fixed on the bad guys, and always ready to play out of his skin.

His wacky, calorie-consuming adventures amongst fridges, friends and foes have been cooked up by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, the formidable duo who created Barry the Fish with Fingers and Norman the Slug with the Silly Shell.

In his latest Christmas mission, the much-loved Supertato comes up against his nemesis… the Evil Pea. It’s all very well being a superhero and saving the day, but what if there was no one there to cause the chaos, to provide these heroes with their chances to shine? Would we even need superheroes? Fortunately, this isn’t something we will have to worry about any time soon because the Evil Pea is back and this time he has his biggest, most dastardly plan yet to take over the supermarket…

Enjoy another ice cold adventure with pineapples in peril and a ferocious freezy jet as the Evil Pea puts his Operation Freezification into action in this cracking Christmas veggie special.

Big, bold and bright illustrations help this funny, fast-moving vegetable adventure boil over as the spud with superpowers makes mincemeat of the perfidious pea.

One taste of Supertato and little ones will be begging for more!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Goodnight Baby Moon

Light up bedtime for your little ones with this very special book and its spectacular glowing moon!

There is so much to enjoy in this illuminated story about a family of curious rabbits watching the moon disappear and then learning that it always returns.

A beautiful light-up LED moon on the book cover, which gives off no heat and is completely safe for children, sheds a special glow as we follow the rabbits on their night-time strolls through the woods and see them gaze at the changing moon above. The rabbits wonder why it looks different and worry that it is disappearing but they soon learn that all will be well and the moon will return.

Goodnight Baby Moon is the perfect introduction to our moon for young children as it explains the different phases of the moon with an easy-to-follow, rhyming text, simple repeated phrases and beautiful spread designs.

See the crescent moon change to a full moon and discover tiny surprises along the way, such as friendly owls in trees and fluttering butterflies. Charming and unique, Goodnight Baby Moon is a stunning bedtime book and guaranteed to be a favourite with all the family.

(DK, board book, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

Singing in the Rain by Tim Hopgood, Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown

Music maestro, please! Let your little ones get into the swing of the Christmas season with this musical story and singalong CD extravaganza.

Based on the much-loved, classic Singing in the Rain by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, this gorgeous picture book takes you on an enchanting journey through a rain-soaked world with Tim Hopgood’s bold and evocative illustrations, and the words of the song ringing in everyone’s ears. ‘I’m singing in the rain, Just singing in the rain. What a glorious feeling. I’m happy again!’

The beautifully illustrated picture book celebrates rain and all its fun and comes with a CD of Singing in the Rain performed by Doris Day and a narration of the story with audible page-turn signals.

So jump in puddles, raise umbrellas, laugh at the clouds and dance with joy through the pages of this gorgeous story.

Sweet and positive in its message, with bright, eye-catching art, this book takes us from the darkness of storm clouds to the warm wet of the rainforest as we join in the fun of an uplifting and musical celebration of rain.

The perfect gift to share with all the family!

(Oxford University Press, hardback and CD, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Turkey That Voted For Christmas by Madeleine Cook and Samara Hardy

All the farm animals want to celebrate Christmas… except the turkeys, of course! Will they win the vote to halt a festive shindig… or will they end up well and truly stuffed?

Author Madeleine Cook and illustrator Samara Hardy – talented picture book creators of meaty Christmas favourites like The Mouse That Cancelled Christmas – are on top form as they cook up another tasty treat.

Children (and their parents!) will certainly be casting their votes in favour of this funny, festive story which features a raucous referendum romp down at Pear Tree Farm.

The farm animals love to vote… in fact, they will vote for almost anything! But when it comes to celebrating Christmas, the turkeys always vote ‘No.’ Only Timmy Turkey is different. He really wants to bring festive cheer to the farm, but how is he going to do it? Through a free and fair democratic electoral process… and with Timmy leading a brilliant campaign. But how will the animals vote, and how will they escape Farmer Carver’s turkey twizzling plans?

This comic caper puts a delicious contemporary spin on all those traditional Christmas stories as Timmy Turkey takes us to the poll and back in a brilliant tale brimming with warmth, wit and festive cheer.

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)