Dazzling Christmas delights for young readers by various authors - book reviews -

Enjoy Santa Claus’s very own instruction manual, get hands-on with Alice in Wonderland, invent your own board games, marvel at Sleeping Beauty in colourful 3D, and meet some perfectly polite penguins in a fantastic array of children’s books.

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 10:18 am
Updated Thursday, 28th November 2019, 10:19 am

Enjoy Santa Claus’s very own instruction manual, get hands-on with Alice in Wonderland, invent your own board games, marvel at Sleeping Beauty in colourful 3D, and meet some perfectly polite penguins in a fantastic array of children’s books.

Age 5 plus:

Santa’s Christmas Handbook

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Christopher Edge

It’s a secret known only by the North Pole Christmas elves… Santa Claus is very, very accident-prone!

And not only that, the cheery old man doesn’t get on well with gadgets and gizmos. So to stop him groaning about it being ‘that time of year again,’ and to make his life easier, his helpful little elves have written their very own handbook for Santa.

Open the pages of this beautifully produced and presented book and enjoy discovering all the instructions he needs to head off on his magical (Speedster GT) sleigh and deliver presents to children around the world in just one night.

Packed with information to entertain and explain, Santa’s Christmas Handbook – which comes from the fertile imagination of award-winning author Christopher Edge – includes reindeer tips, reminders about presents, useful tools like Santa Nav, and the magical jingle bell that summons help.

Search out intriguing notes and messages, lift flaps to make fascinating discoveries, look what’s under Santa’s beard and inside his First Aid kit, play a spin-the-wheel game, and turn the miniature page to see what’s inside your very own North Pole passport.

A laughter-packed peek behind the scenes at the North Pole… and a thrilling Christmas gift for all youngsters who are curious about Santa!

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £16.99)

Age 5 plus:

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

Written by Lewis Carroll and illustrated by MinaLima

Fall down the rabbit hole with Alice and make your own hands-on discoveries with this fabulous, interactive edition of Lewis Carroll’s eternally joyous books.

Carroll’s treasured, classic stories are reimagined in spectacular form in this deluxe illustrated gift edition with stunning full-colour artwork and fantastic interactive features designed by MinaLima, the award-winning design studio behind the graphics for the Harry Potter film franchise.

Originally published in 1865, Lewis Carroll’s exquisite Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass have remained revered classics for generations. The story of Alice, an inquisitive young girl who falls down a rabbit hole and into a whimsical world, has captured the hearts of readers of all ages.

Perhaps the most popular female character in English literature, Alice is accompanied on her journey of trials and tribulations by the frantic White Rabbit, the demented and terrifying Queen of Hearts, the intriguing Mad Hatter, and many other eccentric characters.

And now Carroll’s two stories, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and the crazy cast have been reinvented with thrilling interactive features including Alice with extendable legs and arms, the rabbit’s house which opens to reveal a giant Alice, the Cheshire cat with a pull tab that removes the cat and leaves the cat’s grin, a flamingo croquet club that swings to hit the hedgehog, and a removable map of the Looking Glass world.

This keepsake illustrated edition is the sixth book in Harper Design’s imaginative series of illustrated children’s classics and is guaranteed to be treasured by families for years to come.

(Harper Design, hardback, £25)

Age 5 plus:

Board Games to Create and Play

Kevan Davis and Viviane Schwarz

You can never get bored with board games… particularly over the Christmas holidays!

With board games firmly back in fashion, and board game cafes popping up all across the UK, they are no longer just for rainy days and holidays but a fun and social activity for every day of the year.

So here’s an ingenious, all-in-one creative board game kit which lets you invent hundreds of games of your own to play with friends and family. With over 55 boards to customise, Board Games to Create and Play is a doodle book in which every page is an unfinished table top game.

Learn the basic concepts and in half an hour, you and your family and friends can come up with a new game and create the next Snakes and Ladders, Monopoly, Ticket to Ride or Settlers. Simply decide on a theme for the game, pick a rule set from the book, agree on some variations, doodle on to one of many board game designs, and gather your dice and counters!

The book is packed with tips, tricks and mechanics on how to design the perfect game, including an introduction to how everything works, what you will need to play the games, a cheat sheet to get players started, and lots of suggested games to push you in the right direction.

Each board you create is easy to pull out of the book and can be played again and again, so whether you play video games, mobile games or want to have a go at designing the next classic table top games, this gift of a book really is a game changer!

(Pavilion Children’s Books, hardback, £22)

Age 7 plus:

The Wind in the Willows

Kenneth Grahame and Grahame Baker-Smith

‘There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.’

First published in 1908 by Scottish author Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows is still one of our favourite children’s books. The classic tale of a group of animal friends who enjoy fun and adventures in the countryside has a timeless charm which has enchanted readers for over one hundred years.

The exploits of Mole, Ratty (who is actually a vole!), Toad, and Badger are celebrated for their spirit of camaraderie, their joie de vivre and their evocation of bucolic delights, and all these elements are brought to glorious life in this new Templar Classic unabridged edition, lavishly illustrated by self-taught artist Grahame Baker-Smith.

Greenaway medal-winner Baker-Smith, whose love for drawing is a passionate and all-consuming activity, has created a breathtaking gallery of full-colour, exquisitely detailed and atmospheric illustrations to accompany Kenneth Grahame’s exciting and nostalgic story.

Join Mole, Ratty, Badger and the mischievous Mr Toad as they enjoy picnics by the riverbank, share adventures with upturned caravans and stolen motor cars, and battle to save Toad Hall from the wicked creatures from the Wild Wood.

This stunning gift edition is the perfect gift for young readers… and a trip down memory lane for adults.

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £14.99)

Age 9 plus:

Rose Campion and the Christmas Mystery

Lyn Gardner

It might be Christmas but Victorian orphan Rose Campion has a mystery to solve before she can enjoy the season of goodwill!

Rose Campion and the Christmas Mystery is the final book in a cracking middle grade trilogy from Lyn Gardner which has followed the fortunes and misfortunes of a foundling girl left as a baby by her mother at the door of Campion’s Palace of Variety and Wonders in London.

So sit back and enjoy the ride through the city’s murky streets and bright theatre lights as Gardner bows out of a series which has enthralled young readers with its tension, atmosphere and sparkling characters.

Although Rose loves her life at the variety hall with her many good friends, she never stops wondering who she really is. And as the pantomime season arrives, Rose has more to worry about than who will be filling the role of Cinderella.

The Duchess – the deadly ruler of the London criminal underworld – has been released from prison, and she has her sights set not only on Rose, but also on a priceless emerald necklace that has just arrived in the city.

Meanwhile, Campion’s is playing host to the mysterious hypnotist Madame de Valentina, but how is she able to communicate with the souls of departed loved ones… before they have died?

Brimming with danger, excitement, theatricals and friendship, this is an action-packed and thrill-a-minute final act that will have young readers clapping their hands with glee, and trying to solve the mystery right through to the last page!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £5.99)

Age 6 plus:

Princess of Pets: The Snowy Reindeer

Paula Harrison and Olivia Chin Mueller

Helping animals in need can sometimes mean breaking the rules!

If wintertime, magic, animals and princesses are the number one ingredients on your child’s must-have reading list, then this sparkling, snow-filled adventure could fit the bill this Christmas.

The Snowy Reindeer is the new book in the illustrated Princess of Pets Series which features fabulous stories starring animal-loving Princess Bea who just happens to live in a royal palace where no pets are allowed.

While visiting her cousins at the wintry Peruva Castle, Bea finds Marshmallow, a cold and hungry reindeer, hiding in the snow. But with party preparations keeping everyone busy, can Bea – who is supposed to be on her best behaviour – keep the little reindeer safe until she can find his family?

Written by best-selling children’s author Paula Harrison and exquisitely illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller, this is beautiful, heartwarming series full of kindness, caring, life lessons, and enchanting animals!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £5.99)

Age 7 plus:

Oxford Roald Dahl Thesaurus

Quentin Blake, Susan Rennie and Roald Dahl

The word is out… this is a spliffling thesaurus for all chiddlers, and even some adult human beans!

Enjoy a phizz-whizzing thesaurus of wonderful words invented by the late, great magical storyteller, Roald Dahl. It’s jammed full of words (both real and invented), Quentin Blake’s quirky illustrations, and language snippets to inspire children to write about anything… from witches and vegitibbles to outer space, food, giants and more!

From aardvark to zozimus, the Oxford Roald Dahl Thesaurus is a dictionary of everyday and unusual words, together with useful synonyms, related words and phrases, idioms and word origins. Cleverly organised into themes, young readers will find it is easy to find new and interesting words while they are writing.

Authoritative, engaging and accessible, and backed by Oxford’s language research programme and real citations from Roald Dahl’s children’s books, this inspirational and playful thesaurus includes Ringbelling Rhymes, Sparky Synonyms and Don't be Biffsquiggled tips to support creative writing.

A simply squacking Christmas gift for budding storytellers!

(Oxford University Press, hardback, £14.99)

Age 5 plus:

Christmas Is Coming! An Advent Book

Katie Hickey

Count down to the big day with this super-inventive picture book which features an exciting twist on the traditional advent calendar!

Every day of December brings a delightful new Christmas tradition to discover in an advent book that will keep little hands busy. Each flap on the cover of the book reveals an illustrated clue to a festive activity that can be found inside the pages.

It might be a recipe for a delicious home-made treat, instructions for crafts to enjoy at home, a game to play, a carol to sing, jokes to make you giggle, or a beautifully illustrated story to share with the whole family.

Ideal for families who love to put their own spin on celebrating the holidays, Christmas Is Coming! delivers fun-filled activities that can be enjoyed together year after year, and is brimming with Cornwall-based artist Katie Hickey’s enchanting, colourful illustrations which bring the magic of Christmas alive.

Hands-on entertainment in the run-up to Christmas!

(Chronicle Books, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

Sleeping Beauty

Katie Haworth and Dinara Mirtalipova

Watch the magic and marvels of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty spring to glorious life in a spectacular and inventive 3D pop-up picture book.

This magnificent edition of Sleeping Beauty, richly illustrated by self-taught Uzbeksitan-born artist Dinara Mirtalipova, tells the favourite fairy story in a unique layered format with each page springing out into a three-dimensional paper-cut scene.

When a king and queen are delivered of their longed-for baby daughter, Briar Rose – named after the flowers that twist up the walls of their castle – they ask the fairies of their kingdom to bless her. But one of the fairies is not invited and she curses the girl who must now sleep for 100 years until she is woken by a prince.

A triumph of paper engineering, and with Mirtalipova’s wonderfully vivid, richly detailed and colourful artwork inspired by Uzbek and Russian folklore, this is a gift book to enchant, inspire and dazzle every lover (young or old!) of fairy tale magic.

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £14.99)

Age 2 plus:

Snow Still

Holly Surplice

Animal lover Holly Surplice weaves her winter magic on a picture book full of fun, adventure… and snow.

Sprinkled throughout with glittering silver foil, Snow Still is a picture book just made for the warmth, beauty and cosiness of Christmas as an enchanting little fawn sets of on a snow-filled adventure through the countryside.

The fawn wakes up to discover that the world outside has changed after a fall of snow. As he takes his first faltering steps into this exciting snow-white world, he finds there’s so much to explore. But then it’s time to return home to the warmth of home, where his mummy and daddy are waiting for him.

Surplice, a gifted author and illustrator who grew up on a farm in Scotland, employs all her creative talents on this delightful picture book which combines the simplest of words with captivating illustrations to win the hearts of readers both young and old.

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £11.99)

Age 2 plus:

Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Frozen

What do you get if you cross a narwhal with a reindeer? A nardeer, of course!

Award-winning illustrator Axel Scheffler, best known for his partnership with Julia Donaldson on international bestseller The Gruffalo, makes a welcome return with a new winter-themed book in his much-loved Flip Flap series.

This new surprise-packed, flip-the-pages masterpiece features amazing combinations to create a book full of crazy mixed-up creatures with wonderfully bonkers names. The ingenious split pages are the catalyst to turn familiar creatures into some very strange – and hilarious – birds, sea creatures and animals!

With a clever rhyming text and brilliantly cheeky and characterful illustrations from Scheffler, little ones will love simply flipping the pages to create some seriously silly creatures that live in our planet’s coldest climates.

Youngsters will love crossing a penguin with a beluga to make a penuga, or mixing a puffin with a polar bear to create a polfin! With over 121 possible combinations, silly names and strange noises to make you giggle, this stylish and imaginative new Flip Flap book from the master of illustrative disguise is a quirky and entertaining Christmas gift.

(Nosy Crow, hardback, £8.99)

Age 2 plus:

Winnie and Wilbur: The Santa Surprise

Laura Owen and Korky Paul

The countdown to Christmas has never been more fun as Winnie and Wilbur conjure up some magical mayhem!

The madcap adventures of Winnie the Witch and her black cat have provided spellbinding, bite-size stories for over three decades and now the two much-loved stars take centre stage again for a fantastic festive tale which sees the wily witch on a very special mission.

This action-packed, fun-filled new story comes in a handy-sized, chapter book format for young readers ready to move on to a longer story, but still packed with Korky Paul’s distinctive and stylish colour illustrations.

Here we find Winnie and Wilbur setting off an epic quest to make sure that poor old Santa gets a present too.

Everyone knows that Santa brings presents at Christmas but who gives Santa his present? It’s a question that suddenly pops into Winnie’s head and she is determined to make sure that this year, Santa is going to get a Christmas surprise. It just needs a plan, a plan that includes getting presents, wrapping presents and delivering presents to Santa, and then arriving home in time to open their stockings on Christmas Day. Nothing could possibly go wrong…

Winnie and Wilbur’s escapades are always mad, bad and dangerously hilarious, but scatterbrained Winnie is not as simple as she seems with her comic capers and special brand of frantic fun often delivering some important life lessons for young readers.

Little children will love Paul’s highly detailed and playful illustrations while Laura Owen’s sparkling festive story is guaranteed to cast a spell over all the family this Christmas!

(OUP, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Perfectly Polite Penguins

Georgiana Deutsch and Ekaterina Trukhan

Get ready to laugh out loud when a naughty little penguin starts a madcap rebellion!

Penguins are always perfectly polite. They wait their turn, they share their toys and they never forget to say please or thank you. But then Polly the not-so-polite penguin decides that being polite is boring! And when the other penguins start to agree… Uh oh! It’s chaos!

Find out what happens when Polly’s bad manners start rubbing off on the whole penguin clan. Can chaos be averted for the sake of baby Peter who just wants to be quiet?

With amusing characters, including the naughty but irresistibly funny Polly, Ekaterina Trukhan’s bold, bright and simply picture perfect illustrations, this warm-hearted, enchanting and playful story speaks loudly about minding your manners and respecting the wishes of others.

The ideal cautionary tale for you own little mischief-makers!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Christmas Extravaganza Hotel

Tracey Corderoy and Tony Neal

Improvisation is the order of the day at the calm and cosy Extravaganza Hotel!

Award-winning children’s author Tracey Corderoy and illustrator and Tony Neal work their Christmas magic in this beguiling picture book about a cheery little Frog looking for a supersonic festive season at the Extravaganza Hotel, and ending up in exactly the wrong place!

Bear is ready for a quiet, simple Christmas in his cosy cottage in the countryside when a little Frog turns up on his doorstep ready for a tinsel-tastic season filled with lights, a tree, flying reindeer and a supersonic sleigh ride. But the hotel he booked into is on the other side of the world… can Bear put the glitter back into Frog’s Christmas?

The joys of creating and discovering the unexpected take centre stage in this extravaganza of festive fun, twinkling frost and iced pastries as Corderoy makes us smile and laugh, and Neal brings us lively illustrations, full of detail, and bursting with colour and capers.

The perfect for cosy fireside book to share with your own little cubs...

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Pip and Posy: The Christmas Tree

Axel Scheffler

Award-winning author and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s funny, festive and cautionary tale starring his much-loved animal friends Pip and Posy delivers an extra sprinkling of Christmas magic.

The delightful Pip and Posy picture books deal with the dramas of pre-schoolers. The little mouse and rabbit are best friends and have fun but sometimes, just like any other toddler, they get cross, sad and do naughty things. It takes friendship, sharing and understanding – and a cuddle – to make things better.

Here we find Pip and Posy busy decorating the tree with candy sticks, biscuits, and a beautiful sugar star. But the strange thing is that every time Posy goes out of the room, she returns to find one less decoration on the tree. Eventually, there are no decorations left at all… oh, dear!

Little readers will enjoy the moment when Posy finds Pip lying on the sofa, feeling sick from eating too many sweets… but will they guess how she decides to tackle Pip’s naughtiness?

Scheffler is on top form in this festive cracker as the illustrator of The Gruffalo teaches gentle lessons about learning from mistakes, forgiveness… and the benefits of brushing your teeth!

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas

Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini

Christmas wishes come true in a cute, cosy and utterly enchanting picture book story from the much-loved wordsmith whizz Tracey Corderoy.

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas, a heartwarming twist on Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, puts kindness and friendship first as a lonely little mouse sets out on a snow-filled adventure just when we all thought not a mouse was stirring!

It’s Christmas Eve and everyone is fast asleep… except for a sad little mouse who lives in the grandfather clock and would dearly love to have a friend to give gifts to. But when Santa arrives, lost in a blizzard, Mouse is the only one who can show him the way and together they embark on a magical sleigh ride, delivering presents all around town. And the best present of all is for Mouse… a special friend to share his Christmas Day!

This rhyming Christmas odyssey, filled with extra colour and magic by Sarah Massini’s beautiful illustrations, embodies all the warmth, wonder, joy and love of the season, and will find a special place in the heart of all young readers.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Snow Bunny’s Christmas Gift

Rebecca Harry

Friendship proves to be the greatest gift of all in a gorgeous new picture book filled with the stunning illustrations of Rebecca Harry.

Snow Bunny’s Christmas Gift, a touching tale about a little bunny with a big heart and the true gift of friendship, is part of the Christmas Classics Series and with enchanting illustrations, a warm, cosy story, and eye-catching silver foil on every page, this is a truly sparkling gift.

Little Snow Bunny loves nothing better than playing with her friends in the wintry forest. Every day holds the promise of adventure for Snow Bunny, Fox, Bear and Mouse. But one freezing day, no one wants to play because it’s so cold and Snow Bunny is left all alone. Whatever will she do? With a little luck and a lot of imagination, she makes cosy winter gifts for all her friends… just in time for Christmas Eve.

With a host of baby animals to meet, resonant message of kindness and friendship, Harry’s endearing illustrations, and an irresistible silver glow, this is a magical gift for your little ones.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Little Robin Red Vest

Jan Fearnley

A friend in need is a friend indeed in a timeless tale about the joy of giving.

Award-winning author-illustrator Jan Fearnley pulls on our heartstrings in her beautiful picture book which blends a story of selflessness and kindness with stunning illustrations steeped in colour and atmosphere.

One frosty evening, a week before Christmas, Little Robin washes and irons seven warm vests for the chilly nights to come. As the days go by, he comes across lots of shivering animals and kindly offers them his vests to wear. But by Christmas Eve, Little Robin is cold, alone and far from home with no vests left. That is, until a very special someone arrives to reward all his kindness!

With a silver-foiled front cover, rich and expressive illustrations, and a story to warm the cockles of every reader’s heart, this is the perfect snuggle-up Christmas book to share with your little ones.

(Nosy Crow, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Britta Teckentrup

Enjoy an exciting, brand-new look at one of the most traditional festive season songs, The Twelve Days of Christmas, with this wonderful peep-through board book featuring a pair of playful elves.

One of children’s books most talented and prolific illustrators, Britta Teckentrup is on song as her vibrant pictures and an ingenious cut-out design take children on a magical trip through the verses of the well-loved refrain. The holes in the pages reveal each new Christmas gift, creating a stunning layered effect and bringing the words to life.

Little ones will delight in seeing the gradual appearance of swans a-swimming, geese a-laying, maids a-milking and all the other amazing creatures and characters featured in the song.

Immaculately produced and packed with innovative ideas, this is the perfect gift for your own little elves!

(Little Tiger Press, board book, £6.99)