Let their imaginations take flight: SALLY MORRRIS chooses the best children’s books of the year
- Sally Morris rounded-up this year’s best books to gift children of all ages
- Stocking fillers include Lonely Christmas Tree and The Bolds’ Christmas Cracker
- Mouse’s Night Before Christmas is among the top picture books
MOUSE’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Tracey Corderoy illustrated by Sarah Massini (Nosy Crow £6.99)
MOUSE’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
by Tracey Corderoy illustrated by Sarah Massini (Nosy Crow £6.99)
’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house’ . . . except here a lonely little mouse is very much stirring, making a Christmas wish to find a friend. When Santa arrives and asks for help, Mouse steps up to the challenge and his dream comes true in heartwarming style. A rhyming joy.
WOLF IN THE SNOW
by Matthew Cordell (Andersen Press £6.99)
This stunning, almost wordless story sees a little girl in a red coat and hood walk home from school in a blizzard and discover a tiny wolf cub separated from his pack. Lost together, she hears the parent wolf’s cries and bravely returns him before surrendering to the weather — only to discover one good turn deserves another. Beautiful.
by Kes Gray illustrated by Jim Field (Hodder £12.99)
The latest in the deservedly award-winning Oi series introduces us to an unruly gaggle of puppies who refuse to sit on guppies, as instructed, and instead run riot.
Fortunately, the ever-resourceful frog has the answer in this laugh-out-loud rhyming book that plays hilariously with words.
THREE LITTLE MONKEYS RIDE AGAIN by Quentin Blake illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark (HarperCollins £12.99)
THE FATE OF FAUSTO
by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins £16.99)
This deceptively simple story, illustrated in a palette of bright pink and yellow on muted earth backgrounds, is a salutary and highly entertaining fable about the abuse of power and greed, in which Fausto, a tyrannical bully who believes he owns everything, is taught a valuable lesson when he claims to own the sea. Jeffers is a genius.
THREE LITTLE MONKEYS RIDE AGAIN
by Quentin Blake illustrated by Emma Chichester Clark (HarperCollins £12.99)
In search of peace and quiet, Hilda takes her three little monkeys, Tim, Sam and Lulu, to visit her mother in the country. Left to themselves, however, the monkeys create the sort of havoc that will have every child gasping in a mixture of shock and envy. Fabulous.
THE CRAYONS’ CHRISTMAS
by Drew Daywalt illustrated by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins £14.99)
Fans of The Crayons will love this Christmas caper, packed with interactive games, letters to open and things to make, as the fiercely outspoken colours assert their independence while never forgetting Duncan, the little boy who gave them a home. Bonkers but brilliant.
by Emily Gravett (Two Hoots £12.99)
The sweltering Kalahari doesn’t resemble the Christmas that Sunny the meerkat sees in his magazine, so he sets off round the world in search of snow and Brussels sprouts — only to find that the one ingredient for a perfect Christmas is much closer to home.
Lots of lovely lift-the-flaps as the wonderful Gravett delivers festive fun.
by Jon Klassen (Candlewick Press £38.97)
The ultimate treat for anyone you love is this gorgeous boxed set of Jon Klassen’s trilogy of Hat books: I Want My Hat Back, This Is Not My Hat and We Found A Hat, plus a print. Klassen’s dark, dry humour and powerfully expressive illustrations are worthy of endless re-readings. I’m keeping this for myself…
THE SNOW DRAGON by Abi Elphinstone illustrated by Fiona Woodcock (S&S £7.99)
THE SNOW DRAGON
by Abi Elphinstone
illustrated by Fiona Woodcock (S&S £7.99)
This abridged edition of Abi Elphinstone’s touching story about a little girl desperate to be adopted and find love is transformed by Fiona Woodcock’s stunning dream-like illustrations, whisking the reader into a sparkling, icy landscape where you’ll believe almost anything is possible. Age 5-7
by Sophie Dahl
illustrated by Lauren O’Hara (Walker Books £12.99)
Any imaginative child will warm to this funny, touching story of lonely only child Mabel, who lives in her parent’s Mermaid Hotel and grows suspicious of a mysterious new female guest. Beautifully illustrated, this is a joyous debut from Roald Dahl’s granddaughter. Age 5-7
THE TIME OF GREEN MAGIC
by Hilary McKay (Macmillan £12.99)
Mckay’s genius at conjuring up the rough and tumble of family life is perfectly illustrated in this mystical story of a blended family moving to a ramshackle new home that appears to have magical powers. Funny, moving and with darkly surprising twists.Age 7+
THE FOWL TWINS
by Eoin Colfer (HarperCollins £14.99)
The first in a brand-new series stars the younger, and very different, twin brothers of Colfer’s bestselling hero Artemis Fowl as they tackle a troll, a nun and an evil duke. Lots of high-tech gadgetry, thrilling danger and unexpected turns as Eoin Colfer delivers his distinctive brand of mayhem. Don’t miss it. Age 9+
FROSTHEART by Jamie Littler (Puffin £7.99)
by Jamie Littler (Puffin £7.99)
A confident debut, perfect for fans of Cressida Cowell, in which young orphan Ash lives in the snowy safety of the Stronghold, hidden from the Sea Monsters, but fears he doesn’t really belong there. When a sleigh called Frostheart turns up to help him search for his parents, a thrilling adventure swooshes him, and his yeti guardian, into other worlds. Age 9+
THE LOST TIDE WARRIORS
by Catherine Doyle (Bloomsbury £6.99)
Young Fionn Boyle returns in this windswept sequel to The Storm Keeper’s Island and is forced to fight off the malevolent powers of Morrigan and her Soulstalkers. Rip-roaring adventure with an endearingly resourceful hero. Age 9+
by Thomas Taylor (Walker £7.99)
Twelve-year-old orphan Herbie Lemon teams up with Violet Parma, to help solve the mystery of her parents’ disappearance 12 years earlier in a thrilling mystery based on the legend of the malamander, a sea creature whose egg can grant human wishes. Funny, moving, perfectly paced with wonderful characters — my debut of the year. Age 9+
THE DAY I WAS ERASED
by Lisa Thompson (Scholastic £6.99)
With echoes of the classic Christmas film It’s A Wonderful Life, this follows the catastrophic adventures of troubled 11-year-old Maxwell, who suddenly disappears from his past life after wishing he’d never been born. His heartfelt attempt to put right the mistakes made in his absence is a fine balance of humour and tears. Age 9+
THE VELVET FOX
by Catherine Fisher (Firefly Press £6.99)
Having rescued Tomos from magical forces in the first title of this planned trilogy, Seren must now protect him from their new governess and her mysterious clockwork carousel.
Darkly menacing and creepily atmospheric, this is turning into a series to follow. Age 9+
THE GOOD THIEVES by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury £12.99)
THE GOOD THIEVES
by Katherine Rundell (Bloomsbury £12.99)
Vita arrives in New York from England with her mother to help her widowed grandfather who has been cheated out of the family home by a menacing Mafia conman. Skilfully plotted, beautifully written and with memorable characters, Costa Award-winner Rundell just gets better with every book. Age 9+
THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR
by Sophie Anderson (Usborne £6.99)
Bigger and stronger than her 12-year-old friends, adopted Yanka is forced to run into the forest to discover the truth about where she came from and who she is, beginning a remarkable journey with talking animals and ancient curses. Terrific. Age 11+
THE SOMERSET TSUNAMI
by Emma Carroll (Faber £6.99)
Carroll’s historical fiction is at its best in this dramatic story, set in 1616, in which a real-life flood that devastated the South-West and parts of Wales is blended with accusations of witchcraft. A wonderful sense of place and challenging characters. Age 11+
SHADOWS OF WINTERSPELL
by Amy Wilson (Macmillan £6.99)
Amy Wilson is cornering the market in dark, mystical adventures that stretch the imagination, and this story of lonely orphan Stella, who lives with her ghost Nan and an imp behind the Winterspell Forest ruled by the Shadow King, is a wintery winner.
Can she and her new-found friends harness the power to free herself from the darkness? Age 11+
TEEN & YOUNG ADULT FICTION
DEEPLIGHT by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan £12.99)
by Frances Hardinge (Macmillan £12.99)
Decades ago, the Undersea Gods of Myriad rose up in rage and destroyed one another, but now two orphaned boys, minor conmen Hark and Jelt, threaten the ancient powers when they discover a god’s beating heart that infects Jelt with destructive magic.
Hardinge is on wonderful form here, conjuring up an entire imaginary kingdom, but also a very human boyhood friendship — and its limits. Age 12+
THE DEATHLESS GIRLS
by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Orion £12.99)
This powerful reimagining of the Brides of Dracula sees 17-year-old twin girls Lil and Kizzy enslaved by an evil lord before being split up as one is offered to the Transylvanian ‘Count Dracula’ as a gift. Darkly atmospheric, it addresses desire, sexual awakening, prejudice, loyalty and sisterly love. Age 13+
THE GIFTED, THE TALENTED AND ME
by William Sutcliffe (Bloomsbury £7.99)
This sharp, witty social satire revolves around 15-year-old Sam, newly enlisted in a school for the gifted and talented and struggling to discover who he really is.
Think Adrian Mole, spiced with a hint of Inbetweeners, it gives a painfully accurate insight into male adolescence. Age 14+
BEARMOUTH by Liz Hyder (Pushkin £12.99)
by Liz Hyder (Pushkin £12.99)
This debut is very dark — literally, because the protagonist has been enslaved in a coal mine since the age of four, but also because a newcomer threatens to revolt against the system.
Written in a phonetic style, there’s some sexual violence and menacing undertones in this very impressive first outing. Age 14+
THE SECRET COMMONWEALTH
by Philip Pullman (David Fickling Books £20)
Pullman’s earlier Lyra books are currently mesmerising TV viewers and this continuation of The Book Of Dust series sees our now 20-year-old heroine at an Oxford college where she becomes involved in a complex web that stretches to the Silk roads.
Stunningly imaginative and powerfully written.
WILD LIVES: 50 EXTRAORDINARY ANIMALS THAT MADE HISTORY
by Ben Lerwill
illustrated by Sarah Walsh (Nosy Crow £16.99)
This fascinating collection of 50 animal stories introduces us to heroes such as Duffy, a donkey who helped rescue soldiers in wartorn Gallipoli, and well-known names such as Winnipeg, the bear who inspired the Winnie the Pooh stories. A lovely book for any animal-loving child to dip into.
HEROES by Jonny Marx illustrated by Gerhard van Wyk (Little Tiger Press £14.99)
by Jonny Marx
illustrated by Gerhard van Wyk (Little Tiger Press £14.99)
More heroics here but this time from humans as we learn about more than 100 people — from firemen to scientists — whose actions have changed and improved our world.
by Dr Jennifer Z Paxton
illustrated by Katy Wiedemann (Big Picture Press £25)
Published in association with The Wellcome Collection, this intimate guide to the human body, from the top of the skull to the tip of the toes, is illustrated with detailed anatomical drawings that show every muscle group and nerve. Expert descriptions are simple enough for young readers and will inspire budding doctors and scientists.
A CUDDLE AND A CWTCH
by Sarah KilBride
Illustrated by James Munro (Graffeg £6.99)
It’s said that only the Welsh truly understand the meaning of ‘cwtch’, but anyone who reads this heartwarming, rhyming evocation of the multiple ways in a which a hug, a snuggle or a safe, cosy place can bring joy and comfort will soon share the healing warmth of the word. Slip it in someone’s stocking and cwtch up together on Christmas Day.
THE LONELY CHRISTMAS TREE by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros (Bloomsbury £7.99)
THE LONELY CHRISTMAS TREE
by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros (Bloomsbury £7.99)
This pocket-sized book tells the story of the last pine tree on the mountainside, alone and cold, until a large man in a red coat collects it, dresses it with lights and a star and transforms it into a Christmas tree admired by everyone who sees it.
THE BOLDS’ CHRISTMAS CRACKER
by Julian Clary
illustrated by David Roberts (Andersen Press £6.99)
Julian Clary’s hilarious hyena family, The Bolds, host a Christmas collection of jokes, puzzles, quizzes and crosswords that will keep the whole family busy once the presents have been opened and the batteries worn out.
Literacy charity BookTrust is appealing for donations to send books to children who are vulnerable or in care.
To help send out a surprise book gift, find out more at: booktrust.org.uk/xmas
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