Think Joe Wicks, David Baddiel and David Walliams for the children's Christmas list
‘The desk, spare chair, cupboards and a good part of the floor in my office are covered in books which could be good presents for the children on your list,’ says children’s book reviewer CAROLINE FRANKLIN. Here's here pick of the bunch.
“Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without any presents,” moaned Jo in Louisa M Alcott’s Little Women. Just so. However, there are a growing number of people who suggest donating to a charity rather than giving them an actual parcel. This is, of course, a jolly good thing for the charities who benefit, but I would like to think there is always a case for giving an actual present. No need to make it expensive, a bar of chocolate wrapped in Christmassy paper or a packet of flower seeds would do. Let there never be a time when we lose that small joy of unwrapping a present on Christmas Day – even if what’s inside turns out to be something you don’t like or you already own three just like it! At the moment the desk, spare chair, cupboards and a good part of the floor in my office are covered in books which could be good presents for the children on your list.
So here are some suggestions which I hope will help starting with some wonderful books for the youngest members of the family.
The Owl Who Came For Christmas (Macmillan £6.99 PB) by John Hay and Garry Parsons is full of colour, with a touch of sparkle. Based on the true story of a small owl who got trapped inside a Christmas tree, it tells what happens when a family discover they have a feathered visitor among the Christmas baubles – and what happens next. Of course it’s a happy ending and children will love it.
Did you ever wonder what Goldilocks did after that episode with the three bears? In Goldilocks and the Three Crocodiles (Harper Collins £12.99 HB) author Michael Rosen has her going for a walk with Tiddles the dog. They find a cave with chairs shaped like fish and shells to sleep in. All very cosy until the owners of the cave turn out to be three small, big and very big indeed crocodiles who don’t like visitors. Beautifully illustrated by David Melling and full of descriptive writing so that a young child can get involved in this funny, fabulous story, this is an ideal addition to a child’s bookshelf.
There’s a feud going on in Anya Glazer's Otters vs Badgers (Oxford University Press £6.99 PB), a story bound to make reader and young listener smile. The two factions live on opposite sides of a river and NO ONE MUST EVER CROSS TO THE OTHER SIDE. When the rule is broken, and after some name calling – “stripy faced furball” and “rotter otter” – it takes cookies and a wise animal to reconcile the two in this fun story. There’s a recipe for young cooks to make their own cookies, too.
Lots of action in Joe Wicks’ The Burpee Bears – A Christmas Adventure (Harper Collins £12.99 HB). Not a page goes by without some form of exercise in this story of the bear family who decide they must take Christmas to their Granny who can’t make it through to them because of the snow. With help from Santa all goes well and this feelgood, jolly story ends with, you guessed it, more exercises and some lip-smacking recipes.
The title We Disagree About This Tree (Nosy Crow £12.99 HB) will strike a chord in most families. In Ross Collins’ cheery story it’s a mouse and a large white polar bear who have different ideas on how to decorate their Christmas tree. When a manatee (yes, a manatee!) is put at the top instead of a fairy doll, gravity takes over, the worst happens and the friends are left with a small branch and a star, but it’s Christmas and they still have each other so all is well. Certain to make readers and their listeners smile.
Shirley Hughes’stories will surely live on to delight children for many years. Shirley Hughes’s Trotter Street Four Favourite Stories (Walker Books £12.99 HB) with its four tales of children and their families living in a multi-cultural street is perfect to share with a child aged five or so. As if the stories, two of them Christmassy, were not enough, there are the captivating illustrations to enjoy as well. A delight.
On to older brothers and sisters now and the first two books are by people who know just how to make children laugh!.
In David Baddiel’s Virtually Christmas (Harper Collins £12.99 HB) robots have taken over and everything that makes Christmas wonderful has gone. This includes 3D holograms of Santa Claus deciding if you’ve been good enough for presents – delivered by ZoneDrones instead of reindeer. Can anyone bring back the true Christmas – Etta and her friend Monty do their best. Hilarious from start to finish.
David Walliams’ supersonic adventure Spaceboy (Harper Collins £14.99 HB) is another action-packed tale, full of laughs for readers. 12-year-old Ruth is stuck with living on a remote farm with her hideous Aunt Dorothy, who looks like a crocodile and makes Ruth work – hard. Every night Ruth gazes at the skies through her telescope – until the rotten old aunt breaks it – but meanwhile a flying saucer has crashed into a field nearby and this changes Ruth’s life forever. Walliams is deservedly one of the most popular children’s authors and his fans will laugh their way through this latest adventure.
Young Lionesses, their male counterparts and actually anyone who enjoys a laugh will enjoy The Funny Side of Football (Bloomsbury £6.99 PB). There’s information about some of the great footballers as well as interesting facts like why octopuses can’t play football, plus advice such as do not write rude words on your opponent’s neck. And now at last I know what a False 9 is. Hooray!
For a child who enjoys making things, Lauren Fairgrieve and Kate Read's Birds of a Feather (Nosy Crow £12.99 HB) would make an excellent present. In the back of the book is beautifully illustrated information about some of our best-known birds, but the main part is made up of sturdy cardboard pages. On each are sections of a bird which can be pressed out to make a model. The pieces slide into each other, so no messy glueing required. Something different – and good results are achievable. Published in collaboration with the National Trust.
And while we’re on the subject, naturalist Dara McAnulty’s A Wild Child’s Book of Birds (Pan Macmillan £14.99 HB) takes the reader through the year in the lives of our feathered friends. Filled with delightful illustrations, facts and wonderfully descriptive prose, it will make the child who receives it more aware of birds and their lives, from the cheeky robin to the impressive, magnificent kites which seem to like our part of the world.
Finally,The Big Book of Mysteries (Nosy Crow £16.99 HB) by Tom Adams and Yas Imamura is fascinating and one which the whole family will want to have a look at, for each mystery has never been solved. How did the Incas manage to build a city on top of a mountain? Do the cities of Atlantis and Vineta exist beneath the waves? Why do so many ships and planes disappear into the Bermuda Triangle and what does the code on the leg of a Second World War carrier pigeon found dead in a chimney mean?
There are ghost ships, aliens, even a vanishing village reported among many other mysteries to be found in this intriguing book.
I hope there is a book here which solves a gift problem for you and that you will find books to enjoy among your own presents.