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Time for some reading together this Christmas

Old tales, new adventures and facts about the world we live in; children’s book reviewer CAROLINE FRANKLIN has a few suggestions

Time for some reading together this Christmas

Christmas shows every sign of being very different this year for who could foresee what would happen to our lives in the past 10 months? Time then, as the old saying goes, to ‘pull up our boot straps’ and get on with making Christmas, if very
different, still a time to bring joy to those we love, whether it’s something as simple as a card or a phone call.

And then there are presents.

One good thing to come out of these past months is that many people have rediscovered the joy of reading with their children and Christmas is an opportunity to top up their bookshelves with some of the wonderful old tales, new adventures and facts about the world we live in.

So here are some suggestions to put on your Christmas shopping list.

I rather dismissed the chunky little Disney Block (Abrams Appleseed £11.99) when it first arrived in my office, but actually its brightly-coloured sturdy cut-out pages showing a variety of Disney characters, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Lady and the Tramp and Frozen 2 would delight a small person aged two or three.

Fox and Hare are fascinated by the thought of the snow which is coming, for they have never seen it. Several of their friends describe it in A Thing Called Snow (Oxford University Press £12.99 HB), but it’s not until the two friends fall asleep one night curled up together that the snow comes softly falling and they wake up “to a bright white morning like no other”.

A charming, beautifully-illustrated story of friendship from Yuval Zommer for the 4/5 age group I love Emily Gravett’s Too Much Stuff (Two Hoots £12.99), not simply because of the wonderful Gravett illustrations, but because I am a hoarder and so were the two magpies who were trying to do their best for their eggs. Bicycles, brooms, clocks, socks, all were piled into the nest and her pictures of the result are hilarious. Finally the too-caring Mum and Dad magpie decide they should add on a car with disastrous results. Never mind, homes are found for all the tat and once everything is cleared up, what is found underneath is four beautiful magpie chicks. A wonderful book to laugh over with children (and hoarders) of any age.

Horse Boy(Walker Books £6.99 PB)will appeal to all children aged nine and upwards who love a good story,
particularly those who love horses and understand the bond which can form between a horse and its rider. The land the story is set in has different tribes and two – the Deer tribe and the Bear tribe – have fallen out, to put it mildly. When Oak, son of the chief of the Deer tribe, becomes separated from his people and in danger, he meets up with Horse – an animal which is new to him. During the dangerous times which follow the bond between them grows and this enhances the vivid story-telling of a tale which is thrilling, and often very moving.

Giants, tin men, rats, a wicked clockmaker, a Professional Princess, a worpal sword, enchanted cello and a runcible spoon. All these and many more characters and items, evil, magical, good and bad inhabit the pages of Guardians of Magic by Chris Riddell (Macmillan Children’s Books £7.99. PB). There is wickedness afoot in the Kingdom of Thrynne and it is up to Zam, Bathsheba and Phoebe to save the magic in their world. With the help of those who are on their side (including a giant with mushrooms in her hair), the beautiful cloud horses and a group of large bears, ‘the lumberers’, who always turn up when needed, they do just that. This exciting, gloriously magical story will have readers aged nine or so riveted from the first page to the last, pages which are peppered throughout with black and white illustrations. The excellent news is that Guardians of Magic is the first book in the Cloud Horse Chronicles series. I look forward to it.

For ideas for things to do, an excellent choice would be the Never Get Bored Book (Usborne £9.99 HB). Packed with anti-boredom ideas from understanding elephants – and making one – to master spycraft, watching stars, playing the Escape the Castle puzzle game and setting up a bowling alley, there’s enough here to keep boredom at bay for children of eight-plus long after the excitement of Christmas is over.

A Pop-Up Gallery of Curiosities (Bloomsbury £20) has few words, but is one in which the fan can marvel at the skill of James Diaz who has created five colourful pop-up scenes from the wizarding world of JK Rowling. It comes in the form of doors which open revealing the oddities within, from the sorting hat to the Cornish pixies. If you are careful opening it and don’t cut a piece of gold thread, as I did, it is possible to display a favourite scene on a shelf. I prefer my books with words, but this is certainly impressive and will delight Harry Potter fans who love anything to do with their favourite boy.

The big beautiful English Fairy Tales (Pook Press £23.99) is a book for those who like their stories traditional. Pook Press specialises in republishing classic tales, particularly those dating back to the 1900s. The 361 pages and 41 tales include not only the familiar, such as Jack and the Beanstalk and Little Red Riding Hood, but the lesser known, such as The Golden Snuffbox, St George of Merrie England and The Well at the World’s End. As if that feast of story telling was not enough, there are illustrations by Arthur Rackham throughout, many of them full page colour. A book to cherish and enjoy with children of any age.

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