Brilliant Books for Kids this Christmas

Brilliant Books for Kids this Christmas

There are so many gorgeous books out around this time of year.  I have gathered together some of the most festive new releases for the Christmas period which you can use as ideas for books to read in the run-up to the Christmas holidays or give as the perfect seasonal presents.

Board Books

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Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush – Yu-hsuan Huang (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

What a gorgeously festive board book for your little ones.  Sing along to the tune of ‘Here we go round the Mulberry Bush’ and take your little reader on a winter wonderland of snow-filled scenes and adorable artwork as they turn the chunky pages in their hands.  There are interactive wheels to turn and sliders to push and pull to bring to life the words on the pages and also encourage those fine motor skills.  Whether it is playing in the snow on a cold and frosty morning, making a wreath, or singing carols, this sturdy board book is sure to engage your little one as they turn the wheel and push the sliders. Perfect for babies and toddlers, it’s a wonderful wintry read, filled with gorgeous snowy scenes which you can use to encourage your little one to build up their vocabulary as you ask them to find various objects on the page.  We also love that if you scan the QR code for books on the back page of the book, you and your little ones can hear the song and sing along to it together.

Dances with the Elves – Usborne Sound Books – Sam Taplin (author), Ana Larranaga (illustrator), Anna Gould (designer), music by Anthony Marks, Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

What a splendidly interactive seasonal treat this book is!!  Get your little ones improving those fine motor skills as they press the sound buttons and then dance along to the wonderfully jolly tunes. Each two-page spread has a boldly colourful wintery scene filled with joy and fun to feast your eyes upon!  When your little one presses the sound buttons, jolly festive tunes that you will recognise blast out and light up the smile on your little reader’s face.  Your little one will follow the instructions by hopping on the spot with the elves, trotting along with the reindeer, waggling their wings like a Christmas fairy and stomping their feet with Santa before doing the whole dance again from the beginning with the whole seasonal song put together.  It’s a festively fun-filled book aimed at getting your little one moving, interacting, and enjoying the spirit of Christmas and, while they are doing it, they are developing those skills of gross motor movement, fine motor movement, concentration and listening, as well as having the most cheery of Christmassy times!

Busy Christmas – Angie Rozelaar (illustrator), Campbell Books (imprint of Pan Macmillan) (publisher)

Discover the magic of Christmas with this festively fun interactive board book for little readers.  This is a gorgeously illustrated first novelty board book all about the jingly joy of Christmas. Get your little one’s hands busy with the interactive pages: there are sliders to push and pull out, wheels to turn to decorate the tree and finger tabs to move up and down.  Your little one can join in with the seasonal magic by sledging down hills, decorating the tree, performing in the nativity and waiting for Father Christmas to come. Your little ones will love listening to the cheerful rhyming text, bringing to life the wonder and magic of Christmas.  The illustrations are simply stunning: each two-page spread is filled with vibrant and colourful cosy winter scenes which fill you and your little ones with Christmas cheer.  A perfect interactive book to read and share at Christmas time.

Usborne Lights and Sounds Christmas – Sam Taplin (author), Jordan Wray (illustrator), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

Lights AND sounds!!! How much more amazingly interactive can a book get?!  It’s Christmas Eve in Little Chestnut Wood and everyone is excited. Well… almost everyone.  Little Freya Fox is worried that the wood is too dark and that Father Christmas won’t find his way to their village. So, she sets about speaking to all the other animal families in the wood and each one agrees to light a twinkly light and play some festive tunes so that Santa will be sure to find them.  Will they wake up on Christmas morning to find out that he has been?  Each gorgeous two-page spread in this sturdy board book has so much going on… wonderful words, adorable artwork of a snowy scenic woodland, different musical instruments to spot, lights to count and festive tunes to listen to when your little one presses the finger button.  Each tune is a jolly Christmas song that you will recognise and your little ones will have great fun doing the maths to count the lights on each page (which go up by one each time!).  It’s a beautiful book which draws your little readers in right from the cover page with its sparkling gold foil detailing and adorable illustrations of animals playing instruments in the snow.  A sensory story filled with terrific twinkling lights, festive fun, marvellous music and adorable artwork.  It would make a wonderful gift for the little one in your life.  We love it.

Pip and Posy – The Best Christmas Ever!  – Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Does your little one love Pip and Posy?!  At five years old, my twins still love the delightful duo.  Combine that adoration with the fact that this is a superb, interactive lift the flap book then you can see why this book should be read this Christmas.  Pip and Posy are having lots of fun this Christmas: they are playing in the snow, putting on a show, visiting their friends in the wintery weather and opening presents from each other.  Does your little one want to come along and join them on their adventures?  Of course they do!! And why wouldn’t they.  Not only are there are different sized flaps to lift on each page, providing surprises and fun for your little reader, but there are search and find items to discover on each page to encourage lots of interaction with the book.  The final  ‘Merry Christmas’ fold out flap is just the star on top of the Christmas tree for us.  Each page is bright and colourful and full of festive fun and the chunky pages are super for little fingers to get busy with.  Filled with festive cheer, interactive fun and vibrant pages, this is a lovely seasonal read.

What is Reindeer Going to Do? Carly Madden (author), Caroline Dall’Ava (illustrator) Happy Yak  (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Aww, what a cute little festive lift the flap book this one is.  Can your little ones guess what little Reindeer is about to do next? The most adorable little reindeer is up to a whole host of cheerful, Christmas-related activities, and your little reader has to lift the colourful flaps to find out what festive frolic the reindeer is on.  What could reindeer be doing with some hats?  Why are they leaping around? Why is their mouth open?  Can your little one guess before they lift the chunky flaps of the book?  With wonderful opportunities for creativity and imagination and development of language skills for the little one in your life, as well as development of fine motor-skills and hand-eye co-ordination, this board book is a wonderful wintery wonderland to explore.  There are cute illustrations of festive items to talk to your little one about to help improve vocabulary and the vibrant and adorable artwork together with the interactive lift the flaps mean that this book is sure to capture their engagement and make them want to join in the festive fun at this time of year.

I Love You More Than Christmas – Ellie Hattie (author), Tim Warnes (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

This is the story of Little Bear.  Little Bear LOVES Christmas… the wrapping, the ribbons, the baubles and tinsel, the cards and the packages, the sleigh bells and reindeer, and Santa Claus too.  Through the pages of this sturdy, handy-sized board book, you and your little one will go on a Christmas adventure with Little Bear, Mummy Bear and Daddy Bear as they get ready for the ‘big day’!  From the ice-skating, to the present wrapping, the tree decorating to the carol-singing, it’s all so wonderful, so magical, so heart-warming.  The final pages of the story are just beautiful, highlighting the true meaning of Christmas: “Because, as everybody knows, the gift of Christmas is only as wonderful as the love that it’s wrapped in.”  What a heart-warming, seasonal message.  This book is filled with warmth, and joy, and fun and love which is just perfect to read to your little ones at this time of year. The illustrations are so joyful: pages full of drawings of adorable animals getting ready for the most magical time of year.  You can almost feel the festive spirit seeping out of the book, so happy and colourful are the pictures.  This book would make a beautiful gift to give on Christmas Eve or instead of an advent calendar.  A festive celebration of love, joy and family at Christmas-time.

Are you there little elf?- Sam Taplin (author), Nicola Butler (designer), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

Aww, what a cute little board book this one is!  I want to start by mentioning its size – it’s the perfect size for those little baby and toddler hands to grasp all by themselves, particularly if you are out and about and you want to occupy them in the pushchair or on a car journey.  This gorgeously sweet seasonal read is interactive and lot of fun for your little one.  Where has that little elf gone?  He seems to have disappeared!  And every time we think we have found that elusive little fellow, he seems to have slipped through our grasp!!  This hugely fun story will have your children giggling along as they realise little elf just isn’t where they think he is.  There are holes to peep through and different cut outs of baubles, snowflakes and Christmas shapes for little fingers to explore to provide maximum fun and engagement for your little reader.  Not only that but there are different shaped pages and finger trails to explore really bringing to life the fun and magic of this cheerful Christmas read.  It’s fun, it’s interactive, it’s beautifully illustrated with Christmas cheer and your little ones are sure to enjoy it.

Cat Family Christmas  – Lucy Brownridge (author), Eunyoung Seo (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

With over 140 flaps to lift, this book has been a HUGE hit in our house.  But it is not only that it is so interactive that makes it a superb seasonal read, it’s the fact that it is like a cosy warm visual hug of Christmasses past with its exquisitely detailed illustrations and the fact that it is a gorgeous countdown to Christmas with the vintage-style cat family.  I struggled to know where to put this book because although it is technically a board book with large, thick pages of beautiful seasonal scenes, this book will equally be pored (or should that be pawed!) over by older readers as they read it to themselves over and over again (if my elder daughter is anything to go by!). It would be a brilliant book to use in the countdown to the final twelve days before Christmas day, reading and talking about a page each day because each day has its own two-page spread of wonderful words and scenery.  There is so much detail to discuss in the delightful drawings: the decorations are going up with 11 days to go until Christmas, Granny and Grandpa are arriving with 8 days to go, there are gifts to send and last minute bits to buy with 3 days to go, there are presents to wrap and labels to write with 2 days to go (and we love the fact that you have to turn this amazing artwork around to read the story)…. What will happen on Christmas Eve?  There are so many flaps to lift and open, from cupboard doors to suitcases, to presents to decorations, and these serve to enhance the magic and wonder of this story. One of the best advent books around with a vintage feel, stunning seasonal scenes and an imaginative interactive element bringing the magic of Christmas alive.  Bravo.

Picture Books

What the Ladybird Heard at Christmas – Julia Donaldson (author), Lydia Monks (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

You’d think that Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh would learn, wouldn’t you?!  But no, they are back to their old tricks once more.  This time, the dastardly duo is planning to steal the children’s presents!!  This is one of my children’s all-time favourite picture book series (we have all of the other books) so we jumped at the chance to be able to review this latest festive offering and it does not disappoint.  Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh are planning to dress up as Santa and an elf to steal Fleur, Flo, Fred and little Finn’s Christmas presents.  But luckily one canny little ladybird has overheard them plotting their Christmassy criminal caper and she has a great plan to save the day!  Lanky Len and Hefty Hugh have heard that the children’s house is haunted – can the ladybird use this to her advantage and scare the baddies away with the help of her animal friends?  With a wonderful rhyming plot, a brilliant cast of characters (old and new), and lots of the familiar refrains, this book is one of the best read-alouds around.  We absolutely adore Lydia Monks’ hilarious illustrations which bring the story to life.  The pages are bold, colourful and filled with festive fun – this is a sensational story to share   and read aloud this Christmas with your little ones.

The Lights that Dance in the Night – Yuval Zommer (author and illustrator), Oxford University Press (publisher)

What an exquisite book this one is!  Right from the gorgeous glittery front cover, you are drawn into this rhyming story about the magic of the Northern Lights.    The lights swirl and twirl and tumble and whoosh in beautiful brushstrokes across every stunningly illustrated page, taking you on a journey of magic and wonder to the ice-capped Arctic. Their journey is imagined in the most creative and visually striking of ways: from the specks of dust blown to the Earth from the sun and how they make their way across the frozen north.  With each page of lilting, lyrical language and exquisite artistry, their magic weaves its way into your heart and the heart of your little one.  The story details the amazing animals of the winter wonderland at the northern-most tip of the globe, as Yuval Zommer imagines the joy and wonder each animal will feel when they see the dazzling beauty and splendour of the lights.  From artic hares to musk ox, reindeers to people, this book captures the celebration of wonder and beauty that people and animals feel when they witness this natural phenomenon.  With its message of light bringing hope in the dark, this book is the most sublime of stories for a winter’s evening.  I, for one, am desperate to see the Northern Lights now!

20 Elves at Bedtime – Mark Sperring (author), Tim Budgen (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)

How many times have you said to your child, “Try counting sheep” to help them get off to sleep?!  Well, it’s Christmas Eve and Santa’s having a little trouble nodding off but instead of sheep, he’s counting elves….. all the way to 20 in fact.  With gorgeous, bright illustrations of elves and magic on every page, this is a sparkling book for your little ones this Christmas time.  It’s definitely one we will be using the run up to the last few days before Christmas because it gently encourages sleep but it is filled with the magic of the season.  From the shiny, silver foil cover, to the vibrant and bold illustrations, this book draws you and your littlies in, right from the very beginning.  We love the rhyming verse which works so well with the fun illustrations of busy elves bauble-hanging, wrapping presents, sleigh packing and much more.  Not only is your little one treated to a visual delight but each of the numbers are written out in numerals so that your little reader can be learning while you read too – win, win!  There is a final page of the all the 20 elves asleep in their beds which is not only super cute but is also really helpful for number recognition for your children too.  We also love the double page spread at the beginning of the book naming all the elves – my twins adore looking at this and checking who is who.  A wonderfully fun, magical read for the season which encourages sleep at a very exciting time of year.

Kid Christmas of the Claus Brothers Toy Shop – David Litchfield (author and illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Oh my!! What a book.  But it is everything you would expect from one of my all-time favourite author-illustrators.  Full of magic, full of beauty, full of kindness, full of hope.  Nicky Claus works in his uncles’ toy shop, the Claus Brothers Toy Shop.  They work behind a mysterious door, hidden away in a forgotten corner of the shop.  Uncle Hanz makes the toys.   Uncle Louis checks the toys.  And Uncle Levi?  Well, he adds the magic in, of course.  And that special sparkle means that the toy will find just the right child for it.  But Nicky notices that there are children who aren’t entering the toy shop.  Who are just standing there staring in amazement and wonder at the toys, looking through the window.  When Nicky invites them inside, they run away.  One day, Nicky decides to follow them to where they live, underground, with only the lights of fireflies to darken their gloom.  They have never owned a toy before says Lottie, one of the children Nicky has followed.  They have only ever known hard work.  From that moment on, Nicky sets out on a mission, with the help of his uncles, to ensure that every child in the city will receive a toy on Christmas Day so that their dreams will come true.  The legend of Father Christmas is born within the pages of this glorious book. Nicky needs help from his new friends along the way; highlighting that “when all hope seems lost…. a friend can help you find light in the darkness…  And that’s when real-life magic truly happens.”  This is an absolute gem of a Christmas read.  I cannot tell you how much it fills my heart with joy to share this book with my children, to see their little faces light up as it works its Christmas magic on them with its beautiful words and stunningly beautiful illustrations.  My Christmas wish for you is that you manage to get hold of a copy to read with your little ones.

I Definitely DON’T Like Winter  – Fiona Barker (author), Christine Pym (illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)

Meet the most adorable best friends: Hoog and Hank.  They do everything together but, one morning, when the leaves start to change colour, things begin to change.  Hank is so annoyed.  Falling leaves from the trees means that winter is on the way and Hank definitely does NOT like winter.  Hoog, however, is jumping for joy!  He loves winter: the snuggling down, the long, dark nights, the chill in the air, the snow!  There are hilarious scenes of the differing viewpoints of the two best friends as you and your little ones turn the pages (my twins particularly like the image of Hank blowing a raspberry!).  Will these two best friends be able to see things from the other’s point of view?  Will they be able to put their differences aside?  Of course they will: for “when it’s cold outside…. A best friend will always keep you warm.”  This is an absolutely adorable seasonal story filled with humour, friendship, love and laughter.  We adore the heart-warming ending!  The illustrations are the cutest; bold and bright, sharing the sweetest moments of friendship and fun and the most hilarious moments of moods and grumps.  They are colourful and bring the adorable best friends to life in the most wonderful of ways.  We love this winter wonderland of a story.  We definitely DO like this book.

Father Christmas and the Three Bears – Lou Peacock (author), Margarita Kukhtina (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Oh no!! It’s almost midnight on Christmas Eve and poor Father Christmas is feeling very sleepy!  He takes himself off for a little rest at the Three Bears’ Cottage and – eeeek! – falls asleep.  There is no waking him! The three bears try their very best but he cannot be woken from his slumber. Aarrgh, there are still presents to be delivered to the village of the Back of Beyond.  But Baby Bear knows just who to call (no, it’s not the ghost busters!): the Fairy Tale Rescue Rangers, resplendent in their red cloaks.  The dream team is made up of your favourite fairy tale characters – the three little pigs, little red riding hood, the gingerbread man and the seven dwarfs- and they each play a crucial role in getting that sack full of presents to the children of Back of Beyond.  This is a gorgeous, heart-warming tale of determination, working together, love and community spirit.  We love seeing the different fairy tale characters succeed in their mission and the ending is so endearing.  The gold and silvery-blue foil cover art draws you into the story, right from the beginning and the beautiful illustrations really bring to life the characters of the story.  The pages are filled with stunning drawings and adorable artwork of the fairy tale rescuers working together.  We love this twisted fairytale and we are planning to scan the QR code to listen to the story together in the run up to Christmas -my twins love this feature of Nosy Crow picture books.

The Big Christmas Bake – Fiona Barker (author), Pippa Curnick (illustrator), Happy Yak (imprint of Quarto) (publisher)

Christmas day is over and Father Christmas has been and gone but that doesn’t mean that the festive fun has to run out.  And it certainly doesn’t in this gorgeously illustrated picture book of fun, food and good cheer!  You and your little ones can have the most amount of magical fun counting down the twelve days of Christmas with a whole host of adorable animal friends as they get ready to bake the biggest, bestest, most beautiful Twelfth Night cake for someone very special.  With doves delivering flour and penguins purveying sugary sweetness, dancing hippos bringing cheery cherries and pipers piping swirls of icing, this is a wonderful book to sing along to and get your little ones counting and using numbers (without them even noticing -all the best learning is fun, right?!).  The illustrations by Pippa Curnick are absolutely superb: gorgeous depictions of adorable animals in the most humorous of scenes really fly out of the page at you, so vibrant are they.  We also love the colour tones used – bold and bright colours which serve to highlight the fun and playfulness of the story.  The book also includes a brilliant two-fold spread at the end of the book which explains the concept of a Twelfth Night cake to younger readers: it should always contain a surprise and whoever finds this secret surprise in their slice is the king or queen of Twelfth Night and gets to make the rules for the day!  How fabulous is that?!  The page then goes on to include a wonderful recipe for Christmas Cupcakes which we will certainly be trying.  The words of the original twelve days of Christmas song are also included at the end of the book, together with the most sweet drawings to accompany it.  Full of fun, festivity and food, this is a brilliant seasonal read.

A Family Christmas – Alana Washington (author), Emily Nash (illustrator), uclanpublishing (publisher)

What a heart-warming rhyming story all about family and traditions this book is.  From the moment you wake up on Christmas morning (every parent alive is praying this is not before 6 am!!), the magic of the day begins… This book celebrates what is at the very heart of what Christmas means to us all – family: “The family is coming, the big and the small.  With grins of excitement, they wait in the hall.  One knock and they charge, to fling open the door. Some squealing with joy as they all hit the floor.”  For those who celebrate it, it invites every young reader to see themselves in the story.  For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, this is a wonderful book to showcase some of the festive fun and traditions that go on throughout the day.  The gentle, rhyming story carries your young reader along in the excitement and good cheer, making this a sensational seasonal read aloud.  The illustrations are simply stunning.  They are like being wrapped in a fluffy warm hug, so cosy and heart-warming are the drawings of the different family members and the traditions that they are involved with throughout the day. Yes, it’s an ideal but what an ideal: teaching children in the most subtle of ways that it is not the presents that make the day truly special; it’s the love, the laughter, the family and the fun that will make all the memories.  That’s the true magic right there.  All contained within the pages of this beautifully gold-foil covered book.  It’s a book to truly treasure, to read aloud, to make part of your family Christmas traditions if you celebrate.

We Disagree About This Tree  – Ross Collins (author and illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Much like the Angel Gabriel (but with much less splendour and impressive majesty) my twins have declared this one to be their favourite of this fabulous series!  I think I might have to agree with them.  This fantabulously festive book is another hilarious sequel to “There’s a Bear on my Chair” and Ross Collins has really pulled out all the jingly bells and whistles for this one (I know I am mixing my metaphors there but, hey, it’s Christmas!).  Huge, brightly coloured two-page spreads of festive joy made up of the most jolly and vibrant illustrations combine with wondrous rhyming words and make this a laugh out loud giggle of a book.  Bear and mouse just CANNOT agree on how to decorate their Christmas tree: should it have bigger baubles, or lots of lights, candles, or lots of glitter…. Or maybe even a manatee fairy (this is rip-roaringly funny to my twins!!)?  But even bear and mouse can see that it all ends disastrously when they disagree.  We love the feel-good ending to the story (I won’t give it away) and the underlying message of trying to see things from another’s point of view and trying to agree and resolve things peaceably and with harmony which is a wonderful message for our children at this time of year.  If you are after a feel-good book which will bring joy and laughter into your lives then this is the Christmas picture book for you and your children.

Mrs Claus Takes a Vacation – Linas Alsenas (author and illustrator), Scholastic (publisher)

Poor old Mrs Claus.  She has never been on holiday in her whole life and she is miserable at seeing snow, snow and more snow!  She needs a change.  She needs a vacation.  So, she hitches up a reindeer and off she goes globe-trotting round the world leaving Father Christmas at home to do all the chores.  While Mrs Claus is sunning herself on the beach and making new friends all around the world, Father Christmas starts to feel a little bit lonely. But as Christmas nears and Mrs Claus is still marvelling at the wonders of the world, she starts to realise that it would be nice if Santa was with her.  Will she manage to get home in time for Christmas?  Maybe Mr and Mrs Claus could take a trip together?  This is a hilariously funny festive treat of a book.  The illustrations are laugh out loud funny at times and bold and beautiful. The gorgeous silver foil and candy cane striped cover draw you in right from the beginning and your little ones will empathise with both Mrs Claus and Father Christmas throughout the book (it’s a great story for asking “how do you think they are feeling?”) as they turn the vibrantly illustrated pages.  A wonderful wintry Christmas book with an ending as heart-warming as a steaming mug of hot chocolate!

The Search For the Giant Arctic Jellyfish – Chloe Savage (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

Dr Morley absolutely loves jellyfish.  She is about to set off on a quest to the northernmost tip of the world to discover a creature that might just be myth; that everyone talks about but has never seen: the giant Arctic jellyfish! After years of research, she gathers together a crew of the best, highly trained scientists and researchers and, with her boat full of specialist equipment, she sets sail for the cold, icy waters of the Arctic Ocean.  Along the way she meets some wonderful wildlife – narwhals, beluga whales, polar bears and more – and witnesses some stunning star-scapes and incredible icy landscapes but will she find what she is looking for?  Or, maybe, just maybe, it might reward her determination and resilience and find her?  This book is exquisitely illustrated – right from the map at the beginning of the book and the items that Dr Morley will pack for her expedition – to the awe-inspiring two-page spread of the northern lights in the centre of the book.  It’s a visual masterpiece of snowy scenery and icy illustrations. And yet it is also full of warmth and humour (my twins love spotting the cheeky Arctic jellyfish).  At its core is a tale of strength and resilience; of grit, determination and endurance against the elements.  It is a wonderful wintry tale sure to inspire young explorers, big dreamers and little scientists and researchers.

Chapter Books

Princess Minna – The Big Bad Snowy Day – Kirsty Applebaum (author), Sahar Haghgoo (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

We have been eagerly awaiting this superb full colour chapter book after the first two published earlier this year.  My little boy loves wolves so this was the perfect winter read for him and his twin sister.  Princess Minna loves sorting things out in her kingdom and when she awakes one morning to find that everything outside the castle is covered in snow, she is excited to go and play in it.  But when all is not well with the kingdom, it is Minna’s job to come to the rescue.  And all is not well.  Granny Hoodie is snowed into her bungalow.  With Princess Minna’s dragon Lorenzo and the wizard Raymond poorly with a winter cold, she has to journey across the kingdom by herself.  Along the way, she meets lots of people who have had their houses blown down by the big, bad wolf…. What will happen when Princess Minna meets him?  Will she ever be able to save Granny Hoodie?  This story is brilliantly fun: twisted fairytales meet winter wonderlands in this bright, humorous and cheerful festive delight.  We love the full colour illustrations on each page which are drawn with a sense of fun and a real appreciation for keeping the early chapter book reader engaged with the story.  This is an ideal cheery Christmas read for any child who is transitioning from picture books to chapter books, or who is starting out on their own independent reading journey.  We love the boldly colourful pages and the larger sized font which is spread out across the pages and is uniquely placed to provide maximum engagement.  A sensational snow-filled adventure for the little reader in your life.

Cosmic Creatures – The Snuggly Snowpop – Tom Huddlestone (author), Sophy Williams (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

This is the fourth book in this fabulously cute series all about extra-terrestrial life on Planet Vela.  My children love the cute little animals it depicts and the fantastical world of Planet Vela.  Aimed at readers age five and above, this series is perfect for those children starting out on their own independent reading journey, or those children who are looking for the next step up from a picture book.  You don’t have to read the books in order to get a sense of them and you could easily read each one as a standalone.  In this book, we meet the adorable baby snowpops as Charlie and her father (and their trusty robot, Random, of course) attempt to climb Planet Vela’s largest mountain with Captain Robertson and his daughter, Miranda.  Unfortunately, a storm sweeps in and jeopardises everything for the expedition party and soon Miranda and Charlie are stuck in a freezing snowstorm, cold and confused with two baby snowpops.  Can the cute little creatures save the day? This is a lovely wintery read, full of snow and adventure.  Combined with the unique creative cosmic world, the gorgeous black and white illustrations generously interspersed throughout the story, the short chapters and larger font size, this story is sure to capture your little reader’s imagination right from the beginning of the book.   There’s a lovely message of responsibility, family, friendship and togetherness which is just perfect for its target reading audience.

The Snow Bear – Holly Webb (author), Artful Doodlers (illustrator), Stripes Publishing Limited (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

Let’s have some appreciation for this gorgeous 10 year anniversary edition of The Snow Bear.  Books by Holly Webb are always a favourite in our house because she really got my eldest daughter to love reading!  Just look at those sprayed edges and the silver foil cover.  Just beautiful!  When Sara goes to stay at her Grandad’s house just before Christmas, the snow begins to fall.  Sara makes herself a snow bear just like the one in the stories that Grandad tells of his travels in the Arctic.  Sara starts to feel sad because she misses her Mummy and Daddy, and to cheer her up, Grandad helps her build an igloo in the garden next to her snow bear.  That night, they bundle themselves up with blankets and provisions and go and tell stories in the magical light of the icy igloo.  Sara dozes off….. But when she wakes, she isn’t in Grandad’s garden anymore… she’s in the frozen north and she has a baby polar bear that needs to be returned to its mother!  Will Sara be able to battle through blizzards and re-unite the bear with its cub?  Will she ever get home?  This is such a beautiful, gentle wintry story which would be a perfect present for any little animal lover.  A gorgeous gift which is perfectly packaged in its sparkling foil cover and beautiful sprayed edges.  The illustrations are adorable: black and white beauties of snowy landscapes and cute polar bears.

Zoe’s Zoo Rescue – The Adventurous Arctic Fox – Amelia Cobb (author), Sophy Williams (illustrator), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

Have you ever read any of this fantastic series before?  If not, and you have a little animal lover at home, then you are definitely missing out.  Big time!  This latest, snow-filled, cheery Christmas book is no exception.  Zoe lives at the Rescue Zoo which has been set up by her great-uncle Horace (who looks remarkably like Father Christmas in these gorgeous illustrations!).  She lives there with her mother, the vet, and her best friend, a grey mouse lemur called Meep.  And the best bit?!  Zoe is especially talented and can talk to the animals!  In this story, Indie the Artic Fox arrives at the zoo with great uncle Horace.  Indie loves going on adventures.  But as she is the same colour as the snow all around the zoo, it is very hard to keep a track of her.  Zoe is decorating the zoo for Christmas with lots of sparkly baubles and decorations but they just keep going missing.   Can Indie help Zoe solve the mystery of the disappearing decorations?  Filled with most adorable artwork of the cutest animals and people, these books are superb for little ones who are starting out on their independent reading journey, or ready for a slightly longer book than a picture book.  There are exquisite black and white illustrations breaking up the larger sized font to provide maximum engagement for the reader.  The cover artwork and font draw the reader in: gorgeous shiny red font and a drawing of the most friendly little fox you ever did see combine with snowfall to make this one of the cosiest Christmas chapter book reads around.  A perfect countdown to Christmas book.

The Grumpus and His Dastardly, Dreadful Christmas Plan – Alex T.  Smith (author and illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

This gorgeous, festively-foiled hardback book is the perfect Christmas gift.  In fact, our little elf (Pudding, in case you were wondering!) is going to deliver it when he makes his first appearance on 1st December this year.  My children love the story of The Grinch and this book is a modern version  of that retold in the most exquisite, humorous and heart-warming of ways.  Have you met the Grumpus?  No?  Then let me tell you about him.  He REALLY does not like Christmas.  In fact, there are only three things in the world that The Grumpus likes: The Stick, brussel sprouts and his jumper.  And when he goes down to the village one day to buy some more brussel sprouts and there aren’t any left because it is Christmas, he comes up with a dastardly, dreadful plan to kill Christmas!!  Off he sets to the North Pole to ruin the Big Day.  But, along the way, he meets some characters that begin to make him feel a little bit funny …. And make him reconsider his plan.  He begins to experience friendship and love and kindness.  Will The Grumpus really ruin Christmas?  This is such a beautiful story which celebrates the true meaning of Christmas: “Presents don’t have to come in boxes, you know!”  The full colour illustrations interspersed throughout the story are just stunning, bringing to life the fun and humour of the story and they are sure to capture your little reader’s attention.  I can’t wait to read it with my children, being five and above they are the perfect age to read this a chapter at a time each night (I think we will use it as a countdown to Christmas book) and I know that they are going to love this endearing story which showcases love, friendship and family above all other things.  With its hardback cover and amazing artwork, I know that this is a seasonal story that we are going to return to year after year.  A gorgeous gift.

Middle Grade

Operation Nativity – Jenny Pearson (author), Katie Kear (illustrations), Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

I howled with laughter at this book but I also had tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat as I read the final few pages too.  It’s one the most enjoyable books I have read this year  – there’s laugh out loud, feel good fun and great characterisation and emotional depth all rolled into the pages of one sensational, seasonal story.  When Oscar and his little sister Molly Moo rush outside to investigate a crash and a flash in the night, they do not expect to find the Angel Gabriel wandering around in a daze in the middle of their grandparents’ rather substantial-sized back garden!  But find him they do.  And when he explains to them that he *might* have been a little over-enthusiastic in his first announcement of the birth of Jesus and just *might* have accidentally transported a heavily pregnant Mary, Joseph, the donkey, a shepherd named Steve, Balthazar the wise man (although after his antics in the story, this is somewhat questionable!) and himself to another place (Chipping Bottom) and time (last December)!  So, it’s up to Oscar and his little sister to save Christmas.  But when you have to track down the real-life, actual Mary and Joseph, a missing shepherd, a wise man and a donkey who’ve all landed in different places, that’s not as easy as it sounds.  Especially not if you also have to rehearse for your family’s Christmas nativity which is taking place for the final time because your grandfather, whom you love very much, is sick.   Operation nativity is on!  Will Oscar manage to pull it off?  I cannot wait to read this story with my eldest daughter in the run-up to Christmas because I know she is going to love it (we both adored Grandpa Frank’s Great Big Bucket List written by the same author) – it’s tummy-achingly funny in places and the imagery and descriptions that the author uses are just brilliant.  It’s not only a feel good, funny story of Christmas cheer (although I absolutely promise you it is this), it deals with grief and death in a beautifully moving way and in a way that is completely age-appropriate and sensitive.  Filled with family loyalty and love, a sense of fun, and hilarious black and white illustrations which only enhance the story, this is one of the most sensitive portrayals of life and death around.

Murder at Snowfall- Fleur Hitchcock  (author), Nosy Crow Ltd (publisher)

This chilling adventure seeps into your bones and is the perfect wintery murder mystery to solve from under the comfort of your snuggly, warm blanket! Ruby and Lucas are ‘steps’ who tend to avoid each other at all costs but one freezing cold and snowy night, they share some unforgettable memories together.  When they find an abandoned trunk, all covered in snow, Lucas bets Ruby that there is a body inside….. Ruby doesn’t want to open the trunk, but she does, and she immediately wishes she hadn’t.  From that grisly moment on, the pair become embroiled in a chilling murder mystery, with the murderer staying one step ahead of them at every frosty twist and turn.  Will they be able to find out who is behind the deadly chain of events, or will they be thrown to the wolves?   Have they found a vital clue which will assist in solving the macabre murder?  Will the falling snow cover up the murderer’s tracks, or will they crack through it like the proverbial ice on a freezing cold day?  I loved this gripping read.  I felt like I was riding a toboggan track as it was so full of icy twists and turns and full-speed adventure.  With the most fabulously wintry setting, not only is this a wonderful murder mystery for middle grade readers but it is also has a warming story about family and togetherness at its heart, to counteract the chill and permafrost of the crime novel.  I love Fleur Hitchcock’s writing, and this book is no exception.  Grab your blanket and snuggle on in!

Humbug, the Elf Who Saved Christmas – Steven Butler (author), Kenneth Anderson (illustrator) Scholastic (publisher)

Oh my goodness, this book is amazerous (that’s elvish speak, don’t you know)!  In the words of Gristle P. Humbug himself, “I found myself grinning a really-real teeth-and-all grin” throughout the entire book.  I absolutely raced through it and yet I was so sad when it ended (although I cannot now wait to read it with my eldest daughter in the run-up to Christmas).  The Humbugs aren’t the kind of elves you imagine when you think about the North Pole or see on Christmas cards.  Nope, they are ragged and worn-out, grumplish and rather stinky.  No wonder,  when they are in charge of the less than glamorous part of the North Pole – Reindeer Poo Disposal.  But when Gristle’s sister, Scratchet, takes a mince pie from the bakehouse, shattering all Gristle’s hopes of becoming a ‘better’ elf, the family are exiled to the frozen white waste.  Rather than going there though, the Humbugs set off on a once in a lifetime adventure with Blister the reindeer to the human world.  It’s there, with the help of a little girl called Maya Pinkerton and her family that they discover the true meaning of Christmas and also come to realise just how vital their role was in the North Pole operation.  I cannot recommend this book highly enough for laugh out loud humour (I ADORED the Roald Dahl-esque made up elvish speak which is hilarious in the extreme) and for genuine Christmas cheer and festive spirit.  It’s a wonderful book about the true meaning of Christmas and about love and family and equality.   The black and white illustrations are full of jollity and are rip-roaringly funny and therefore only serve to enhance this seasonal story.   I cannot think of a better book to read for festive, feel-good fun and light heartedness in the run up to Christmas to make your children excited about the big day.  Don’t be “tinsel-brained”, you really MUST read a copy.

The Arctic Railway Assassin – Adventures on Trains – M.G. Leonard and Sam Sedgman (authors), Elisa Paganelli (illustrator), Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

Full of Arctic atmosphere and frosty suspense, I raced through this amazing Arctic adventure set in the frozen north.   In fact, I am now desperate to do this same train ride that this book details! I was so excited to read the next instalment in this best-selling and award-winning Adventures on Trains series and its snowy scenery makes it the perfect book to read at this time of year.  Fear not if you have not read any of the other books, this can easily be read as a standalone adventure.  Harrison, or Hal, Beck and his Uncle Nat are travelling to the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights.  As they climb aboard their train going north from Stockholm, they realise that there is someone watching them.  Added to the strange goings-on that Uncle Nat’s friend Morti has been experiencing and the fact that she could not join them on their journey, Uncle Nat and Hal realise that not all the passengers on board the train are friendly.  But what has that got to do with them?  Hal’s artistic wizardry and talent for observation are tested to the icy extremes as they face an extremely dangerous journey across the frozen wasteland.  With twists and turns like a rollercoaster (rather than a train ride), this is one gripping and tense railroad adventure.  From railways to reindeer, snowmobiles to sledges, secret missions and life-destroying weapons, this book is a thrilling ride through the icy north.  It’s absolutely un-put-downable, and you will be desperate to find out what happens at every slippery snowy turn.  The black and white maps and illustrations only serve to enhance the story, providing detail and reference points throughout the adventure, as well as being amazing in their artistry. If you have a young thrill-seeker or adventure lover in your life then I highly recommend this snowy seasonal read for them.  I adored it.

Young Adult

All the Jingle Ladies – Beth Garrod (author), Scholastic (publisher)

This left me with the CHEESIEST of grins on my face as I turned the final pages of this book.  If you are looking for a feel-good book for your teenager (or yourself) then this is the Christmas book to do it for you.  I feel festive as an elf on Christmas eve now!  I admit that my mind was elsewhere when I first started this book so it took me a good few pages to get into it (a reflection on me, not the book!) but as soon as I did, I was wholeheartedly embracing the Christmas cheer.  Molly hates Christmas.  Ever since she appeared in her family Christmas cheesy single when she was six shouting “ Happy holidays from the cutest little elf in the whole wide world!” she has been plagued by elf jokes and finds December unbearable.  But a move to a new town a few years’ ago meant she could keep her identity a secret….. until this year …. when the cheesy song is being used on the hottest festive film around, Sleigh Another Day!  Molly is determined to shake off her Christmas grump though to cheer up her best friend Grace and remember Grace’s Grandfather who died the previous year but was the biggest Christmas cheese fan around!  When Molly finds herself embarrassing herself by seemingly attacking the female star of the movie and goes to hide in a cupboard, she finds a cute guy doing just the same thing.  While she is vowing to be a Jingle Lady with Grace after her boyfriend was seen cheating on her, the cinema boy just keeps turning up at all the promotion events for the movie.  Will it be happy ever after for Molly or will she remain a Jingle Lady?  Will she manage to pull off a great big party and raise lots of funds in memory of Grampy G?  You MUST read this book to find out!  Honestly, I have been in a real grump lately and this book is like a big warm gingerbread hot chocolate with lashings of marshmallows and cream.  It’s good for the soul to be warmed by this much love and friendship and Christmas cheer.

Poetry Books

We Wish You a Merry Christmas – chosen and illustrated by Chris Riddell, Macmillan Children’s Books (publisher)

What better time to read poetry aloud than round the Christmas tree in front of a roaring fire, keeping cosy from the cold outside.  And this gorgeous-looking compilation of Christmas poems fits the bill perfectly.  The jolly bright red cover with its cheery Christmas tree artwork and eye-catching silver foil draws you right in.  With classics and modern poems, it’s a festive flurry of delight.  Some of our all-time favourite traditional verses are in there, such as The Twelve Days of Christmas and Deck the Halls, as well as poetry by some absolute greats, such as Wordsworth and Tennyson.  We also came across lots of superb poetry that we had never read before which was wonderful.  And to top it all off, this sparkly Christmas gem of a book comes with stunning black and white illustrations on every single page to accompany the poetry.  It’s a visual masterpiece!  Although all the poems contained in the book are written about the festive season, you may read some of them with a heavy heart and an emotional lump in your throat.  Particularly when they are accompanied by the exquisite illustrations.  But isn’t that the point of great poetry?  To make us think.  To make us feel alive and to rejoice that we are so.  We love dipping in and out of this book, to pick a poem and read it out, to adore the artistry.  This book would make the perfect present for any young poetry lover and is a superb read-aloud anthology on evenings in the run up to Christmas and beyond.

Activity and Sticker Books

Little Sticker Dolly Dressing, Christmas Fairy – Usborne Publishing Ltd (publisher)

Merrie the Christmas fairy dreams that Christmas will be a magical time for everyone in Fairyland so she has asked her friends to make her wishes come true.  Join them as they decorate Fairyland with glistening icicles, garlands, sparkling snowflakes, holly berries and much more.  Can you help the fairy friends get their festive outfits on using the stickers provided and then decorate the rest of the pages with the remaining stickers?  If you do it carefully, you might just be able to re-use the stickers!  This is magical sticker book, drawing your little ones in right from the beautifully illustrated and silver foil crafted cover page. The illustrations of the fairies and Fairyland are gorgeous and the detailing on the clothes and stickers is exquisite.  It’s been enjoyed as much by my little boy as much as it has by my girls and it has been a wonderful way to while away some time on a wet and windy afternoon.  It’s been brilliant for my little boy, in particular, because he needs to do more fine motor skills activities to help with his pencil control and peeling off the stickers and placing them down with precision is such a great and fun activity for that.  A super seasonal activity book, full of sparkle and magic.

Crazy Stickers Christmas Fun -Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

What child (and, let’s be honest, adult!) doesn’t love a good, fun sticker book?!  And this one is such fun.  It’s tree-mendous you might say – ha ha! Your little ones get to let their imaginations run wild and their creativity know no bounds as they use the festive stickers (there’s over 300 of them!) to decorate everyday items which are featured in the pages of the book.  They can decorate a bauble with a funny face, add elf legs and a woolly scarf to a glass of milk, or add a halo and wings to a candle – whatever they do, they are sure to have creative fun making their very own festive friends from these everyday items.  With vibrantly colourful pages and hilarious little jokes and puns on each page, this book is a wonderful way for your children to get in the festive spirit.  I will certainly be using it to occupy the children in the Christmas holidays!

Winter Wonderland Magic Painting Book – Usborne Publishing Limited

As a parent, don’t you just think these magic painting books are one of the best EVER inventions?  Mess free.  Lots of fun.  Win, win.  Each book comes with its own paintbrush attached so all you need to do is add a pot of water and your little ones are good to go!!  If you have more than one child you want to entertain, like us, then the pages can be ripped out (along the perforated edges) so the painting joy can be shared out.   You can then display their creative Christmassy artwork for all to see.  This winter wonderland book is just beautiful.  Filled with adorably illustrated wondrous wintry wonderlands to paint.  Your child will love how they magically burst into colour and life after they have dipped their brush into water and swept it over the black and white patterns.  There are magical elf and fairy scenes, wintery woodland animals, magical unicorns, fantastical castles and fairground scenes to paint, and lots of sparkling snow and seasonal joy and cheer.  This is a gorgeous Christmas activity book and a wonderful way for excited little people to calm down if they have had a stimulating day.

RHS Christmas Cards and Envelopes – Cover and inside Illustrations Zanna Goldhawk, Scholastic (publisher)

Are you looking for an activity that the older members of your family can really get involved with?  This book is for you then!  Jingle packed full with the most exquisitely beautiful and intricate illustrations inspired by the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society (we spend a lot of time in Harlow Carr, which is near us!), this festive book of fun contains 26 stunning cards and matching envelopes to decorate however you wish.  There is a brilliant instruction guide on the first page of the book which explains what to do with your card, how to make your envelope and there are even stunning seasonal stickers to seal your Christmas creation with.  We have all had a go at these cards and we will be getting them out every weekend in the run up to Christmas as it is such a fabulously festive activity that we can all get involved in.  It’s great for neat colouring and fine motor skills for my twins (the drawings are very detailed!) and is thoroughly absorbing and engaging for older members.  My husband even came downstairs after the children were in bed to “finish his off”!!  The cards are easily pressed out and removed from the perforated edges and they are really so beautiful (think robins and squirrels and fabulous foliage and vintage wintry scenes and you will be a tenth of the way there!) – they make the most special stationery to send to family and friends, particularly with the inclusion of the “created for you by: “ signs on the back.  A creative Christmas colouring activity book for the whole family to enjoy.  We are even going to add eco-friendly glitter to our next creations!

Colour with Stickers – Christmas – Caterpillar Books (imprint of Little Tiger) (publisher)

This is another Christmas cracker of a sticker book.  I am giving this one to my twins to do because not only does it have over 150 stickers to utilise but it will massively help them to reinforce their numbers 1-20.  Why, I hear you cry?  Because each fabulous festive scene has numbers on it to match up with the stickers for the corresponding scene, hence helping with number recognition and fine motor skills for accurate placement of the stickers on the scene.  Each fun spread can also be taken out of the book using the perforated edges so if you have more than one child to entertain (like me) then there is no hanging around waiting for their turn.  Brilliant.  But that’s not all.  Aside from this book being vibrantly colourful and hugely interactive with all its sticker fun, there are also hugely fun facts all about different Christmas traditions.  I bet you didn’t know that the Canadian post code for the North Pole is HOH OHO, did you?  Or that the largest snowwoman every built was so huge that skis were used to form her eyelashes?  Full of festive fun, facts and Christmas cheer, this is superb sticker book to entertain your little ones in the run up to Christmas.

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Fiona lives in Yorkshire with her husband and little girl who is 6 months

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