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Kids Christmas Reads 2021

Kids Christmas Reads 2021

Are you starting to get the festive feels?  I am not sure whether it is just me but, this year, after the misery of a Christmas in isolation last year, I am totally up for going all out.  What better way to get your Christmas festivities off to a jingle-jangly, twinkly lights start, than by reading a festive book or two.  Here are some of my favourite choices for this year:

Board books:

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Nibbles Christmas – Emma Yarlett (author and illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

Fans of Nibbles (there are two in our house!!) will not be disappointed by this festive edition.  Following the same countdown from ten format as the other board books, this book not only reinforces numbers but does so in the interactive and fun way we have come to expect from Nibbles, the cheeky monster.  I think this one might be our favourite yet – not least because of the festive cheer; we love the clever book in a book ending: where is that loveable monster off to?  No spoilers here.  But, if you have young children, I definitely think you should hide a Christmas Nibbles under your tree this year.

Nibbles Christmas – Emma Yarlett (author and illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)
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Step into The Nutcracker – Cynthia Alonso (illustrator), Quarto (publisher)

In a beautifully interesting and textured boardbook layout, Marie sets out on a festive adventure when her Godfather Drosselmeyer brings her a wonderful nutcracker.  Marie meets the Mouse King, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and the Nutcracker himself and visits the magical Nutcracker Kingdom as you turn the pages of this book, marvelling at the vibrant illustrations and depictions of this festive tale.  If you are looking for an interesting and colourful re-imaging of this Christmassy story, look no further.

Step into The Nutcracker – Cynthia Alonso (illustrator), Quarto (publisher)

Squirrel’s Snowman – Julia Donaldson (author), Axel Scheffler (illustrator), Macmillan Childrens Books (publisher)

The latest in the “Tales from Acorn Wood” series from this much-loved author and illustrator combo, this festive board book would be a brilliant stocking filler for any young child.  With interactive lift-the-flaps, squirrel sets out to build a snowman – will she find what she needs?  A great book for taking on car/train journeys or flights to visit relatives over the festive period.

uirrel’s Snowman – Julia Donaldson (author), Axel Scheffler (illustrator), Macmillan Childrens Books (publisher)

Christmas Street – Jonathan Emmett (author),  Ingela P Arrhenius (illustrator), Nosy Crow (Publisher)

If you are looking for something a bit different to gift this Christmas then look no further.  This ingenious board book concertinas out to make a beautifully illustrated frieze with which to decorate your child’s bedroom or playroom.  Oh, and did I mention that it also has s brilliant play scene on the other side containing 26 festively-themed lift the flaps?  Everyone is busy on Christmas Street and your little one will have so much fun reading what they are up to while learning the alphabet at the same time.  With such vibrant and cheerful artwork which really brings this festive time to life, this book is one to treasure and get out every year.

Christmas Street - Jonathan Emmett (author),  Ingela P Arrhenius (illustrator), Nosy Crow (Publisher)

Don’t Tickle the Polar Bear! – Usborne Touchy-Feely Sounds

This board book is irresistible.  With gorgeously soft patches to touch for each artic animal, your little one will not only love the feel and texture of the cute animals but be captivated by the real-life noises that they make.  The illustrations are sweet, vibrant and colourful and will have the little child in your life reaching for this book time and time again.  It’s a great interactive read for this winter-time.

Don’t Tickle the Polar Bear! – Usborne Touchy-Feely Sounds

Picture books:

Steve the Christmas Elf  – Billy Dunne (author), Ben Whitehouse (illustrator), Buster Booksn (publisher)

What a cute book!  All of my children loved it.  In a novel turn of events, this story is about Steve, the Christmas Elf, who doesn’t believe that children are real.  I mean, he has never seen one, so why would he believe?!  The cheeky elf becomes a stowaway on Father Christmas’s sleigh and there follows a whole host of fun and adventure when he meets and decides to help a little girl called May who is on the naughty list.  This is a heart-warming tale of sharing, caring and helping each other out which is just perfect for this time of year.  The colourful and humorous pictures match the vibrant and funny text.  A great festive read to share with your little ones.

steve the Christmas Elf  - Billy Dunne (author), Ben Whitehouse (illustrator), Buster Booksn (publisher)

The Christmas Department Store – Maudie Powell-Tuck (author), Hoang Giang (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

What a beautifully illustrated book which conjures up the magic of Christmas right from the cover-page.  This is a charming book about the power of imagination and the true gift of love and laughter at Christmas time.  It’s a heart-warming tale following Benji on his adventure through the magical Christmas Department store (hosted by the most cute-looking polar bear) where he meets flamingos and leopards, rides roller-coasters and sits on sandy beaches until he finds the perfect presents for his family.  Perfect presents which cost nothing other than love, imagination and joy.   The perfect message for this time of year, all wrapped up in wonderful words and stunning pictures.

The Christmas Department Store – Maudie Powell-Tuck (author), Hoang Giang (illustrator), Little Tiger Press Ltd (publisher)

The Little Fir Tree – from the original story by Hans Christian Andersen, Christopher Corr (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (Quarto Group) (publisher)

This is a beautiful and vibrantly illustrated re-telling of Hans Christian Andersen’s classic festive story about a little fir tree.  The tale always brings tears to my eyes as I think about the little fir tree being all cold and lonely but the warm and wonderful pictures in this book really bring out the joyfulness of the tale and the circle of life.  This is a wonderful artistic re-imagining of the story and a must to read round the Christmas tree this year.

The Little Fir Tree – from the original story by Hans Christian Andersen, Christopher Corr (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (Quarto Group) (publisher)

The Toys’ Christmas – Claire Clement (author), Genevieve Godbout (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (Quarto) (publisher)

Every year Noah’s favourite toy, Fanfan, goes on a journey.  A very special journey where he meets up with lots of other favourite toys along the way and goes to visit Father Christmas. He has an important job to do when he gets there.  What is it? Well, that would be telling but all I am saying is that parents might need to check with their children’s toys whether they know what their little owners would like for Christmas. With some of the sweetest and cosiest drawings I have seen in a Christmas book, which match this lovely little tale with its wonderful imagery perfectly, this is a super book to snuggle down and read with your little ones at bedtime in the run up to Christmas.

oys’ Christmas – Claire Clement (author), Genevieve Godbout (illustrator), Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (Quarto) (publisher)

Santa’s New Sleigh – Caroline Crowe (author), Jess Pauwels (illustrator) Faber & Faber (publisher)

Oh no! What a disaster! Santa’s sleigh stops working on Christmas Eve.  What will Santa and his team of elves do?  This picture book is filled with the most hilarious illustrations drawn by Jess Pauwels that my children find something new to laugh at each time we read it.  The elves come up with a host of amusing suggestions to save Christmas, each as hapless, as the next, until Lizzie comes up with a glorious eco-solution which also explains why children never hear Santa’s sleigh when they are fast asleep.  This is a fun-filled rhyming tale full of festive merriment and perfect for the Christmas season.

Santa’s New Sleigh – Caroline Crowe (author), Jess Pauwels (illustrator) Faber & Faber (publisher)

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam – Santa’s Stolen Sleigh – Tracey Corderoy (author), Steven Lenton (illustrator), Nosy Crow (publisher)

My children are obsessed with Shifty and Sam!! We have all the other books in the series so you can imagine that they were beyond excited to learn that there was a new festive picture book out for this canine crime-fighting duo.  Steven Lenton has excelled himself with his palate of colours in this story and the illustrations are just wonderful.  They match a brilliant and funny adventure in which Shifty and Sam save Christmas when the wrong-doer Flo Frost steals Father Christmas’ sleigh.  This festive treat might be our favourite in the series yet!  I think Father Christmas needs to wrap this one up and pop it in a stocking or two.

Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam – Santa’s Stolen Sleigh – Tracey Corderoy (author), Steven Lenton (illustrator), Nosy Crow (publisher)

Jingle Smells – Mark Sperring (author), Sophie Corrigan (illustrator),  Bloomsbury (publisher)

Following the whiff of Jingle, the festive skunk, this is a wonderfully fun tale which will not fail to appeal to your child’s sense of humour.  All of my children thought it was hilarious.  Poor Jingle just wants to see the pretty town all lit up at Christmas but his stinky bottom just keeps causing all manner of trouble.  That is until he saves the day by stopping Santa being robbed by a villainous crew.  With funny and colourful drawings throughout, this is a great book to share with your children over the festive period.

jingle Smells – Mark Sperring (author), Sophie Corrigan (illustrator),  Bloomsbury (publisher)

Robin Robin – Dan Ojari and Mikey Please (authors), Briony May Smith (illustrator), Two Hoots (pan Macmillan) (publisher)

Inspired by the Netflix film, this book tells the story of a gorgeous little Robin who gets adopted by a family of mice after her egg falls into their burrow during a storm.  Poor little Robin Robin worries that she will never fit in with her family who love her so dearly because she can’t be as quiet or a sneaky as them.  She finally realises that she needs to stop trying to be like others and start being who she is really is and puts her talents to good use.  The illustrations by Briony May Smith are just adorable and really make this warm and fluffy-feathered story a perfect one to cosy up with on a cold winter’s day.

Robin Robin – Dan Ojari and Mikey Please (authors), Briony May Smith (illustrator), Two Hoots (pan Macmillan) (publisher)

The Christmas Pine – Julia Donaldson (author), Victoria Sandoy (illustrator), Alison Green Books (imprint of Scholastic) (publisher)

What a lovely heart-warming rhyming story about a little Christmas tree which, one day, grows up to be a very important festive symbol, shining brightly in Trafalgar Square in London and representing peace, friendship, hope and courage. The illustrations are just magical and so evocative of the message of festive peace and friendship that the book conveys.  My children also loved the information page at the back of the book which details how this story has come to life, based on the true tradition of a Norwegian Spruce being presented by Norway to the UK for its support during World War II. This is a beautiful tale to read in the run-up to Christmas.

The Christmas Pine – Julia Donaldson (author), Victoria Sandoy (illustrator), Alison Green Books (imprint of Scholastic) (publisher)

Super Duper Penguin Slide –  Leonie Lord (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

Who doesn’t love a book about penguins?  Especially when the penguins are so cute and have such adorable names.  This is a lovely book with the sweetest (and funniest) illustrations about a family of penguins undertaking an epic journey displaying patience, politeness and resilience, to embark on the world-renowned super-duper penguin slide.  My children love how the book needs to be rotated to read it as the penguins whizz down the slide and the ending which prompts more cries of “again, again!”… definitely worth slipping this one into your young child’s stocking.

Super Duper Penguin Slide –  Leonie Lord (author and illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher)

The Twelve Green Days of Christmas – Barry Timms (author), Sian Robers (illustrator) Farshore (publisher)

I just love the idea of this book.  Christmas is a time of year which is notoriously “un-green” and yet this book, which is based on the festive song, brings to the forefront your child’s imagination, the concepts of recycling and reusing.  The forest is in full festive swing for Christmas time but Father Christmas is appalled by what he sees when he looks around – there is rubbish everywhere!  So, he writes a letter to his forest friends asking them to help tidy up and look after their environment and over the following twelve fun-filled days, that is exactly what they do.  With vibrant and joyful illustrations and the rhyme fitting perfectly within the Twelve Days of Christmas song, this is the perfect book for any child to read this Christmas and carries such an important message about sustainability and recycling.

The Twelve Green Days of Christmas – Barry Timms (author), Sian Robers (illustrator) Farshore (publisher)

Frindleswylde – Natalia O’Hara (author), Lauren O’Hara (illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher), recommended reading age: 5 plus

Beautifully illustrated, this is a frost-filled fable about a mysterious boy called Frindleswylde who lures a brave little girl, Cora, down into his magical frozen kingdom and sets her three impossible tasks.  She completes these tasks to try and set her grandmother free but becomes trapped in the icy wonderland until one day she manages to change everything.  It’s an enchanting read with those of five and above (I think my twins at only four might be a little too young for some of the ideas) and the illustrations really do bring the magical story to life with images of frost-filled lands and polar bears reminiscent of Russian folk-lore.  It makes a beautiful read in the run up to Christmas.

Frindleswylde – Natalia O’Hara (author), Lauren O’Hara (illustrator), Walker Books Ltd (publisher), recommended reading age: 5 plus

Chapter Books:

How Winston Came Home for Christmas – Alex T Smith (author and illustrator), MacMillan Children’s Books (publisher)

What a gorgeous book – it literally fizzes with festive fun and warmth. Told in twenty-four and a half chapters, it is the ultimate countdown to Christmas: read one chapter a day and the half chapter on Christmas Day itself.  Each chapter features a fabulous festive activity for families to make or do together or enjoy when they are in the Christmassy spirit (my very favourite being the ‘Tiny (but mighty) Acts of Kindness’).  The story itself is the sequel to the much-loved ‘How Winston Delivered Christmas’ and is a heart-warming Christmas mystery.  A mouse has gone missing, a mouse that Winston just knows is important to him, and he sets off on an exciting, round-the-world adventure along with his wonderful friends.  It really is the sweetest book, filled with beautiful illustrations and will be sure to capture the magic and spirit of Christmas for your young readers.  Our Elf on the Shelf is delivering a copy of this book to my children this year and I just know that they are going to love it.

How Winston Came Home for Christmas – Alex T Smith (author and illustrator), MacMillan Children’s Books (publisher)

The Night Train  – Matilda Woods (author), Penny Neville-Lee (illustrator) Stripes Publishing Ltd (Little Tiger) (publisher)

What a beautiful story. This is a perfect book for any early reader gaining confidence in their reading. It’s exquisitely illustrated with beautiful drawings (the Yeti is just adorable) and follows the voyage of some very special passengers to children’s dreams.  When the Night Train’s journey comes to a standstill because of a fallen tree and Charles the conductor can’t solve the problem on his own, will the passengers have the bravery, courage and team-spirit to get the train moving again?  No spoilers here (!) but this is a lovely, heart-warming tale of togetherness which is perfect for this time of the year.

The Night Train  - Matilda Woods (author), Penny Neville-Lee (illustrator) Stripes Publishing Ltd (Little Tiger) (publisher)

A Puppy’s First Christmas – Holly Webb (author), Sophy Williams (illustrator),Stripes Publishing Limited (Little Tiger) (publisher)

This title celebrates the 50th book in this best-selling series by Holly Webb.  My eldest daughter (who is six), just LOVES these books.  Not only does it massively resonate in our house because we are the proud owners of a Labrador puppy called Rufus (who is just as mischievous as Jackson in this tale), but I also learnt a few things from this book too.  Helpful hint: for those of you with pets, let them get used to your Christmas trees first before you start decorating them!  I also appreciated the focus on Aria (the main character) feeling a little overwhelmed by the noise and excitement of Christmas-time because it is easy to forget that not everyone copes with things in the same way.  This is such a sweet book which will have you laughing out loud at some of the antics the loveable roguish Jackson gets up to and the ending is just heart-warming to see all of the family come together with a greater understanding of their new pet.

A Puppy’s First Christmas – Holly Webb (author), Sophy Williams (illustrator),Stripes Publishing Limited (Little Tiger) (publisher)

Two Terrible Vikings – Francesca Simon (author), Steve May (illustrator), Faber & Faber (publisher)

Hack and Whack’s parents actually WANT them to behave badly.  Yes, that’s right, they want them to be the worst little Vikings in the village.  These hilarious twins get up to all sorts of mischievous adventures set against the majestic backdrop of the snowy fjords.  This is a humorous early reader with a cast of brilliantly named characters (such as Bitey-Bitey, Dirty Ulf and Twisty Pants) that are depicted in uproarious illustrations.  Fans of “Horrid Henry” will love this book.

teve May (illustrator), Faber & Faber (publisher)

A Puppy Called Sparkle – Helen Peters (author), Ellie Snowden (illustrator), Nosy Crow (publisher)

My daughter loves this series of early independent reader chapter books.  She was so excited that there was a Christmas one out and that it was about a puppy too no less (we got a Labrador puppy in October this year because one of our old Labs died last year)!  Poor old Sparkle has come from a puppy farm (and children learn all about what these are) and is rescued by Jasmine only to fall into another misadventure – will she be saved and will everyone enjoy a happy Christmas?  Not only is this book wonderfully interspersed with gorgeous drawings which bring the text to life, it also taught us both a lot about just how clever dogs can be (you’ll have to read it to find out what I mean but, wow, go pups!).  With a very cute festive robin thrown into the tale as well, all is well that ends well, fear not.  This is a very sweet book for any young animal lover to read at Christmas-time.

n (illustrator), Nosy Crow (publisher)

Billy and the Mini Monsters – Monsters at Christmas – Zannia Davidson (author), Melanie Williamson (illustrator), Usborne (publisher)

What a lovely festive book for your young reader.  With larger font and lots of breaks in the text for brilliantly cute and funny illustrations and cartoon-style continuations of the story, this is a perfect Christmassy story for any early chapter book reader or independent reader. With monsters called “Sparkle-Bogey” and “Trumpet” my daughter has found this to be a laugh out loud read.  Will the mini-monsters ruin Christmas for Billy and his family? I won’t spoil it for you! Pop it in your child’s Christmas stocking and, I promise you, they will be zipping through the pages to find out.

Billy and the Mini Monsters – Monsters at Christmas – Zannia Davidson (author), Melanie Williamson (illustrator), Usborne (publisher)

The Naughtiest Unicorn in a Winter Wonderland – Pip Bird (author), David O’Connell (illustrator), Farshore (Publisher)

My daughter loves the books in this series and this sledge-filled, snow-packed adventure is a great addition and a super one to get your child into the spirit of Christmas.  Winter sports and yetis abound in this tale of winter wonderland with Mira, Dave and the usual crew, topped off with lashings of Northern Lights like the proverbial cream on top of the hot chocolate.  With uproariously funny illustrations and the humour that all children of this age find hilarious (think noisy unicorn bottoms), this is a great chapter book for the season.

he Naughtiest Unicorn in a Winter Wonderland – Pip Bird (author), David O’Connell (illustrator), Farshore (Publisher)

Middle Grade:

WishYouWas The Tiny Guardian of Lost Letters  – Alexandra Page (author), Penny Neville-Lee (illustrator), Bloomsbury Children’s Books (publisher), recommended reading age: 9-11 years

I fell down a letter sorting-hole of magical wonder and loveliness when I read this book.  Set in the early 1950s in a smog-encased winter in London, this is the perfect magical and festive read.  Penny Black is a young girl, bored and waiting for her beloved mother to come home one December night, when she captures a small, furry, brown animal who is trying to run off with a letter from her uncle’s post office.  The furry brown something is Wishyouwas, a Sorter, Second Class, a guardian of lost mail.  From that moment on, Penny’s life changes dramatically as she tries to save the Sorters from the vindictive Stanley Scrawl and help deliver a magical Christmas.  With absolutely gorgeous illustrations of the cute little Sorters capturing the magical essence of this book and a brilliant surprise under the jacket, this hardcover edition is the perfect read in the run up to Christmas.  I WishIWasn’t finished it but I really WishTheyWould make it into a film!

WishYouWas The Tiny Guardian of Lost Letters  - Alexandra Page (author), Penny Neville-Lee (illustrator), Bloomsbury Children’s Books (publisher), recommended reading age: 9-11 years

Fledgling –  Lucy Hope (author), Nosy Crow (publisher), recommended reading age: 9 plus

I am not sure that words can do justice to how much I loved this gothic tale of adventure.  I was simultaneously desperate to find out what would happen next and praying (to the angels and cherubs!) that it would not end.  During a stormy night in Bavaria in the 1900s, a cherub blows in through the window of Cassie Engel’s bedroom and there unfurls (like the wings of an angel) a thrilling and atmospheric chain of events which take the reader on an unforgettable journey.  Set against the backdrop of the brooding Bavarian Forest, it’s a tale of owls, angels, friendship, love, secrets and mystery.  The perfect gripping wintry tale for getting lost in this season.

Fledgling –  Lucy Hope (author), Nosy Crow (publisher), recommended reading age: 9 plus

Tinsel: The Girls who Invented Christmas – Sibeal Pounder (author), Sarah Warburton (illustrator) Bloomsbury Children’s (publisher) , recommended reading age: 9 plus

Never mind the children, I absolutely adored this book.  All 300 pages of sparkly, festively-baubled loveliness of it (plus the adorable little bonus story at the end!).  If you want to sing with festive spirit of Christmases past and present then do read this book either for yourself or with your young readers.  Maybe we all have the concept of Christmas and Santa-Claus all wrong.  Maybe it has really all been about girl-power.  Set in Christmas of yore (that’s over a hundred years’ ago, you know), when life was a lot trickier for girls, this fun-filled feminist adventure full of glitter and sparkle and lots of Carols (but not as you know them) takes place.  Find a comfy seat, snuggle down with a mince pie and a hot chocolate, this book with take you on the sleigh-ride of your life.  I cannot recommend it enough.

he Girls who Invented Christmas – Sibeal Pounder (author), Sarah Warburton (illustrator) Bloomsbury Children’s (publisher) , recommended reading age: 9 plus

The Good Bear – Sarah Lean (author), Fiona Woodcock (illustrator), Simon & Schuster (publisher), recommended reading age: 9 plus

My heart was in my mouth at times during this story.  Set in a snowy and frozen Norwegian forest at Christmas time, everything seems bleak and alien to Thea who has gone to visit her estranged father for the Christmas holidays.  Until she wakes up a starving, hibernating bear that is.  He’s as scared and lonely as she is and Thea makes it her mission to save him from the elders in the town (particularly the mean Mr Prag), who don’t understand him and want to hunt him.  Through her heart-warming relationship with the ‘Good Bear’, Thea comes to realise that love and friendship and support is all around, if only you open up to others.  This is such a wonderful book that will leave you feeling all warm and cosy and wrapped up in a bear-sized hug.

The Good Bear – Sarah Lean (author), Fiona Woodcock (illustrator), Simon & Schuster (publisher), recommended reading age: 9 plus

The Christmas Pig  – J.K.Rowling (author), Jim Field (illustrator), Little Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Group) (publisher), recommended reading age: 8-12 years

Copy not gifted

If you buy the hardback copy of this book with the cover, no matter how gorgeously illustrated it is, do take the cover off and see how beautiful the book is underneath.  I love a surprise pretty book!  And it’s not just the cover of this book that is beautiful.  It’s a wonderfully written tale of friendship, bravery, love and warmth and a real page turner of an adventure about a boy called Jack and the lengths he will go to to find his missing soft toy, Dur-Pig.  I would say that the recommended reading age is just right.  I had thought about reading this with my six year old (who reads well independently) but I do think that she might be a bit scared by some of the ideas and concepts so I will leave it for next year.  The illustrations in the book are just delightful black and white pieces of magic.  Everything you would expect from Jim Field and more.  Perhaps controversially, this hasn’t been my favourite book of the season but I certainly enjoyed it and I would absolutely recommend it.

mas Pig  - J.K.Rowling (author), Jim Field (illustrator), Little Brown Books for Young Readers (Hachette Group) (publisher), recommended reading age: 8-12 years
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