It must be Christmas!

Well, for the last couple of months we have been showered by lists of books that we should be reading this Christmas and I thought that as in previous years I will pick a few of the ones that I have really enjoyed.  Yet again it has been quite a bumper year for Christmas stories and this year they cover a large range of genres as well as age ranges.  So let us start with those for what is now termed the ‘independent’ reader.


Puffin, 978-0141369723

“Mistletoe and Murder” by Robin Stevens is the latest in her series about the two young sleuths Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong.  I have been an avid reader of all her works and this definitely lives up to the superb standard of the others.  Daisy and Hazel find themselves spending Christmas in a Cambridge college and then they become embroiled in a murder enquiry which really tests their skills.  Robin Stevens has used her love of ‘Golden Age’ crime to link this story to the works of Dorothy L Sayers and in particular to ‘Gaudy Night’ which is set in an Oxford College.  As the girls might say, this is a “really spiffing read”.


Macmillan, 978-1509832583

“The Road to Ever After” by Moira Young is a total change from her earlier work and is for a slightly younger audience.  It is the story of young  Davy David who scrapes out a living in the  small  town of Brownvale and re-creates pictures of angels on the ground.  Life changes when the mysterious Miss Flint hires him to driver her to an unknown house on the coast, despite the fact that he is only 13 years and cannot drive.  What follows is a magical journey, with unexpected consequences. There is a sense of being on a quest as well as there being a nod in the direction of “A Wonderful Life”.  This is a story to re-read and treasure and I know it will be with me for a long time.


Canongate, 978-1782118572

“The Girl who saved Christmas” by Matt Haig is the follow on to last year’s best seller “A Boy called Christmas”.  Whilst the central character  is still Father Christmas, this book is set at a later period.  People are beginning to not believe in Father Christmas and the magic is starting to disappear.  It needs someone who really believes, to save the day; but even she is beginning to have doubts.


Nosy Crow, 978-0857636386

“Murder in Midwinter” by Fleur Hitchcock.  When Maya thinks she might have seen a murderer, the police send her to stay with her aunt in Wales.  But the danger follows her in this exciting story.


Puffin, 9780141373324

“The Christmasaurus” by Tom Fletcher is about a dinosaur searching for his identity and a young boy who loves dinosaurs and Christmas; add a nasty villain to the mix and get set for a fantastically magical adventure


Simon & Schuster, 9781471159800

“Winter Magic” edited by Abi Elphinstone is a collection of seasonal stories curated by Abi.  the authors are a range of the top children’s writers that are in the UK today.  They include Piers Torday, Michelle Magorian, Jamila Gavin and Lauren St John.  There is bound to be something for everyone in this collection


Hodder, 9781444926491

“Santa Claude” by Alex T. Smith.  When Claude accidentally locks Santa in handcuffs and can’t find the key (don’t ask)  he faces the problem of trying to deliver all of the presents himself.  This is a great story for those who are just beginning to read by themselves or who want to share with others.


With picture books we are always inundated by a host of new titles every year, however there are also some favourites that make a welcome re-appearance.  I have included some that have come back this year and which I have not written about on previous years.


Simon & Schuster, 9781442496736

“Click Clack Ho! Ho! Ho!” by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin.  This is the Christmas offering about the animals on farmer Brown’s farm and how they ‘cope’ with Christmas Eve and the arrival of Santa. As usual it is extremely funny and will be a great read.


Scholastic, 9781407109053

“The Lion, the Unicorn and Me” by Jeanette Winterson and Rosalind MacCurrach.  This is a truly beautiful rendering of the Christmas story which really touches the heart.  A absolute classic of the future.


Floris books, 9781782502944

“Mary’s Little Donkey” by Gunhild Sehlin and Helene Muller.  This is a story of the Nativity for younger Children.  It is translated from the Swedish and then it has been abridged.  The illustrations are sympathetic to the tale and evoke the feel of the occasion.  A lovely version to read to young children.


Puffin, 9781780080116

“Otto the Book Bear in the Snow” by Katie Cleminson is the magical story of two book bears whose book is borrowed from the library and then left whilst the readers go on holiday.  But the bears need to get back to the library for the Christmas party, unfortunately things do not go as planned, so will they get back in time?


Puffin, 9780141373706

“Dream Snow” by Eric Carle.  A delicious little lift the flap book about preparing for Christmas on a farm.  It is great for recognizing the animals and getting into the festive spirit.


OUP, 9780192747372

“Winnie and Wilbur meet Santa” by  Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul. When Santa gets stuck in Winnie’s chimney he asks her and Wilbur to help him deliver the rest of the presents.  They have a great adventure but also lots of problems, so in the end Winnie uses a bit of magic to make sure that all the presents are delivered.  As always the illustrations are sumptuous and this time there is a pop-up at the back, which is sure to be a great hit with everyone.  I particularly like the use of Greek for names etc in the pictures, I wonder how many children will recognize the language?


Bloomsbury, 9781408859155

“Robin’s Winter Song” by Suzanne Barton is a beautiful story of the Robin discovering Winter for the first time and seeing what a great time he can have with his friends.  The illustrations are positively jewel-like and add to the sense of joy and excitement about the time of year.


Walker books, 9781406365955

“The Christmas Eve Tree” by Delia Huddy and Emily Sutton is the story of a small and unloved Christmas tree that was saved from destruction by a young  homeless boy and of the joy at Christmas as people gather around the tree to sing carols and to forget the problems of their everyday life.  The ending shows that there is always hope and we need to believe in the goodness of people around us.  There are beautiful illustrations with a feel of the 1960s to them, which really adds to the atmosphere of the story.


Simon & Schuster, 9781471119989

“The Storm Whale in Winter” by Benji Davies is the second story about a young boy called Noi and the young Whale that he had rescued in the summer.  This is a winter’s tale and a wonderful coming together of man and nature to save one another.  It is a simple but very heart warming story.


Red Fox, 9781782955504

“Lucy and Tom at Christmas” by Shirley Hughes have, together with “Alfie’s Christmas”, become symbols of what we might call a traditional Christmas.  It was first published in 1981 and the world has changed a great deal since then.  However the story gives a lovely sense of family, friendship and the meaning of the occasion.  Sometimes it is nice to wallow in nostalgia and think of the simple enjoyments of life.


David Fickling, 9781910200803

“Coming Home” by Michael Morpurgo and Kerry Hyndman (illust.)  is the story of a Robin as he migrates to his winter home, all the time thinking about his partner who should be waiting for him.  It is full of trials and tribulations but also kindness and hope.  Definitely a story full of the meaning of  Christmas.


I can’t believe it is only a week until the big day but I am sure that there is still time to do a bit of reading or to get some stocking fillers for the family.  I know I will be reading some of these stories to my grandson when he comes to visit and i might even treat myself to a re-read of one or two favourite stories.  The Christmas season has definitely started as I was telling Christmas stories in my local primary school last week and I have also been to a performance of Messiah.  There is just “The Muppet Christmas Carol” to go and then all will be ready.  Have a wonderful Christmas everyone and enjoy your reading.


A basket of Autumn delight

2015-09-17 09.27.01

Scholastic, 9781407158549

“Poppy Pym and the Pharaoh’s curse” by Laura Wood is an exciting mix of school story, circuses and Egyptian curses.  We have a delightful heroine who is sent off to school having been brought up in a circus.  However something does not seem quite right at the school and when it hosts an exhibition of ancient Egyptian artifacts strange things happen, not least the theft of one of the treasures.  How Poppy and her circus family, as well as her new friends at school, solve the mystery makes for a great start to this new series.

2015-07-01 12.56.05

OUP, 9780192742759

“Railhead” by Philip Reeve has been eagerly awaited by his many fans who loved his earlier steam punk and dystopian novels.  This new work is set in future worlds which are connected by the railways that can traverse time and space.  It is a truly fantastic concept and allows for the hero Zen to be a flawed character who is just aiming to get through life as a small time thief.  His big love is riding the rails and keeping one step ahead of the law, wherever he finds it, but then one day the mysterious raven asks him to steal an object that will put them and the worlds they inhabit in great danger.

Robin Stevens has brought us another sizzling escapade from her sleuthing duo Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong.  Entitled “First Class Murder” this is a true ‘homage’ to Agatha Christie and in particular ‘Murder on the Orient Express’.  The duo find themselves on board the famed train, together with Hazel’s father, who is not impressed by their detecting,  The mix of 1930s style and the fascinating cast of characters make this a brilliant read as we try and unravel the motives and opportunities for murder.  these are rapidly becoming new classics of the genre.

Another new addition to the detective genre is Katherine Woodfine with her tale of “The mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow”, based in a new London department store as it opens its doors to the public at the height of the Edwardian period.  The heroine Sophie comes from a well-to-do background but has fallen on hard times, luckily she has got a job as a shop assistant at the brand new “Sinclair’s”.  She and some new found friends soon find themselves mixed up in mystery and adventure with plots surrounding the fantastic jewelled sparrow owned by Mr Sinclair and also deeper political goings on in the lead up to the first world war.  This is the first in the series and I look forward to the next offering.

“The Potion Diaries” by Amy Alward (with thanks to Netgalley).  this is a great story of potion makers and dark magic, where the heroine is joined by the handsome son of her greatest rival in trying to source the ingredients to save the princess from a terrible fate.  There  is lots of action, great characters and lessons to be learnt in this really excellent story.

Terry Pratchett’s “The Shepherd’s Crown” is the final volume in the sequence following the life of Tiffany Aching, but it is also the long awaited final work from the greatly loved author who died earlier this year.  It is difficult to go too deeply into the plot without spoiling it for someone who has not read the book, however I will try and give some details.  For those who are fans, it is lovely to see so many favourite characters, from the “Wee Free Men” and  Granny Weatherwax to Nanny Ogg and Ridcully(the Arch chancellor).  This is about Tiffany coming of age as a witch and about major changes that are happening both in the Discworld and in the Faerie land; these mean great challenges for our heroine and she has to make some momentous decisions.  As always there are plenty of things to make us think in this story and it is a fitting finale to our love affair with Discworld.  I will just have to read them all over again.

2015-08-27 16.46.12

Nosy Crow, 9780857634245

“Witchmyth” by Emma Fischel and Chris Riddell, is the second in the series starring young Flo, a thoroughly modern witch who uses modern methods of witchcraft.  However her grandmother, who has moved in with the family likes to do everything in the old fashioned way, which of course leads to lots of interesting situations.  In this book Flo begins to think that the Hagfiend (a character from folk tales) might be real and she might just be trying to make a come back.

2015-09-04 12.20.36

Usborne, 9781409580379

“Knitbone Pepper: ghost dog” by Claire Barker and Ross Collins.  this is a really brilliant little book for the younger confident reader.  It is the story of Winnie and her parents who own Starcross Hall, but who look as if they are about to lose it because of trickery and evil doing by a council official and a ghost hunter.  Knitbone is the beloved pet dog who has died but finds himself still at the hall because of his intense loyalty and love for Winnie and the family.  How they and their other ghostly friends prevent disaster makes for a fun filled story.

2015-08-21 15.42.25

OUP, 980192734570

“Pugs of the frozen north” by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre.  this is yet another hysterical story by the collaborating duo of Reeve and McIntyre (sounds a bit like a comedy duo).  this time we have ship’s boy Shen and his new friend Sika trying to take part in a race to the far north in order to win a promise from the Snow Father.  The problem is that they only have 66 pugs to pull their sleigh and the other competitors have much stronger animals. However this is a story with a little bit of magic and it is amazing what you can do with the right spirit.  As always the mix of pictures and story make this a really superb book for the 7+ age group.

“The rest of us just live here” by Patrick Ness.  Well what is there to say about another book by this award wining author.  I was lucky enough to go to the launch and have written a separate post about the event and the book.  I just want to say that it is a “must read” for all of you out there.  It is full of drama, adventure and yet strong feelings about family and friendship.

Walker, 9781406367478

Walker, 9781406367478

2015-09-24 11.43.12