A Christmas Wreath of books

This has been an amazing year for Christmas books and this is just a small selection of those that are available

“A Tree for Christmas (Winnie the Pooh)” written by Jane Riorden is a charming little story about how Christmas came to the Hundred Acre Wood, with a little help from Christopher Robin and the wonderful animals in the wood.  It is in a miniature format which is disappointing but it is still worth reading to the young ones in your life.

“A Newborn Child” by Jackie Morris is a totally wonderful, magical retelling of the Christmas story.  the author has created the most sumptuous illustrations and the text is short but totally reflective of the images.  The name Jackie Morris always means quality and she has maintained her high standards with this book.  It is a real classic.

“Bah! Humbug” by Michael Rosen and Tony Ross is another way of re-telling the story from “A Christmas Carol”. Harry is playing the role of Scrooge in the school play and desperately wants his dad to attend, but that is beginning to look very unlikely.  There is a very poignant and yet uplifting contrast between the plot of the play and the everyday life that harry is having to cope with.  Yet another one to add to my Christmas shelf.

“One Christmas Wish” by Katherine Rundell and Emily Sutton is a beautifully written and illustrated story about young Theo who has been left at home on Christmas Eve while his parents are both still at work.  When he thinks he sees a shooting star he makes a wish that he could have some friends for company and that is when the magic starts.  The book is  truly lovely object and has a feel of the 1950s about it;  the paper is thick and creamy, the illustrations are of the period and the colour palette is bright but without the harshness that is often found today.

 

“The Girl who saved Christmas” by Matt Haig is the final part of his trilogy about how Father Christmas took on his role.  A fantastic ending and a reminder that we have to ‘believe’ if we are to keep the magic of Christmas

“I killed Father Christmas” by Anthony McGowan and Chris Riddell is a very funny story of what happens when people misunderstand what they hear. This is a delightful story from Barrington Stoke with matching colour illustrations from our previous Children’s Laureate.

“The Midnight Peacock” by Katherine Woodfine is the really great finale to her series about Sinclair’s Department Store. Our heroines Sophie and Lil find themselves spending the holiday at Winter Hall but danger and intrigue seems to have followed them.  A cracking read and thankfully there is a hint that the girls will be back for more adventures in the future.

“Jingle Bells” by Tracey Corderoy and Steve Lenton is a collection of stories about Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam, with the first one being about their attempt to save Santa’s sleigh after it is taken.  This is great fun as always.

“The untold story of Father Christmas” by Alison and Mike Battle with Lauren A Mills is another version of how this mythical character became the person we know today.  The cover is sumptuous and the illustrations are beautiful, with soft and glowing colours and a feel of Scandinavian scenery.  This is for KS2 children probably, but is a great read for telling to younger ones.

“Let it glow” by Owen Gildersleeve is a charming look at what a child sees around him on his way hoe from the town and with a very precious package.  The illustrations are based on very intricate paper collage and this gives a 3-D effect.There is also a battery at the back of the book, which provides lights  at different points in the story.  The very young children will love this.

“The Nutcracker (The story of the orchestra)” illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle  is one for those who love their ballet.  This is a very straightforward re-telling of the story but with the magical addition of small excerpts of music; you press the relevant button and are transported to the performance.  It would make a wonderful gift for someone about to attend their first performance.

 

I know that this is late for the festive season but it will give you a head start for the coming year!  have a wonderful time reading and talking about books.

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.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Summer Sunshine reads

Well, we are now over half way through the summer break and it is about this time that I start thinking about what to read next.  If you are anything like me then you will already have got through the pile of books that you had kept for the holidays.  So here are some suggestions that you might have missed, or which are just being published.  They are wide ranging in their subject matter and a few are ones that I might have missed if I had not been asked to review them, but all of them turned out to be very pleasant surprises.

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HarperCollins, 9780008124526

“Ned’s Circus of Marvels” by Justin Fisher.  This book has had a very high profile over the last few months and is a great adventure with an ‘ordinary’ hero, an amazing and magical circus and demons who live on the other side of the’veil’.  Definitely a series that I will follow with interest.

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Firefly Press, 978-1910080382

“Alien Rain” by Ruth Morgan was a lovely surprise. In essence it is a science fiction story but with Earth being the planet being excavated years after it had fallen to a mysterious invader and the explorers are settlers from the planet Mars and they are excavating the city after which their home settlement is named- Cardiff! . The descriptions of the city and in particular the Museum of Wales really adds to your appreciation of a very good story.When Bree was chosen to be part of the team of explorers it was a complete surprise, as she is not one of the top students in her class, so why was she chosen?  The answer brings a fitting climax to the story.  I will definitely be looking out for this author in the future and have high hopes for more from Firefly Press (who are based in Wales).

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Chicken House, 978-1910655153

“The Apprentice Witch” by James Nicol is a truly super read.  The heroine Arianwyn fails her witch’s assessment and gets sent off to a small remote village as an apprentice.  Then strange things start happening and Arianwyn has to pull out all the magic that she can find.  This is a lovely story about being different and being able to succeed despite this.

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Andersen Press, 9781783444014

“Racing Manhattan” by Terence Blacker (NG)  is the first of two titles set in the world of horse racing.  Whilst I have read “horse” stories as a child I have not read those set in this particular world.  The book is aimed at teens and deals with difficult issues but in a very sympathetic way.  I really cared what happened to the heroine Jay as well as to the real star, Manhattan.

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Puffin, 9780141362908

“The Racehorse who wouldn’t gallop” by Claire Balding and with illustrations by Tony Ross is another story set in the world of horse racing but aimed at a slightly younger audience.  The author is a well known commentator and ex- amateur jockey and has already written several books for adults.  The knowledge that she brings to the book is very evident and she is also a good writer, so that we are totally engrossed in the story of the ten-year old heroine Charlie Bass and her lovable if rather eccentric family.

“A Whisper of Horses” by Zillah Bethell (Piccadilly Press, 978-1848125346) (NG)  is the last of my books to feature horses, although in this case it is the heroine, Serendipity who is trying to find the last surviving horses in Britain.  the plot is set in a post-disaster country where the population in London is divided into the workers and the ruling classes.  There is a barrier around the city, following the lines of the M25 and no one is allowed out.  However Serendipity is determined and manages to escape; with the help of her ‘storyteller’ employer and a young smuggler called Tab.  It really is a magical story about chasing your dream and making the world change for the better.

“Girl out of Water” by Ned Luurtsema (Walker books, 978-1406366525)  deals with the world of competition swimming and a heroine who is totally sidelined when she fails to make the summer training squad with her best friends.  How she copes with this and crashes and splashes her way to success with others make up this story.  It veers from sad to hysterical in turn and makes an excellent summer read.

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Scholastic, 978-1407170589

“Robyn Silver: the Midnight Chimes” by Paula Harrison is the story of an ordinary girl, Robyn Silver, who suddenly starts seeing strange creatures that none of her siblings can.  Then when her school is re-located to a local ‘big house’ after a disaster, she discovers that she is a “Chime”; someone born at Midnight who can see creatures from a parallel world and whose role is to keep our world safe.  This is full of action, thrills and adventure but with some very human characters that you really want to succeed.

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Nosy Crow, 978-0857634863

“Rose Campion and the Stolen Secret”by Lyn Gardner is a wonderful Victorian melodrama with orphaned heroines making their way in the theatre, missing heirs and a truly villainous uncle.  This a fantastic read for those who have a love of Sherlock Holmes or the books of Robin Stevens and I am really looking forward to seeing some more stories featuring Rose and her friends.

“Stormwalker” by Mike Revell (Quercus, 978-1784290696) (NG) is yet another amazing story from the author of  “Stonebird” .  The hero Owen lives with his father and it is just over a year since his mother has died.  Owen suggests that his father re-starts writing a novel to help him get over his grief, but what happens next is totally unexpected – Owen finds himself transported into the story as one of the main characters.  Unfortunately the story is a dystopian one and Owen’s alter ego finds that he and those around him are in great danger.  So how can Owen save the characters whilst still helping his dad get better.  this really had me on the edge of my seat and longing to know the outcome.

“The girl from everywhere” by Heidi Heilig (Hot Key books, 978-1471405105)  (NG) Is a fantastic time travel fantasy where the heroine Nix travels through place and time using old maps.  She is part of the crew of an old pirate ship and her father is the captain; his mission in life is to go back and save his wife’s life.  However they can only go to a specific time once and their attempts are also hindered by the wrong maps and some true villains who want their help for ‘nefarious’ purposes.  This was a really original story and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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Corgi, 978-0552572507

“The Crooked Sixpence” (The Uncommoners series) by Jennifer Bell.  I really loved this story of an alternate 2016-08-25 14.24.32London called Lundinor, that exists below our own city.  Ivy and her older brother Seb are left alone when their grandmother is admitted to hospital after a fall (both of their parents are away working) and then strange things start happening and they find themselves transported to Lundinor via a  suitcase !  All this is linked to their grandma losing her memory many years before and they face danger and excitement as they try and solve the mysteries.

“Rose in the Blitz” by Rebecca Stevens (Chicken House, 978-1910655542)   is the second in the series about Rose, the first one being “Valentine Joe” when she goes back to the first world war and meets an ancestor.  In this book the link to the past is her grandmother and we are taken back to her life during the London blitz.  It is a really emotional story and the end just about had me in tears.  This really mixes a beautiful story with the reality of life during the war  and I  know I will be recommending it to schools for their libraries.

Every time I write another post I am reminded of how wonderful the world of children’s books is at the moment.  I can only skim the surface of what is being published but I hope that you enjoy the books that I have chosen.  We are about to enter the frenetic period that leads to the big pre-Christmas launches, so there should be some fantastic titles to come; many of them from favourite authors but also some brilliant new talent.I look forward to letting you know about these little gems

 

 

NG With thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for access to the e-proofs.