This year has proved to be a bumper year for festive stories, whether they are about the traditional holidays, or just about the winter season.
“The Spirit of Christmas” by Nancy Tillman is a charming board book that embodies the spirit of Christmas. It is written in verse and reads in a similar vein to “The Night before Christmas”. The important bit at the end reminds us that the festive season is all about those we love and sharing that feeling.
“What the Ladybird heard at Christmas” by Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks reveals how the ladybird and her friends foil a burglary on Christmas night; despite being very small they are not helpless and turn the tables on the nasty burglars. Yet another great story told in rhyme and part of a series featuring the ladybird.
“The Big Christmas Bake” by Fiona Barker and Pippa Curnick takes “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and turns it in to something quite different. There are children, penguins, dancing hippos and a wide assortment of amusing participants. A brilliant read for younger children
“Tiny Reindeer” by Chris Naylor-Ballesteros is a joyous celebration of Christmas which leaves a lovely warm feeling when you read it. Tiny reindeer just wants to be able to help, but he is too small to do any of the jobs the others do. Santa asks him to read through the last of the children’s letters and then Tiny discovers one that he thinks he can help with. We join him as he hopes to make a little girl’s dream come true.
“The Christmas Department Store” by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Hoang Giang reminds us that we don’t need to give expensive gifts to show we love our family and friends at this season. When Benji is drawn into the magical store, he discovers the perfect presents for his family and it is all about feelings, memories and showing love. A wonderful message for all of us.
“Kid Christmas of the Klaus Brothers Toy Shop” by David Litchfield is a brilliant story about the origins of Christmas and how the young Nicky Claus, who works in his uncles’ toy shop wants to bring gifts to children who usually miss out. As always with David Litchfield the illustrations are fabulous and the story is full of magic and Christmas spirit.
“We disagree about this tree” by Ross Collins features our favourite Mouse and Bear as they try and decide how to celebrate Christmas. Decorating the tree is a bone of contention, with neither of them wanting the same as the other. However, as with all real friendships, they eventually find common ground and enjoy each other’s company around the final tree.
“Through the North Pole Snow” by Polly Faber and Richard Jones brings us a very different take on the story of Father Christmas. It tells the tale of a young fox trying to find something to eat in the snowy wastes of the far north. When he falls through the snow, he finds himself being rescued by an old man who lives in the snow covered house. Several months follow, until spring arrives and they are able to get out into the newly refreshed landscape. As the year progresses we begin to guess who the old man is, but it is a wonderful surprise when the fox finds himself helping Father Christmas deliver gifts around the world.
“The Woodcutter and the Snow Prince” by Ian Eagleton and David Ortu is a stunning interpretation of the Snow Queen, but in this story we have a very inclusive variation on the story. The young woodcutter, Kai, lives alone and spends his days carving wonderful statues, in the hope that people will pass-by and see them, but no one does. Then one Christmas eve he is visited by the magical Snow Prince, who is brought to life for one night every year. What follows is a story of friendship, love and hope. The ending should leave you feeling a warm glow inside, despite the snow and ice.
“Where Bjorn belongs” by Samuel Langley-Swain and Mirna Imamovic tells the story of young Arthur who loses his beloved toy polar bear and writes to Father Christmas asking for a new one for Christmas. Magic happens when he discovers a real baby bear in his garden at Christmas and despite his mother’s misgivings they look after the bear, until it starts to be too big. Arthur asks Father Christmas to look after Bjorn and of course his request is granted. However this is just the start of a wonderful friendship between a boy and a bear.
“The After Christmas Tree” by Bethan Welby is the paperback edition of this delightful book about a small tree that is forgotten after the Christmas festivities are ended. Young Brian decides to try and save it, but he needs a bit of magical help from the wildlife to make things happen.
“We’re going on a Sleigh Ride” by Martha Mumford and Cherie Zamazing is a take on the favourite rhyme featuring a bear and a family. This version has Father Christmas and a sleigh full of gifts and toys as they visit children around the world. The story is fast, furious and full of fun, with lots of lift-the-flap options, to see what presents are hidden underneath.
“An Odd Dog Christmas” by Rob Biddulph It is Christmas Eve and Odd Dog has still not found a present for her friend. But when she sees a sign about the festivities she follows it and finds herself helping pull the sleigh for Father Christmas, as Dasher is not well enough to be part of the team. Odd Dog also learns that simple gifts ‘from the heart’ are better than expensive gifts. A delightful rhyming story featuring a favourite canine and with the author’s signature illustrations
“Gaspard’s Christmas” by Zeb Soanes and James Mayhew is the fourth in the series about the fox called Gaspard, and based on a city fox who visits the author’s garden. This is a timely reminder that many people face homelessness and hardship, especially at this time of year and we all need to do what we can to help. Beautiful illustrations, as always, from James Mayhew; making this a new classic for this season.
“Jim’s spectacular Christmas” by Emma Thompson and Axel Scheffler is a story aimed at those who are just beginning to read for themselves, or who can enjoy a slightly longer story. Jim, the hero, is a dog who lives at the Victoria and Albert Museum as the unexpected pet of Sir Henry Cole. The illustrations are by the legend that is Axel Scheffler and really bring the Victorian period to life, as we see Jim deliver the first Christmas Card to Queen Victoria. The book is not divided into chapters, but it would be possible to have sections to be read over several days. A lovely story, full of Christmas spirit.
“Operation Nativity” by Jenny Pearson puts a whole new twist on the story of the nativity. When the Angel Gabriel gets things wrong, he ends up in 2022 and so do the shepherds, wise man and even Mary and Joseph. It is up to the children Oscar and Molly to try and find all these characters and somehow get them back to the correct time and place, so that the Christmas story actually takes place. It is a brilliantly funny story that deserves a place in every Christmas collection.
“The Grumpus: and his Dastardly, Dreadful Christmas Plan” by Alex T Smith takes this anti-hero and help him discover the warmth and meaning of Christmas. This is the third year that Alex T Smith has given us such a fantastic story and he just keeps getting better and better. The illustrations are amazing and the characters will touch your hearts. However, I don’t think that the love of brussel sprouts is going to be increased anytime soon. (they are the Grumpus’s favourite food!!)
“Virtually Christmas” by David Baddiel and Steve Lenton shows what happens when we allow computers and technology to take over our lives. Father Christmas is no longer real and everything is done with AI and robots. How Etta and Monty go on a quest to find the real Santa and bring back the true meaning of Christmas makes for a fun-filled adventure that I loved.
“Humbug, the Elf that saved Christmas” by Steven Butler turns our idea of Father Christmas and his helpers on its head. Forget about the factory and house from “Santa Claus, the movie”, this North Pole has a hierarchy of elves and when you are part of the ‘poo burning team’ then that is it, for generations and you don’t even get to eat any mince pies. Humbug wants to change things, but it is not going to be an easy task. A brilliant story where the elves have a language all of their own.
“Secrets of a Christmas Elf” by Ben Miller is the second story featuring Holly Christmas (yes her dad is Father Christmas) and in this tale Holly finds herself in a race against time, as her father is kidnapped and the festivities are fast approaching. Can she save the day as well as all of her family. This is a fast and furious story full of action, as we follow Holly’s pursuit of the villains.
“The Christmas Carrolls: The Christmas Competition” by Mel Taylor-Bessant and Selom Sunu sees the famous Christmas Carrolls in a race to prove that they are the most festive family in the land. This time they are in competition with a family called Klaus, who are determined to prove that they are the most Christmasy. The problem is that they are very wealthy and will stop at nothing to win the competition.
“Murder at Snowfall” by Fleur Hitchcock is the fourth (?) in her series of murder mysteries for middle grade readers. I must admit that I am biased as I have known the author for years, as part of the Bath group of children’s authors. If you love Robin Stevens and Katherine Woodfine then you will definitely enjoy these books.
A couple of other books to have on your radar are these
“Elf Road: An Epic Christmas adventure” by Jacqui Hazell Nowness books, 9780995726864
“The Christmasaurus Cracker” by Tom Fletcher. Puffin, 978-0241624456
A Happy Christmas to everyone.