Shortlists

Our Favourite Christmas Gift Books

Favourite Christmas Books

Where Snow Angels Go

Maggie O’Farrell and illustrated by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini

One night, Sylvie wakes to find a beautiful, shimmering figure glowing like moonlight in her bedroom. This, we learn, is the snow angel she made last year, come to save her life. This gorgeously illustrated book deals with Sylvie’s fear of growing up and facing life’s dangers, but in a beautiful way that is not at all patronizing or moralizing. It is a story that will hold on to you and teach you about love in a way that only the best stories can.

Pirate Stew

Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Chris Riddell

Chris Riddell’s larger than life illustrations burst off the page of this madcap, riotous adventure. It’s a rhyming story that rolls off the tongue about a pirate babysitter and his outrageous cooking that transforms a dull evening into a hilarious escapade. What I love about Pirate Stew is the attention to detail in both the writing and the illustrations, full of little in-jokes you might only notice on the third of fourth reading. If you want a laugh and a genuinely entertaining readalong, you could do a lot worse than Pirate Stew.

That Christmas

Richard Curtis and illustrated by Rebecca Cobb

On the face of it this is a sweet story about a group of children who had a sort of ‘Home Alone’ Christmas when all their parents were stranded on an island because of a storm. So they did it the kid’s way – no sprouts (just party food under the table), no ‘useful’ presents (just fun ones), washing up with a hosepipe, and a Big Walk that only gets as far as the back door. But Richard Curtis works his magic, and, especially for this Christmas in lockdown, I found this book has a message in it that though Christmas traditions might be disrupted because of events out of our control, we can make new traditions and in them find a deeper meaning for Christmas. That although we’ll look forward to going back to the traditional Christmas in years to come, there are some elements of That Christmas that we might actually want to keep.

Owl or Pussycat?

Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Polly Dunbar

Reading this story is like listening to the best grandfather ever telling your favourite stories about his childhood. And you know what? Even though times were totally different (walking to primary school alone, everyone fitting in one room, putting on whole school plays without worrying about the impact on exam results), people are just the same as they always were. Michael (the Owl) is annoyed about being upstaged by Belinda (the Pussycat), who he’s secretly in love with. He desperately wants to impress her and make his mum proud, but when the stage curtains open (by you opening the pages out), he’s hit by a sudden wave of stage fright. When I opened up the stage curtain pages and saw the audience and the stage lights, I could feel that twisting sensation in my stomach that took me right back to my own childhood, and really felt for Michael. Don’t worry though, there’s a happy ending. This is a delightful book to read with young children and is sure to open up conversations and bring families together across the generations.

The Book of Hopes

edited by Katherine Rundell

This book is the fruit of Katherine Rundell’s efforts during the spring lockdown to bring together authors and illustrators to create something that would bring hope out of fear. Over 100 children’s authors and illustrators answered her call, and they’ve created a really special collection of entertaining, moving, and joyous stories and pictures that is just perfect for dipping in and out of, and also a great way to find new authors and illustrators that you might love. It’s the sort of collection that really reminds you what, when all is said and done, stories are for. Proceeds from sales go towards NHS Charities Together.

9780241451939

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

Bill Bryson

Have you ever heard anyone ask what’s the point of non-fiction when there’s so much information on the internet? Show them this book. Not only is it a thing of beauty that is a joy to flick through, but it’s carefully researched, perfectly pitched and well organised. Doesn’t sound much like the web, does it? Just turn to any page, get drawn in, and before you know it you’ve learned something new. It’s also well indexed, in case you have something specific to look up, or could be read from cover to cover, telling the story of the universe from the Big Bang to the evolution of modern humans and a look ahead at how human actions are impacting the future of our world. Perfect for all enquiring minds.

9781788005678

Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!

Selected by Fiona Waters and illustrated by Britta Teckentrup.

This big, bright orange book contains a treasury of nature poems, one for every day of the year. The selection intersperses well-known classics with new works, longer poems with short ones, serious and thoughtful with funny and light. Although the poems speak for themselves, and would make a great addition to a bedtime routine, it’s the illustrations that stand out to me. Britta Teckentrup’s pictures do more than just add a background, they forge connections between different poems on the same page, and bring another layer of meaning to the texts. The sheer scale of her accomplishment is quite awe inspiring, and transform this book into a thing of beauty that should be treasured for a lifetime.

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