The best books to buy for children this Christmas

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Struggling to buy for a nephew, niece or grandchild this Christmas? The gift of a good book should please any child not to mention their parents. BRIDGET GALTON rounds up some seasonal picks

If anyone knows about choosing a child’s book it should be the staff at Muswell Hill’s Children’s Bookshop.

A specialist and a rarity as a thriving independent store it is run by Sanchita Basu De Sarkar who took over a year ago.

“Because we are an independent bookshop, we’ve had a lot of interest and support this year which has been lovely. We have hosted lots of author visits including Liz Pichon and Oliver Jeffers,” she says.

So why give a book for Christmas?

“I can’t think of a greater gift than to spend your holidays curled up with a good book and losing yourself in a world of imagination.”

The Story Orchestra (£14.99 Frances Lincoln) illustrated by Jessica Courtney-Tickle takes readers through the four seasons in one day with Isabelle, her dog Pickle and a little apple tree. Each spread has a musical note to press and a 10 second sound clip from Vivaldi’s four seasons. “It’s very good quality, beautifully illustrated, a lovely introduction to classical music it’s been flying off our shelves,” says Sanchita.

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Tidy by Emily Gravett (£6.99 Pan Macmillan) is a humorous rhyming woodland story about the perils of being too tidy, like Peter the badger whose over zealous neatness threatens the destruction of the whole forest. “It’s very funny, has an environmental message and is full of the characters she’s so good at creating. Every page is a treat.”

A Piglet Called Truffle by Helen Peters (£5.99 Nosy Crow) is the first in a series for younger readers based around Jasmine whose dad is a farmer and mum a vet. She spends a lot of time caring for animals and keeping them out of trouble, but sometimes gets into hot water herself. “It’s set on a farm and is like a modern day Dick King-Smith, it’s also beautifully illustrated by Muswell Hill’s own Ellie Snowden.”

The Velveteen Rabbit (£14.99 Nosy Crow) sees Margery Williams’ classic freshly illustrated by Sarah Messini. “It’s got very soft illustrations which brings out the lovely emotion of the story without being too sentimental.”

Refuge (£7.99 Nosy Crow) by Anne Booth and Sam Usher “is a traditional Christmas story which is lovely because it talks about Mary and Joseph as if they were refugees which is so timely. It has gorgeous illustrations and a percentage of profits is donated to War Child.”

There May Be A Castle by Piers Torday (Hachette £12.99) is for 9-11 year olds and features an 11-year-old travelling to his grandparents on a snowy Christmas Eve. When the car goes off the road and crashes Mouse is flung into a world of monsters knights and wizards. “It’s an adventure set on the moors. It’s very funny but the end was unexpectedly emotional and it stays with you.”

For non fiction you can’t beat Botanicum (£20 Big Picture Press) the latest in their range of gorgeously illustrated books by Katie Scott. “Produced with Kew Gardens it’s like wandering through a museum. Each illustration is drawn in Victorian style. It’s full of information and beautifully produced. Independent bookshops have their own special edition which is also nice.”

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig (£12.99 Canongate) is also for older children and features a young girl Amelia, Father Christmas, upset elves, reindeers and angry trolls with a danger that Christmas might be cancelled. “Its a Dickensian story about a little workhouse girl that has all the Christmas must haves of workhouses, winter and good triumphing over evil.”


Give How To Catch Santa (Jean Reagan illustrated by Lee Wildish Hodder £6.99) as an early gift on Christmas Eve. It follows two siblings with a million questions for the season’s busiest man such as ‘what about houses with no chimneys? and ‘How do you find children who are away? Rejecting a lasso or tying nets between trees, they settle on carrots on the windowsill and stringing bells above their door.

Mike Brownlow’s Ten Little Elves (Hachette £11.99) sees our heroes set off on a mission to rescue Christmas where they meet a growling polar bear, yowling yeti and scary ice queen. Featuring funny rhymes and things to spot and count on every page.

Fans of Valerie Thomas and Corky Paul’s endearingly chaotic Winnie the Witch will love Winnie and Wilbur Meet Santa (Oxford University Press £12.99) It follows their preparations for yuletide including a spell that turns Winnie’s home into a blaze of fairylights. But when Santa gets stuck in her chimney Winnie helps out with disastrous results. There’s a fab pop-up at the end too. For 7-9’s there’s Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face and The Great Kerfuffle Christmas Kidnap by John Dougherty (OUD £6.99) a fun story as mayhem and wickedness rule in Great Kerfuffle there’s a possibility of no presents unless our heroes sort it out.

Mr Gum author Andy Stanton with brilliant illustrator Neal Layton hs created a humorous rhyming tale that’s not festive but great fun. Danny McGee Drinks The Sea (Hodder £12.99) is full of Stanton’s surreal silliness as the voracious Danny eats up the whole world including the author.

War Horse author Michael Morpurgo frequently features animals in his books so it’s apt that he’s chosen his favourite animal stories from around the world for Greatest Animal Stories (OUP £14.99) From Puss in Boots and The Ugly Duckling to Peter and The Wolf and the lesser known Anansi and the Antelope Baby, all are retold by contemporary authors and newly illustrated to make a gorgeous treasury. “For so many children our first contact with animals is through stories and pictures. I knew my first elephant, bear and toad from legends myths and folk tales,” says Morpurgo.”