Sparkling children’s books just made for giving by various authors - book reviews -

From cute and cuddly picture books to special pop-ups and books packed with fun, entertainment and learning, there is a bonanza of super titles to delight your children this Christmas.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 4th December 2019, 11:18 am
Updated Friday, 3rd January 2020, 12:11 pm

From cute and cuddly picture books to special pop-ups and books packed with fun, entertainment and learning, there is a bonanza of super titles to delight your children this Christmas.

Age 2 plus:

Follow the Star: A pop-up Christmas journey

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Andy Mansfield

Join an enchanting pop-up journey, and follow the story of the Christmas star on Christmas Eve… a night when magical things happen across the world!

Little ones will be delighted as they discover a foil star on every spread and intricate paper engineering pop-ups in this lavish novelty book which is guaranteed to make the perfect present.

Discover the special star as it twinkles at the top of a huge pop-up Christmas tree, shines above Santa Claus to light his way, sparkles in the sky above a city of skyscrapers, and illuminates the three kings as they journey to Bethlehem.

With its glittering stars, beautiful rhyming story, rich artwork, and Andy Mansfield’s ingenious pop-ups, this is an unforgettable journey for all the family to enjoy.

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £14.99)

Age 9 plus:

Tyrannosaurus Rex: A Pop-Up Guide to Anatomy

Dougal Dixon and Rachel Caldwell

Explore Tyrannosaurus rex, layer-by-layer, in this eye-popping vintage-inspired, pop-up book which guides readers through a real-life dinosaur dissection.

Millions of years after dinosaurs became extinct, the complete body of a Tyrannosaurus rex has recently been uncovered, its remains mysteriously preserved. It’s the discovery of a lifetime! Now a team of palaeontologists are preparing to dissect the body… and you are lucky enough to be able to join them.

Under the watchful eye of the scientists, youngsters can peel back the flaps, lift away layers of skin, and reveal the inner workings of this prehistoric beast. So grab your scalpel and prepare to get stuck in!

By combining incredible paper engineering with Victorian-inspired illustrations by artist Rachel Caldwell, and fascinating anatomical notes written by Dougal Dixon, an internationally recognised authority on dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus Rex provides a compelling and in-depth exploration of how a dinosaur’s body worked.

The perfect gift for budding palaeontologists, dinosaur fans… and all curious kids!

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £25)

Age 9 plus:


Colin Hynson and Giulia Lombardo

Discover amazing facts and figures about some of the world’s most amazing feats of engineering in a brilliant, large-size illustrated book from author and illustrator duo, Colin Hynson and Giulia Lombardo.

Did you know that the rocks used to build Stonehenge came from hundreds of miles away, and yet nobody knows how they got to Wiltshire, and did you know that the tallest buildings in the world can survive earthquakes with barely a scratch?

Have you ever wondered how the Golden Gate Bridge was built, how workers with basic tools created enormous monuments in ancient times… and just how do you build a flying laboratory in space?

From enormous bridges and tunnels that run for hundreds of miles, and energy-creating dams, to towering skyscrapers and massive space stations, discover how some of Earth’s most colossal structures were made in beautifully illustrated detail.

Big is truly amazing in this celebration of engineering wonders…

(Templar Publishing, hardback, £16.99)

Age 6 plus:

The Storm Dog

Holly Webb

Escape into a magical wintertime adventure in a bewitching time-travel story from popular children’s author Holly Webb.

Tilly is going to spend Christmas with her grandma and great-gran deep in the countryside on the Welsh borders. She’s got a big school project about the Second World War to do and great-gran, who was evacuated herself during the war, will be able to help.

Travelling on the train alone for the first time, Tilly falls asleep and wakes up to discover she has travelled all the way back to the Second World War. She is being evacuated to Wales with her two younger brothers Eddie and Alfie.

Stern old Mr Thomas offers to give them a home on his remote farm, where he lives alone with his very special sheepdog Tarran. But as Christmas approaches, the farmhouse gets cut off by the snow. And when Tarran comes to Tilly for help one stormy night, she needs to be braver than ever before…

Webb’s heartwarming story is brimming with adventure, excitement and goodwill, and is the perfect gift for all animal-loving youngsters.

(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Christmas Unicorn

Anna Currey

Wishes come true at Christmas in a beautiful, heart-warming story, set in the days leading up to Christmas.

Little ones will be enchanted by Anna Currey’s gorgeously illustrated picture book tale featuring a young girl’s magical encounter with a unicorn.

Christmas is just days away and Milly and her Mum are staying at Grandpa’s house. Dad hasn’t been able to come with them but will join them just as soon as he can. Unfortunately, Milly is feeling a little forlorn, away from her friends and without her Dad.

And then something wonderful happens. Milly meets Florian, a unicorn. One snowy night, he patters into Grandpa’s house and transforms Milly’s Christmas, filling it with friendship, surprise and sparkle. And somehow, Florian makes all Milly’s wishes come true!

Currey’s beautifully written and exquisitely illustrated book is filled with the spirit of wonder and kindness that are the traditional hallmarks of the Christmas season as families come together to celebrate.

A charming story for everyone who believes in the magic of Christmas!

(Oxford University Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Winter Tales

Illustrated by Alison Edgson

Let your little ones steep themselves in the magic of wintertime with this anthology of cosy, heart-warming animal stories.

Perfect for snuggling up with on cold winters nights, these snow-filled stories are beautifully illustrated by Alison Edgson and are an ideal choice for bedtime reading.

Far away in a snowy land, a polar bear wishes to become a penguin, two playful snow leopards explore a frozen mountain and a girl goes on an adventure with a flying musk ox.

There is so much to love in this book of winter treasures which includes stories by much-loved authors, including Michael Broad, Julia Green, Holly Webb, Caroline Pitcher, Malachy Doyle, Karen Wallace, Penny Dolan and Elizabeth Baguley.

Beautifully created for sharing…

(Stripes, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Clarice Bean, That’s Me

Lauren Child

Laughter and chaos reign again as the irrepressible picture book star Clarice Bean returns in a special 20th anniversary edition which is set to delight a new generation of mischief-makers.

Clarice Bean, That’s Me, the story that launched Lauren Child’s award-winning, bestselling Clarice Bean series, is a true picture book classic and this joyful new celebration comes with a gorgeous, foiled cover and a CD featuring three Clarice Bean stories, read by Claire Skinner, star of the BBC series Outnumbered, and featuring music and sound effects.

The current Children’s Laureate, Child is a multi-award-winning author whose books are known and enjoyed the world over. She is the creator of many much-loved characters, including Charlie and Lola, and Ruby Redfort, and since her first book was published in 1999, she has sold over six million books in 19 languages worldwide.

All Clarice Bean Tuesday wants is a bit of peace and quiet. But that can be hard to find in a house where your little brother is being utterly annoying, your big brother is in the dark tunnel of adolescence, and your grandad is pouring soup on his cornflakes…

Funny, thoughtful and brimming with love and joie de vivre, Clarice and her madcap siblings and parents are the epitome of happy family life… enjoy!

(Orchard Books, paperback, £7.99)

Age 2 plus:

Seasons: Four-Book Boxset

Sam Usher

Enjoy author and illustrator Sam Usher’s acclaimed and much-loved seasonal picture books about a little boy and his grandad in a gorgeous boxed set which is just perfect as a special Christmas gift.

This beautifully packaged mini hardback set contains Snow, Sun, Storm and Rain, with each book in this warm, original and inspirational series for pre-schoolers delivering wise and whimsical adventures celebrating the power of the imagination and the special bond between the older and younger generations.

Usher’s quirky and charmingly atmospheric stories are complemented by a palette of gorgeous watercolour illustrations which add extra character and texture to funny, enchanting and life-affirming adventures.

A joy to read and a joy to behold…

(Templar Publishing, hardbacks, £25)

Age 5 plus:

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Andrea Beaty and David Roberts

Can you ever be too young to stand up for what you believe in?

Meet Sofia Valdez, the new, feisty female star of the brilliant Questioneers series from author Andrea Beaty and illustrator David Roberts, the top team that created the inspirational stories of Iggy Peck, Architect, Rosie Revere, Engineer, and Ada Twist, Scientist.

Little Sofia, a Mexican-American girl with big ideas, is determined to get things done in her community to make the world a better place for everyone.

Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school… until one day Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer take her. Sofia (fondly known as Sofi) misses her Abuelo and wonders what she can do about the dangerous landfill site, Mount Trashmore.

Then she gets an idea that the town can turn the slimy mess into a park! She brainstorms and plans and finally works up the courage to go to City Hall, only to be told by a clerk that she can’t build a park because she is just a child. Sofia is down but not out, and she sets out to prove just what one kid can do!

Beaty’s inclusive, rhyming story about a girl prepared to take on the powerful authorities is brought to life by Roberts’ bright and colourful illustrations, and will resonate with any youngster who also wants to play their part in saving the planet.

(Abrams Books for Young Readers, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Most Wonderful Gift in the World

Mark Sperring and Lucy Fleming

Talented team, author Mark Sperring and illustrator Lucy Fleming, put friendship at the heart of a warm and endearing Christmas picture book.

On Christmas morning, Esme and Bear wake up to find a beautifully wrapped gift under the tree that isn’t for either of them. So the two of them set out to find Little Bunny Boo-Boo, the present’s rightful owner. They travel on the Treacherous Path through the snow, encounter the Howling Gale, and push their way through deep, deep snowdrifts to Little Bunny Boo-Boo’s house. Little do they know that the gift they are bringing is the greatest gift in the world… friendship.

With its enchanting story, glorious illustrations, and reassuring messages, this delightful Christmas tale is the perfect fit for the season of affection, shared hope and giving.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Just Like You!

Jane Chapman

Travel through a glittering icy landscape with a little woolly mammoth in a stunning picture book from author and illustrator Jane Chapman.

Piccolo the little mammoth dreams of being big and strong… just like Pops, her hero. When the two set out on a special adventure across the icy plains, Piccolo wonders what they will discover. Could she grow up to be more like Pops than she knows?

Filled with the warmth of a father and daughter relationship, Just Like You! really does tug on the heartstrings while the melt-your-heart illustrations and a soothing, winter-themed gallery of enchanting illustrations add a visually spectacular layer to the story.

A heart-warming and uplifting celebration of the journey of life and parental love… perfect for your little ones who long to grow up!

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

The Snowiest Christmas Ever!

Jane Chapman

Join a family of bears as they discover that getting snowed in is the best fun ever!

Author and illustrator Jane Chapman is on top form in a clever, cute and comical picture book that is ideal for the run-up to the Christmas season.

It’s Christmas time and snowflakes swirl around the bears’ cosy cabin. ‘Yippee!’ cheer the bear cubs. ‘More snow! More snow!’ Little cub Button wishes that it would snow forever and sure enough, the snow gets deeper… and deeper. But soon it’s right up to the windows and Button starts to worry that her wish was a big mistake. Will it ever stop?

Filled with Chapman’s warm and evocative illustrations, cute characters and humorous, fun-filled storylines, this is a reassuring celebration of wintertime, family life, and the loving hugs of a parent.

An affectionate and madcap story will delight readers both young and old.

(Little Tiger Press, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Pip Finds a Home

Elena Topouzoglou

A little penguin’s journey to the South Pole turns out to be a voyage of self-discovery in a beautifully created picture book from author and illustrator Elena Topouzoglou.

Pip Finds a Home is a wintertime story that speaks loudly but gently to young children about all the amazing types of penguins on our planet, and the importance of protecting some of these endangered species.

When an explorer finds Pip in the North Pole, she takes him to the South Pole so he can be with the other penguins. Pip makes friends with lots of different penguins, but Pip isn’t an Adélie penguin or a Macaroni penguin, a Gentoo penguin or even an Emperor penguin. Is Pip really a penguin? And is the South Pole really where Pip belongs?

With its beautifully evocative illustrations and creative story, this a picture book that both entertains and educates.

(New Frontier Publishing, hardback, £11.99)

Age 3 plus:

Santa’s High-Tech Christmas

Mike Dumbleton and Angela Perrini

Modern technology has its pitfalls… as Santa finds out in this funny and clever picture book from author Mike Dumbleton and illustrator Angela Perrini.

Santa has discovered high-tech gear. With his techno-pad, a flip-top roof on his sleigh, a soft reclining seat and a rocket pack, he is well prepared to deliver presents for Christmas Day. But as things start to go wrong, Santa needs help from a young girl so that all the presents get delivered on time!

Dumbleton’s very modern take on Santa will leave little ones giggling as the kindly old man is forced to turn to the younger generation for help with his technology while Perrini’s atmospheric illustrations capture the essence of the story and the Christmas spirit of giving and generosity.

(New Frontier Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Night Before Christmas

Clement C. Moore and Roger Duvoisin

There’s nothing like a traditional rhyme to evoke all the magic and nostalgia of Christmas.

In 1822, American scholar and poet Clement C. Moore wrote a poem for his children called A Visit from St Nicholas, later to become known as The Night Before Christmas. A friend submitted it to a local newspaper, The Troy Sentinel, where it was published on December 23, 1823, and is now a much-loved classic.

And now you can rediscover both the story, which is loved the world over, and the late Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator Roger Duvoisin’s eye-catching interpretation from 1954, published here by Scallywag Press in a tall, narrow format perfect for tucking into a Christmas stocking.

From the celebrated opening lines, ‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,’ to Santa’s final ‘good night’ wish, Moore’s unforgettable verse and Duvoisin’s rich illustrations take us on an enchanting and colourful journey.

A true classic and a gift to treasure…

(Scallywag Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

The Tree That’s Meant To Be

Yuval Zommer

A lonely little fir tree becomes a beacon of love and hope in a picture book from award-winning author and illustrator Yuval Zommer.

The Tree That’s Meant To Be, a gorgeous Christmas-themed book that is destined to become a festive classic, has all those perfect ingredients to delight both children and their parents… warm, gentle storytelling, stunning artwork, and heartfelt messages about love and embracing what makes us different.

A little fir tree is too small and too imperfect to be chosen at Christmas time. But being left alone in the forest brings more rewards than the tree could ever have hoped for when his animal friends turn him into a tree of light and hope.

Zommer, who puts the living world at the heart of his powerful storytelling, brings the very youngest children a lyrically written, warm and festive story, the perfect book for families to share, and to talk about kindness, generosity, and the true meaning of Christmas.

(Oxford University Press, hardback, £12.99)

Age 2 plus:

Santa’s Tight Squeeze

Alex Field and Karen Erasmus

Christmas is going to be a squeeze for Santa this year if he eats all those tasty treats on offer!

Author Alex Field and illustrator Karen Erasmus have fun with this charming and colourful picture book tale that solves the age-old dilemma of how Santa fits down the chimney if he eats all the food that the children leave out for him.

Miles of smiles are guaranteed as little ones fly round the world with Santa and discover the true meaning of Christmas as he kindly saves all his treats for his deserving reindeer and an army of hardworking elves.

(New Frontier Publishing, paperback, £6.99)

Age one plus:

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise

Mark Carthew and Simon Prescott

Enjoy a caring, sharing picture book that captures all the warmth and giving of Christmas!

Author Mark Carthew and illustrator Simon Prescott work their special magic in the second adorable picture book in their beautiful Marvin and Marigold series which stars two little mice friends.

Here we find the two pals on the first day in December. Marigold receives a surprise gift from her mother. It’s a Christmas tree and all sorts of other treasures and trinkets to bring some festive cheer. And Marigold can’t wait to share her excitement with her best friend Marvin who has no tree or gifts to share.

Carthew’s evocative verse is perfectly matched to Prescott’s endearing and colourful illustrations, making this the perfect book to make the magic of Christmas spring to life for the very youngest children.

(New Frontier Publishing, hardback, £11.99)