I loved an annual when I was a kid. They were staples in my Christmas stocking. Rupert The Bear courtesy of The Daily Express, Twinkle (oh how I hankered after a weekly copy!), The Beano (of course), and Jackie. As I grew older and my tastes changed, the annual was the one thing I could always rely on as a Christmas gift.
Annuals for children are a beloved literary tradition that dates back to the 19th century. But no, I'm not that old! These annual publications were typically hardcover books, often with colourful and illustrated covers, designed to be entertaining and informative for young readers.
The concept emerged in the early 19th century with the first well-known annual The Juvenile Forget-Me-Not published in 1823, edited by Frederic Shoberl. It contained stories, poems, and engravings, often with moral and educational themes.
In 1828, Frederick Warne published The Children's Friend, which was a precursor to the famous Beatrix Potter books. This annual introduced young readers to the world of Peter Rabbit and other beloved characters.
The Victorian era saw a boom in children's annuals, often with beautifully designed covers and illustrations. These books were typically published annually and were popular gifts for children during the holiday season. Some well-known annuals from this period included The Boy's Own Annual and The Girl's Own Annual.
The 20th century continued the tradition of children's annuals, and they evolved with changing times. They often featured comics, puzzles, games, and stories from popular authors and illustrators. My beloved Beano has been one of the most enduring brands, and I was surprised to see The Rupert Annual still available today although some of its peers including Famous Five Annual have gone by the wayside as the years have passed.
My kids have grown up with the Guinness World Records in their Christmas stocking. The idea for the Guinness World Records Annual originated from a debate between Sir Hugh Beaver, the MD of the Guinness Brewery, and his friends. The debate concerned the fastest game bird in Europe, and Sir Hugh realised that there was no reference book to settle such disputes. And so the book was born, it was published in 1955, quickly became a bestseller, and been popular ever since!
Annuals haven't stood still and publishers keen to adapt have added annuals to their publishing schedules from some of today's favourite characters and brands, introducing our younger generations to the concept of annuals.
This list compiles some of our favourite for 2024, ripe for the picking for the child(ren) in your life. If, like me, you were once an annual fiend, scroll the list and select one for a Christmas stocking near you, this Christmas 2023.
You'll find stalwarts like Beano and The Dandy featured here of course.
There's of course Barbie, and Frozen and Disney Princesses all makinhg an appearance.
If facts and figures are top of the shop, then of course there's Guinness World Records. The theme of this year's edition is the Blue Planet so take the plunge and encounter bizarre and deadly sea creatures, swim through the largest coral reefs and explore the seabed for shipwrecks. National Geographic Kids' Weird But True! 2024 is bursting with bright, bold pictures and fascinating facts, and is non-fiction at its most accessible and energetic.
If you never had a pleasure of an annual, let's ensure this rich tradition continues for many years to come and they continue to hold a special place in the hearts of those who grew up with them and provide a glimpse into the changing tastes and interests of young readers throughout the years.
I'm going to put Beano on my Christmas list this year, just for old time's sake.