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Full of the best Christmassy reads, our Festive Fiction selection has books for all ages. Most of our books have an expert review and an extract to download, to help you choose the perfect gift this Christmas.
December 2021 Book of the Month | Share this Christmas adventure book at bedtime for a perfectly charming festive read, full of frosty scenes, inviting flaps to lift, and the friendliest little bunny characters. Read it in the day, and ideally before a walk in the park, and it turns into a set of instructions for a special holiday adventure, with an invitation to join a very jolly elf chase. With shades of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, there’s lots of repetition, lots of actions to copy (skate, skate, glide) and lots of fun.
Once upon a silent night, a stable stood. A star shone bright. It is midnight on Christmas Eve, and a child is about to be born in a stable. How can the creatures help? First, the cow offers up his manger, and the donkey gives his hay. The doves will sing the babe to sleep, the trees will watch over him, and the moon will fill his dreams with silver light. It's a moment of magic, as a little child enters the world and brings with him the most precious gift of all: love. A beautiful and timeless retelling of the nativity story, with a lyrical rhyming text and luminous illustrations, this book is the perfect Christmas gift.
A Julia Eccleshare Pick of the Month November 2021 | Its Christmas! The green crayons claims that he is only colour for Christmas. After all, Green is for Holly and Fir Trees and Elves – mostly! – and they are all a big part of Christmas. But what about Red? And Brown? The other crayons are very quick to point out that they are all part of Christmas too!. Small in size, brief and excellent fun this is a perfect stocking filler!
The Toys’ Christmas is the kind of book that chilly days or evenings were made for, a heart-warming story of toys undertaking a journey through the snow for the love of their child owners. It’s Christmas Eve and little Noah should be going to sleep, but where’s Fanfan, his beloved toy elephant? Over the page, readers see Fanfan walking through the snow, heading to a very important meeting. Along with other favourite toys, he’s on his way to see – who else? – Santa Claus. It’s the toys’ job to tell him what their children really want for Christmas. Not every request is in Santa’s power to give – the child who desperately wants a little brother for example – but everyone gets gifts that will make them happy. It’s a lovely, cosy story, perfectly matched by soft pastel and coloured-pencil illustrations, toys and Noah too exceedingly huggable.
Pacey, racy and reeling with real-life struggles, comforts and joys, Juno Dawson’s Stay Another Day is a cracker of a Christmas novel, with a compelling home for the holidays set-up - if you watched the TV series Why Women Kill, you’ll also appreciate how the novel is framed through the 120-year history of the family home. Sparkling with the author’s trademark talent for writing authentic dialogue (funny, thought-provoking, always on the mark) and rounded characters, this seasonal story is as satisfyingly-formed (and moreish) as a chocolate orange. When the three McAllister siblings convene at the family home in Edinburgh for Christmas, secrets, lies and lusts come together to create an absolute banger of a novel. Star student Fern, a self-professed embodiment of Lisa from The Simpsons, arrives from London with her stunning boyfriend, Thom, while her twin Rowan (gay, an aspiring actor, and consumed by FOMO) brings his best friend Syd. Though Fern is, as always, determined to enjoy the perfect family Christmas, she notes that “Christmas with a mixed-race boyfriend and a non-binary and mixed-race best friend is a potential minefield. Where are you from? But where are you really from?” Then there’s the twin’s younger sister, Willow, still living at home and constantly scrutinised due to her anorexia. As the big day draws closer, past liaisons and unfolding secrets envelop the family like a tangle of Christmas tree lights, setting the scene for a series of snowy showdowns and a whole lot of soul-searching. Hearty, satisfying stuff, with seasonal cheer shining bright through the real-life strife.
Here’s a book to put young readers in the mood for Christmas: a collection of twenty-five festive stories by Enid Blyton. Lots of them feature Father Christmas getting into and out of scrapes (in one, he even has to hide from the police) and bestowing presents on good little children, and some grown ups too, and all of them take place at Christmastime, celebrating everything that makes it special – family get-togethers, good will and lashings of delicious food. As you’d expect, the stories are super-readable, each one a no-nonsense dose of adventure, the perfect length for bedtime or independent reading. After all, you don’t get to sell 500 million children’s books, as Enid Blyton has, without understanding exactly what your young readers want.
If you’re seeking a seasonal read to snuggle up with that gets to the heart of the Christmas spirit (caring, sharing and making people feel magical), look no further than The Christmas Department Store. Maudie Powell-Tuck’s story is told with tremendous heart, and brought to life in glowing style by Hoang Giang’s characterful illustrations. Benji is feeling rather gloomy - “This Christmas needed some magic. There wasn’t enough money for a tree or even a turkey, and everyone felt a little sad”. He wants to buy his family spectacular presents “that might make them smile again”, but he doesn’t have enough money. Then, as he and his gran turn to go home, they meet a talking polar bear who leads them to discover a magical department store, where Benji pays for a trumpet for his sister by singing a song, and where gifts are conjured from the imagination. The big day is a big success when Benji presents his family with “the best presents money can’t buy”, and a whole lot of joy.
Part of Holly Webb’s much-loved, longstanding Animal Stories series (there are whopping 50 of them for young readers to be delighted by), Puppy's First Christmas tells the heart-warming, true-to-life tale of a little girl whose adorable puppy eases her anxiety, yet creates some problems on Christmas Day. Packed with empathy and issues to talk about in a gentle, compassionate way, this will be adored by animal lovers who understand the value of loveable, long-giving pets. Aria “couldn’t deal with noise and big groups sometimes. Things like that could make her feel weird and shaky”, but her puppy Jackson is a huge help: “when Aria was feeling like things were too much, Jackson seemed to know…Aria would hug him back and all the buzzy worry in her head would drain away.” Good news, given that Aria is feeling nervous about her house being so noisy and busy over Christmas. Come the big day, though, the tables are turned when Aria’s little cousin is frightened of Jackson, which sees him banished from the living room. In a spirit of seasonal cheer, the whole family learns to see things from different points of view, and Aria enjoys the Christmas she’s been dreaming of.
This beautiful first reader is perfect for reading together at bedtime, with Matilda Woods’s atmospheric story evoking an endearing cast of characters, and a lovely sense of working together. Penny Neville-Lee’s full-colour illustrations are a boon too - perfect for encouraging newly-independent readers to enjoy their first chapter book. The Night Train is a wonderful thing - it delivers its passengers to children’s dreams, among them a hairy white yeti, a footballer turned ballerina, Princess May, and a big friendly monster. When a fallen tree stops the train in its tracks and it looks like the children of Sleepy Town will miss out on being visited by their favourite dream characters, the passengers use their varied talents to work together so the Night Train reaches its destination in time. With plenty to talk about - and be enchanted by - throughout the journey, this sweet story is sure to leave little ones ready for sweet-dream-filled slumber.
It’s Christmas Eve so of course everyone is looking out for Santa. Are those reindeer antlers we can see through the window? Is that his red suit we can glimpse in the kitchen? Or his red hat behind the Christmas tree? The excitement grows from page to page as we open the special flaps to find – not Santa, but something equally festive. There he is on the final page though, and exactly where he should be! This little board book is lots of fun. The very young will love opening the flaps and joining in with the repeated refrain, ‘I’m going to catch Santa!’ There are Christmas treats on every page and that surprise pop-up ending will set everyone giggling. Peeks and pops and good cheer all round!
From the creator of some truly original, heart-warming picture books (among them The Suitcase and Out of Nowhere) comes this moving seasonal story about a small reindeer who does a big deed to help a little girl remember her granddad. Being so very small, Tiny Reindeer can’t help but feel like he doesn’t fit in, not least when Christmas comes around. While all the bigger reindeer are busy helping Santa, Tiny can’t help but make a right mess of things, from getting tangled in reins, to falling into water bowls. But then, on the eve of Christmas Eve, Santa suggests that Tiny Reindeer does one last check of the Post Room. Here he finds a letter from a girl who would love a little wooden reindeer to go with the sleigh her grandad made for her - sounds like the perfect job for Tiny Reindeer. Toddlers will love the sense of adventure as Tiny goes on his secret seasonal quest (especially when Santa steps-in to lend a hand), and the illustrations are packed with atmosphere and characterful Christmas detail.
‘‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring … except for one mouse.’ Tracey Turner takes the opening lines of Clement C Moore’s Christmas classic and reimagines it with a cheerful, red-suited mouse taking Santa’s part. As the other little mice doze, dreaming of cheesecake, he takes to the skies in a sleigh pulled by beetles. Squeezing through a crack in the wall of the mouse hole he distributes presents, filling the little mice stockings with toys and crackers and plenty of cheese before flying off into the night with the traditional ‘Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!’ Jenny Løvlie’s illustrations are thoroughly charming, from the opening image of the little mice asleep in their cosy matchbox beds, to the friendly little beetles (‘On Stiggy! On, Twiggy! On, Scatter and Skitter!’) and the final image of the sleigh silhouetted against the moon. A magical twist on an old favourite, delightful to read aloud and full of Christmas spirit.
From an original story by Hans Christian Andersen | Deep in the forest, a beautiful little fir tree is unhappy with his lot. He wants to be big and tall like the other trees, and then to become a sturdy cabin or a ship sailing across the sea. So busy is he wishing his life away that he doesn’t notice all he has – the precious moments in the beautiful forest with his friends, the birds, flowers and butterflies. When at last he is tall and beautiful, he is cut down and taken to be a Christmas tree in a family home. It doesn’t end there however, and there are more twists in the story, more sorrow for the little tree which prompts him to reconsider what’s really important. Christopher Corr allows the little tree a happy ending and there’s much in his version of the classic story for children to think about. The illustrations are bright and bold, full of vibrant colours, their folk-art style perfect for this story which is both simple and reflective.
What happens when a SPOTTY, HAIRY MONSTER shows up instead of Father Christmas on Christmas Eve? It’s certainly not what YOUR CHILD expected in their Christmas stocking!! But when they find out that Father Christmas is in trouble, well...thank goodness they’ve got the...BOO!!! A fun, rhyming, personalised Christmas adventure that is a wonderful companion to our birthday book – “The Birthday BOO!” Personalise “The Christmas BOO!” with the child’s name on the cover, spine and throughout the story AND with their most wanted Christmas gift. Remember to add your own dedication – a personal message that will be printed in the front of book – for a festive gift that they’ll treasure forever. “The Christmas BOO!” is priced at £19.95 for a Softcover and £24.95 for a Hardcover and is available on Tickled Moon’s website. There you can preview the whole book with your personalisations and listen to the story read by the author, Alison Reddihough.
Alex and Ruby are back in their fourth time-slip adventure, tumbling back into 1947! From multi-award-winning author Sally Nicholls comes another brilliant action-packed adventure for 7+ readers, beautifully illustrated by Rachael Dean. When siblings Alex and Ruby tumble back through the mirror, they find themselves in the freezing-cold winter of 1947. Food is scarce in the aftermath of the Second World War and life at Applecott House is hard. As Alex and Ruby discover they must solve the mystery of a missing family heirloom to ever have hopes of returning home, their adventure takes them trekking across the snow and treacherous ice on a perilous treasure hunt. Will they make it home and back to the present day or will they be stuck in 1947? Full of action and humour and featuring exciting black-and-white illustrations throughout, this is another superb time-slip story which brilliantly brings history to life as part of an adventure.
Everyone loves a Christmas story and this really is a packed one! It tells the story of Jill and Edward who find themselves, a little like Hansel and Gretel, lost and heading to a cottage in the woods. This is where the story differs as Aphrodite, the lady of the house is a welcoming, kind and very colourful character. As the story unfolds more characters are introduced and the 'Grumps', the mischievous elves, are continually referred to. Whilst Jill absorbs the atmosphere, the snow and the Christmas jumpers, Edward remains an aloof little boy who does not like Christmas. The story is told through an advent calendar, where each date and door reveals a new character and a new adventure. As the characters appear, everyone from the Little Drummer boy and the elves to the abominable snowman, the adventure unfolds. This story is deceptive. On the surface it appears to be a typical Christmas story with all the traditional characters, but in fact, it is much deeper. The vocabulary is quite sophisticated and the characters and plot are complex. The descriptions are wonderfully vivid and in some cases, amusing. It is also quite a long story that needs a certain level of concentration and reading fluency. The true meaning of the story is not revealed until the last chapter, when all the seemingly unrelated storylines and characters come together in a wonderfully warm and magical ending. A true Christmas story. Rosie Watch, A LoveReading4Kids Ambassador
Matt Haigh invents a brand new Christmas story in his tale of how a weedy little boy called Nikolas became the jolly bearded figure we know as Father Christmas. It’s one of the many achievements of his book that readers will want to hold it the truth. Nikolas and his father are poor – Nikolas has only ever had two presents, and one of them was a turnip – but he still understands that happiness is more important than money. This is proved when his father heads off on a money-making expedition to find Elfhelm, the village of the elves, leaving Nikolas with his nasty aunt. Nikolas follows his father and thereby meets elves, becomes magic, befriends the reindeer Blitzen, acquires the trademark red hat, and renews his determination to spread joy and good will to all. It’s a wonderful adventure, exciting, often very funny though not without its darker moments, and never sentimental.
November 2021 Book of the Month | Longlisted for the UKLA Book Award 2022 ages 11-14 | The Silent Stars Go By is a riveting read-in-one-sitting experience driven by compelling characters who leap off the page, not least the young woman at its heart, an unmarried secretarial student who’s forced to give up her baby during WWI. The novel is also underpinned by a superb sense of social history, with evocative details of post-war village life nestling within the bigger story, and - as might be expected of the author of Things a Bright Girl Can Do - it’s threaded with feminist themes. It’s 1919, Christmas is on the horizon and two years have passed since nineteen-year-old Margot was forced to give up her baby for her parents to raise as their own. She was only fifteen when she and Harry fell madly in love ahead of him being called up. The magic of their time together is evoked in all its tingling passion, contrasting with Margot’s present-day torments. It hurts when little James calls her mother “Mummy”, and she doesn’t know how she can continue to keep James a secret from Harry, who’s returned to the village after recuperating on the Isle of Wight. The flashbacks to Margot’s time on the maternity ward are particularly poignant and, of course, the reason she has to endure this unbearable situation is due to the fact that she lives in a world in which “the girl is the one whose honour is defiled or whatever rot they spout” whereas “the boy is just being a boy”. Coupled with that wider context, Margot’s vicar father is a man who “forgave drunks and tramps and fallen women and the men who tried to steal the lead from the church roof. But he couldn’t forgive her.” Realising that “things couldn’t go on like this,” Margot decides to confront her fears amidst the rare glamour of a ball on New Year’s Eve.
Thea’s Christmas visit to Norway to try and connect with her absent father, Henry, looks set to be a disaster. Despite her hopes that her father will understand her yearning to be a writer and her need for a typewriter, Henry seems only interested in his new family and his woodwork. All Thea’s hopes are dashed. How she longs to go home to her mum and all their family Christmas traditions. But when Thea befriends a sleeping bear whom she has disturbed she unleashes a wonderful, wintery adventure. Finding friends who understand her love for the bear and her belief that it is harmless, Thea works out an ambitious plan to confuse the hunters and save the bear. The result is a many layered adventure story of courage, love and imagination.
Little mouse Winston stars in a perfect Christmas adventure. Even for a mouse, he’s small but Winston’s got a big heart and when he finds a lost letter for Father Christmas he’s determined to see it delivered. His expedition is full of challenges, but along the way he’s helped by some equally warm-hearted and generous animals, including a beautiful white cat and a rat who ‘works’ at the famous Fortesque’s department store. Winston’s good deed is rewarded and the little mouse finds a warm bed and a new family for Christmas. This is the chapter book edition of Alex T. Smith's modern Christmas classic, with gorgeous black and white illusrations from the author throughout - the perfect festive gift for newly confident readers.
November 2021 Book of the Month | Everything that is wonderful about Christmas (and some things that aren’t!) is thrillingly spun about in this deliciously magical and madcap adventure. Homeless Blanche has never had any real Christmas but when the mysterious Rinki gives her a magical bauble and some mince pies on Christmas Day everything changes. Rinki and Blanche are firm friends forever and together they are about to rewrite the Santa story. Santa Claus, elf magic, delicious Christmas food and drink, and a wonderful sleigh ride are all thrown into the mix as a very merry Christmas for all – except the sinister Mr Krampus – follows.
November 2021 Book of the Month | Christmas is coming! First there is the wonder of snow and then there is all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for Christmas. Finally, it is Christmas eve and Mouse and Mole have to wait patiently for Father Christmas to arrive…Three charming short stories all matched with beautiful and warm hearted illustrations make this a perfect book to share at any time and especially in the run up to Christmas!
If ever there was a picture book to be enjoyed in the long winter nights, when there’s a crackle of frost in the air, it’s this one. Snow Ghost comes shimmering out of the air, she soars over hills and woods, darkening as evening draws in, searching for somewhere to settle. Nowhere seems to offer a welcome and she’s lonely and getting tired when on top of a hill she spots a small farm with two happy children in the garden. They all play together in the snow until night falls completely and as the children go in, Snow Ghost settles on the roof, home at last. Snow Ghost is a magical creation in Diana Mayo’s illustrations, floating across the pages almost not there, yet a tangible presence, and we look down with her on the valleys, fields and quiet little town below. The sense of stillness – then joy and hope – is perfectly captured in Tony Mitton’s text which is as graceful and airy as Snow Ghost herself. A perfect story for this time of year, a celebration of hope and belonging.
When a little skunk wanders into town on Christmas Eve, all sorts of trouble follows. He’s so pungent, he even causes the Christmas tree in the square to crash to the ground! Don’t worry though, because this stinky night ends happily all round with the little skunk a whiffy Christmas hero. Once again, the creators of Mince Spies and Santa Jaws find a completely different and very funny take on Christmas, while still working in Christmas trees, snow, Santa Claus, reindeer and lots and lots of good cheer. The rhyming text is perfect to read aloud – preferably near a Christmas tree – and the illustrations are full of festive fun. Scores very high on the Ho Ho Ho chart!
November 2021 Book of the Month | The Carroll family love Christmas. They love it so much they celebrate it every day and in the most over-the-top way possible; Mrs Carroll has even changed her name to Snow by deed poll. Daughter Holly (of course), our central character, loves it too and does everything possible to spread good cheer wherever she goes. When the family move into their dream home, in Sleigh Ride Avenue, Holly stops being home-schooled and enrols at the local primary. Her arrival in Dickens class causes quite a stir, her new classmates don’t know what to make of her. Sadly, for a while it looks as though Holly will have all that ho-ho-ho happiness knocked out of her. Don’t worry though, she bounces back, and takes the whole community with her. There’s so much joy, happiness and laughter packed into this book that it’s certain to leave readers feeling full of festive spirit, whatever the time of year – it certainly had your normally bah-humbug reviewer whistling Jingle Bells. Holly is an irresistible character, her family a delight, there’s a guest appearance by a very distinctive donkey, and you know what, wouldn’t things be better if we did act like it was Christmas every day?
One boy and his toy are about to change everything... Jack loves his childhood toy, Dur Pig. DP has always been there for him, through good and bad. Until one Christmas Eve, something terrible happens - DP is lost. But Christmas Eve is a night for miracles and lost causes, a night when all things can come to life... even toys. And Jack's newest toy - the Christmas Pig (DP's annoying replacement) - has a daring plan: Together they'll embark on a magical journey to seek something lost, and to save the best friend Jack has ever known... A heartwarming, page-turning adventure about one child's love for his most treasured thing, and how far he will go to find it. A tale for the whole family to fall in love with, from one of the world's greatest storytellers. A gorgeously gifty hardback, with full-colour jacket and featuring 9 black and white spreads and decorative inside art from renowned illustrator, Jim Field.
Who better to welcome at Christmas than Elmer, the very embodiment of goodwill to all. In this special shaped board book Elmer and the young elephants are getting ready for Christmas Day. They’ve found their tree and decorated it, but the youngsters are cheekily still awake when Papa Red arrives on his sleigh. Elmer has to wait until they’re finally asleep to distribute the presents they’ve been left. With McKee’s trademark bright, bold colours, it’s lovely to look at and there’s a sense of fun on every page. A Christmas treat and a lovely introduction to Elmer for the very young.
When the dashing Christmas Wrapper appears in a FLASH of smoke, it seems that YOUR CHILD has found the perfect answer for all their Christmas wrapping problems! But this ambitious rapping reindeer has bigger plans on his mind… Can YOUR CHILD stop him and save the world in time for Christmas??! This 32 page, high quality children’s book is a quirky and unique Christmas story. Featured on ITV’s This Morning’s ‘Best Personalised Gift Feature’ in Nov 2020, they said: “That’s the kind of story you can bring out every Christmas, it’s really special and something that you remember forever.” The Christmas Wrapper’s personalisations include the child's name on the cover, spine and throughout the story and features 4 family members/friends and a pet/favourite toy. You can also add your own dedication for an extra personal gift. “The Christmas Wrapper” is priced at £19.95 for a Softcover and £24.95 for a Hardcover and is available on Tickled Moon’s website. There you can preview the whole book with your personalisations and listen to the story read by the author, Alison Reddihough.
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