Sam (my five-year-old son) and I absolutely love a Christmas book. Here are twelve of our favourites – all published this year. Thank you so much to the publishers for our gifted copies.
Can’t See Santa! is Sam’s favourite. He’s recently developed a renewed interest in lift-the-flap books and there are over 40 flaps in this festive board book so there’s plenty of fun to be had.
It’s Christmas Eve and Mouse is looking everywhere for Santa. He searches all around the house and in the garden. You can help him by opening the cat flap, peeking under the Christmas pud, peering up the chimney, and looking underneath the branches of the Christmas tree. The pages are packed with festive delights: a gingerbread house, Christmas stockings, fabulous decorations and a roaring open fire. There’s a lovely snowy outdoor scene too. It certainly gets you in the mood for Christmas!
(Can’t See Santa! by Mandy Archer & Chris Jevons. Published by Little Tiger, 2020.)
Ketchup On Your Reindeer also provides lots of interactive fun. It’s another flap book but this time you flip the pages to make silly Christmassy combinations. Tinsel on your sausages anyone? How about a Santa hat on your Christmas pudding? Or maybe antlers on your snowman? Sam finds this book really funny and he can enjoy it on his own as its simple format makes it extremely accessible. I love the bright colours and bold illustrations.
(Ketchup On Your Reindeer by Nick Sharratt. Published by Alison Green Books, an imprint of Scholastic, 2020.)
If you’re in the mood for more Christmas silliness then look no further than Can You Find Santa’s Pants? It’s a brilliant rhyming picture book with terrifically funny illustrations. Santa is getting dressed so that he’s ready to deliver the presents when disaster strikes – he can’t find his pants! There are some spare pants on the washing line but a gust of wind blows them away.
Cue Santa rushing around the North Pole, frantically chasing after his underwear because “You can’t deliver Christmas with your bottom on display!” He searches in the kitchen, the stables and the elves’ workshop. There’s a flurry of activity in each scene and you can spot some of Santa’s pants being put to unconventional use – a parachute for a toy bunny, a tea cosy, and a hammock for a sleepy teddy bear. This madcap Christmas adventure certainly made us giggle.
(Can You Find Santa’s Pants? by Becky Davies & Alex Willmore. Published by Little Tiger, 2020.)
There’s laughs-a-plenty in The Twelve Days of Christmas too. It’s a re-working of the well-known song but this time the Christmas gifts are for Eloise, courtesy of her Grandma. The first six presents that Grandma sends are those that we’re familiar with – French hens, calling birds and so on, but after the six geese a-laying, things take a turn for the surreal. There are racing rhinos, snorkelling squirrels and – my absolute favourite – eleven penguins parping. As we’ve come to expect from Alex T. Smith, the book is fabulously illustrated and exquisitely designed. From the beautiful postmarks and stamps to the cleverly named companies where Grandma has done her shopping, there’s such amazing attention to detail!
(The Twelve Days of Christmas or Grandma is Overly Generous by Alex T. Smith. Published by Macmillan Children’s Books, 2020.)
Benji Davies is one of our favourite picture book author-illustrators and we love his latest book, The Snowflake. It’s an utterly gorgeous tale about a snowflake’s journey from the sky to the ground. She swirls and twists in the wind, across fields and rooftops wondering if she’ll ever find the perfect place to land. Meanwhile, little Noelle’s Christmas tree is just missing the finishing touch…
This really is a stunning book. There’s so much charm and emotion in the beautiful illustrations. The pinks and greys of the changing sky and the glow from the city lights evoke the magic of crisp winter evenings, and I especially love the intergenerational relationship between Noelle and her grandad. There are echoes of Benji’s earlier books in some of the settings and characters, and we enjoyed spotting references in the illustrations to The Storm Whale’s Noi, and the monkey from The Grotlyn. The Snowflake is a heart-warming, magical tale.
(The Snowflake by Benji Davies. Published by Harper Collins Children’s Books, 2020.)
A House for Christmas Mouse is such a sweet picture book. Mouse has just arrived in Treetop Forest and she’s looking for a place to call home. She meets some of the creatures who live in the forest and helps them with their Christmas preparations. Eventually Mouse finds a little hollow in a tree trunk but it’s not quite the perfect home she was hoping for. Luckily her new friends are on hand to repay her earlier kindnesses. Little Mouse is incredibly cute and there’s such a warmth and coziness to the illustrations. The silver-foiled pages bring a lovely touch of Christmas sparkle to bedtime.
(A House for Christmas Mouse by Rebecca Harry. Published by Nosy Crow, 2020.)
The Girl who Stole the Stars is a story about a little girl who asks Santa for a ladder to reach the stars. She wants one of them for her Christmas tree. However, she’s not satisfied with just one star and over the course of a year (beautifully depicted by the changing colours of a tree in her garden), she takes more and more stars until there are none left in the sky. By the time Christmas has come around again, Santa is unable to deliver any presents because he relies on the stars to navigate. This is a beautiful picture book with a lovely message about sharing.
(The Girl who Stole the Stars by Corrina Campbell. Published by Little Door Books, 2020.)
A Dancer’s Dream tells the true story behind the first performance of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, The Nutcracker. It’s an absolutely beautiful edition of a story that has become part of Christmas tradition. The storytelling is wonderful with fabulous descriptions that transport the reader to snowy St Petersburg in the late 19th century. The book is sumptuously illustrated in full colour throughout; the dream sequences with twirling dancers and swirling snow are particularly magical. A Dancer’s Dream is certainly a book to treasure and savour together every Christmas.
(A Dancer’s Dream by Katherine Woodfine & Lizzy Stewart. Published by Simon & Schuster, 2020.)
Another book which evokes a traditional Christmas and has a fabulous period setting is A Christmas in Time. It’s part of Sally Nicholls’s brilliant time-slip adventure series. On this occasion, siblings Ruby and Alex travel back in time through the magical mirror in their aunt’s house to a Christmas in the Victorian era. They arrive in a bustling family home where the preparations for the Christmas festivities are in full swing and the excitement among the children is tangible. There is one problem, however. Young motherless Edith won’t be staying with her cousins for long. Her father has brought her to England from India and is planning to send her to a cruel boarding school on Boxing Day. Can Ruby and Alex change Edith’s fate?
(A Christmas in Time by Sally Nicholls. Illustrated by Rachael Dean. Cover illustration by Isabelle Follath. Published by Nosy Crow, 2020.)
Winter Wishes is a collection of ten Christmassy short stories, each by a different author. It’s the perfect book to share at bedtime in the run up to Christmas. Newly confident readers will also be able to enjoy reading the short illustrated stories on their own.
There’s a terrific mix of stories and settings and all but one of the stories feature animals, from kittens and puppies to penguins, huskies and tigers. The black and white illustrations are beautiful and really bring the characters to life. There are tales set in Siberia, India and the North Pole, as well as in more familiar domestic settings. The stories are full of warmth and charm, as well as the incredibly cute animals. Common themes are those of hope, family and friendship. My favourite story is Finding Bigfoot, a philosophical tale about a yeti coming to understand his place in the world and the meaning of his existence.
(Winter Wishes by Caroline Juskus, Guy Bass, Michael Broad, Caroline Pitcher, Elizabeth Baguley, Karen Wallace, Malachy Doyle, Penny Dolan, Narinder Dhami & Holly Webb. Illustrated by Alison Edgson. Published by Little Tiger, 2020.)
Slightly older readers will love Trouble on Planet Christmas, the quirky follow up to The Great Reindeer Disaster. The Trubshaw family are needed back on planet Yule-1, the real home of Father Christmas. One of the reindeers (who Santa fired from the toy factory) has gone rogue. He’s now making his own toys to sell to humans and has got his sights set on world domination, or domination of the Christmas toy market, at least. The book is packed full of silliness and humour and the zany illustrations are brilliant fun too.
(Trouble on Planet Christmas by Kate Saunders. Illustrated by Neal Layton. Published by Faber & Faber, 2020.)
My favourite book this festive season is The Miracle on Ebenezer Street. It’s a modern day re-imaging of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. Three years ago, George’s mom died in an accident on Christmas Eve. His grief-stricken dad has banned the celebration of Christmas ever since. George longs to bring the joy of Christmas home once again and for him and his father to be happy once more. A magical snowglobe transports them to Christmases past, present and future. Can George, an enthusiastic elf and a grumpy purple reindeer help bring back the magic of Christmas to number 7 Ebenezer Street?
I love all the inventive ways in which Catherine Doyle has adapted elements of the original story. There’s magic, brilliant dialogue and bags of humour but this is also a profoundly moving story about grief and loss.
(The Miracle on Ebenezer Street by Catherine Doyle. Published by Puffin, 2020.)