Book reviews: Amazing animals, dazzling Dickens and melting snowflakes

Amazing animals, dazzling Dickens and melting snowflakes

Amazing animals, dazzling Dickens and melting snowflakes

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There’s plenty to choose from this Christmas when it comes to books for your children.

A new animal picture book creates poetry in motion, get your crayons ready for Scrooge and Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol colouring book, pack a brilliant puzzle book if you are heading off on holiday and enjoy a picture book filled with the wisdom of age.

Age 5 plus:

A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies and Petr Horácek

Get up close to animals of every colour, shape and form in a gorgeous, lyrical picture book that brings nature to life as you have never before seen it.

Read and learn about 50 different kinds of amazing animals with award-winning children’s author Nicola Davies’ dazzling poems and then marvel at a stunning celebration of them all, courtesy of Petr Horácek, one of the country’s finest illustrators.

Davies has created a spellbinding treasury of beautifully crafted poems about the animal world, each complemented in breathtaking detail by Horácek. Polar bears play on the ice, tigers hunt in the jungle, fireflies twinkle in the evening sky and nightingales sing in the heart of the woods.

A First Book of Animals takes you across the planet to visit all kinds of different creatures, displaying life in the wild in all its dazzling variety and splendour, from giant blue whales to tiny bumblebee bats and everything in between.

With poems that inform and inspire, and illustrations that glory in the magic and diversity of the natural world, this is a big, beautiful gift book that belongs in every child’s home.

(Walker Books, hardback, £14.99)

Age 7 plus:

A Christmas Carol: A Colouring Classic

Celebrate the greatest Christmas novel of all time with a sumptuous colouring book based on Charles Dickens’ much-loved classic story.

A Christmas Carol: A Colouring Classic features the world created by Dickens in this perennially popular tale featuring ghosts, ghouls and an abundance of the festive spirit.

Be transported to the streets of Victorian London on Christmas Eve where you will visit the home of the formidable miser Ebenezer Scrooge and see an incredible cast of well-known characters. Meet the ghost of Joseph Marley, marvel at the ghosts of Christmas, Past and Present and share Christmas Day with Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.

Then choose your favourite crayons and add colour – and plenty of Christmas spirit – to the abundance of festive patterns, traditional scenes and elaborate ink line designs on every page, the enchanting work of Vladimir Aleksic and Kate Ware.

A unique and imaginative way for young readers to engage with a thrilling Christmas classic…

(Little Tiger Press, paperback, £9.99)

Age 9 plus:

Jonathan Steps Up Celia Purcell

Trained ballerina Celia Purcell’s pas de deux hero Jonathan leaps back into action in the second book of a series that is putting male ballet dancers firmly in the spotlight.

Written specially for boys who dream of dancing, these books are a timely reminder that things have changed a lot in the 15 years since Billy Elliot first danced across cinema screens. Thanks to the success of shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Britain’s Got Talent, dance is popular with boys as never before.

After winning a small part in a professional production of Sinbad the Sailor which will be the town’s Christmas pantomime, 12-year-old Jonathan looks set for a career in dance. But when he fails a couple of auditions, he quickly starts to lose his confidence. However, on a trip to Paris he makes friends with a street dance crew and is asked to join them. A charity gig in aid of migrants has been planned but the chief dancer has gone missing… what can Jonathan do to help save the day?

Packed with drama, dreams, dilemmas and dance, this all-action story will have ballet fans – male or female – pirouetting for joy!

(Hulton Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 5 plus:

Over 100 Things to Do on a Journey by Rebecca Gilpin

Long journeys at holiday time can seem even longer when your little ones are restless…

So keep them happy, entertained and busy with this pocket-sized paperback stuffed with puzzles, games, quizzes and drawings, all guaranteed to keep boredom at bay and the journey running smoothly.

Whether it’s on the plane, on the train, in the car or on the bus, these write-in, travel-themed activities, such as matching helicopters and doodling cable cars, quizzes, crosswords, riddles, Sudoku and spotting games will keep the whole family entertained.

Slip it in your pocket, pack it in your bag, store it in the car… but whatever you do, don’t leave home without it!

(Usborne, paperback, £5.99)

Age 3 plus:

Snowflake in My Pocket by Rachel Bright and Yu Rong

Youth and age, night and day, winter and summer, love and friendship are all celebrated in this warm and wise picture book from top team Rachel Bright and Yu Rong.

Once upon a winter, in a faraway place, lived a very wise old bear and a very small young squirrel. The snow is coming and Bear can smell it in the air. And sure enough, Squirrel wakes up to see the world transformed. Squirrel is so excited because he has never seen snow before! But when the snow arrived in the night it also brought the sniffles for poor old Bear and now he must stay in bed until he’s better. Can Squirrel still bring some silvery, sparkly, magical whiteness to his best friend, or will his dream of bringing home a perfect snowflake simply melt away?

Highly acclaimed picture book maker Rachel Bright provides a visually stunning, feel-good story filled with Yu Rong’s distinctive, awe-inspiring papercut artwork as together they deliver a big-hearted message about the wisdom of age and the youthful spirit of discovery and adventure.

Featuring a cut-out window in Squirrel’s oak tree home, giving readers a delightful peek at the wintry world outside, this delicately crafted book captures the cosy, cuddly feeling of sharing a snowy night with a loved one, and is the perfect read for parents and children to treasure at Christmas… and all year round.

(Walker Books, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Stone Underpants by Rebecca Lisle and Richard Watson

When you live in the Stone Age, it can get very cold… so cold, in fact, that you might need a good bottom warmer!

Never one to sit around feeling the chill, young Pod decides to find himself some cosy underpants but where do you find them when everyone’s stony broke for warm materials?

Young fiction writer Rebecca Lisle makes a triumph of going ‘bottom up’ in her first picture book which explores – in the most delightful way – the freezing but funny side of the Stone Age.

Pod doesn’t like having a cold bottom so his dad very helpfully suggests he makes some. And Pod works really hard to solve the problem… but stone ones are too heavy, wooden ones are too splintery, shells too clattery and feathers too ticklish. It’s only when he sees the woolly mammoth’s warm coat that his ideas start to knit together something truly toasty warm…

Richard Watson provides the wonderfully colourful and characterful illustrations for a charming picture book brimming with invention, imagination and Stone Age innovation!

(Maverick, paperback, £6.99)

Age 2 plus:

Owl Bat, Bat Owl by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick

Every picture tells a story in this funny, original picture book about a family of owls which makes its home on the same tree branch as a family of bats.

Can two families that are so different find their own space in the world… or will feathers fly as the night unfolds?

Award-winning author and illustrator Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick’s clever, wordless picture book pays a silent but gloriously comical and colourful tribute to family, friendship and the power of togetherness as the bats and owls slowly start to branch out.

Mummy Owl and her three little owls live happily on their spacious branch. That is, until the bat family move in. And the new neighbours (the owls up top, the bats hanging below) can’t help but feel a little wary of one another. Owls just don’t mix with bats and bats don’t mix with owls. But babies are curious little creatures and this curiosity, and a wild, stormy night, might just bring these two families together…

Little hands will enjoy turning the book upside down to see the world from a bat’s perspective as they engage with illustrations so full of character and charm that words become unnecessary to understand the story.

Youth, natural curiosity and a soaring flight of imagination in perfect harmony…

(Walker Books, hardback, £11.99)