The best books for kids this Christmas

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland, by Carys Bexington and Kate Hindley
Illustration from The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland, by Carys Bexington and Kate Hindley
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There are lots of delightful stories to share with the young person in your life this festive season, write Emma Dunn and Sarah Mallon

0-5 years: With sturdy, toddler-friendly pages and bright and bold illustrations, First Stories: A Christmas Carol by Jean Claude (Campbell Books, £5.99) is a lovely introduction to Charles Dickens. Little ones will love the push and pull elements which are used as a clever way to tell extra bits of the story, as Scrooge is visited by some friendly ghosts and is quite soon full of Christmas cheer. In Snow Still by Holly Surplice (Nosy Crow, £11.99), a fawn has his first magical experience of snow. Full of shimmery foil elements, each page glistens as the fawn discovers all the wonderful things snow can do. The simple rhyming text makes this ideal for a little one’s first winter.

The Night Before Christmas in Wonderland by Carys Bexington and Kate Hindley (Macmillan, £12.99) is a glorious mash-up of two classic tales. The Queen of Hearts hasn’t allowed Christmas in Wonderland since the White Rabbit missed the last Christmas post when she was a Princess, and her letter didn’t make it to Santa. When an elf discovers it mouldering on a shelf, Santa’s epic journey through Wonderland begins. Hindley’s illustrations are a delight – both warm and friendly, and full of expressive characters with many a curious creature to spot, and Bexington’s narrative brims with charm. Full of madness and mayhem, and with an elusive Cheshire cat, an opulent palace and an evil queen (or perhaps just a grumpy princess?)  this collision of Christmas and Wonderland is a spectacular event not to be missed.

In Mouse’s Night Before Christmas by Tracey Corderoy and Sarah Massini (Nosy Crow, £11.99), the mouse who is asleep in the original rhyme gets to tell his own tale. Tucked away in his home at the foot of the grandfather clock, he is a lonely wee mouse who longs for a friend. When Santa arrives, and is struck down by a winter storm, can mouse help him deliver the presents and save Christmas? Both heart-warming and Christmassy, Corderoy’s rhyme is spot on and Massini’s beautiful artwork complements the text perfectly. ED

6-9 Years: When Father Christmas hangs up his red coat for the final time, his son Nick is ready to step in and continue the job of spreading Christmas cheer around the world. Unfortunately, things don’t go to plan – first he catches the flu and then his granny and her pet penguin turn up and cause chaos all over the North Pole. Can the family come together to save the day? Sue Mongredien and Kate Pankhurst’s The Real Family Christmas (Macmillan, £6.99) is a fantastic collection of festive stories full of hilarity and adventure.

Many children around the world hope to become pilots, doctors and football players, but what other options are out there? Author and illustrator Natalie Labarre presents a host of more unusual career choices to surprise, inspire and amuse children and adults alike in her new non-fiction title, Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of (Nosy Crow, £14.99). This is a great book to dip in and out of as you learn about waterslide testing, tortoise walking, professional queuing and many other weird and wonderful jobs.

Young readers can discover Aesop’s Fables in a new collection of the tales, retold by Elli Woollard (Macmillan, £14.99). Well-known stories like “The Hare and the Tortoise” and lesser-known fables like “The Dog and His Reflection” are brought to life in a new way, with vibrant illustrations by Marta Altés. There’s a great balance between the morals of these traditional tales and a sense of fun and humour, bound up in a beautiful edition to treasure for years to come.

Shirley Hughes is the author and illustrator of many well-loved classics, and her new story is bound to be a favourite for the whole family this Christmas. In Angel on the Roof (Walker, £12.99), Lewis is befriended by a beautiful angel who he finds resting his wings. Although the angel never speaks, his friendship brings light and hope to Lewis, plus a bit of magic for the whole community in this uplifting book. SM

10-12 Years: Emmy has grown up in a musical family and it’s all she’s ever known, although she’s never felt like she really fitted in. Moving to a new city brings new challenges and worries, but in her school computer science club she learns new languages and finally starts to feel like she belongs. In the Key of Code (Walker, £6.99) by Aimee Lucido is a beautifully written, poetic debut which brings together friendship, music and coding, showing the similarities between them as Emmy learns to find her way in the world.

The healing power of nature is clear to see in Butterflies for Grandpa Joe (Barrington Stoke, £6.99), a heart-warming story suitable for readers with dyslexia, and everyone else too. Grandpa Joe has never been the same since Granny Lou died, and his grandson Ben doesn’t know how to help. But if anything can bring his grandpa outside again, it will surely be the butterflies that he used to love. This is a beautiful, hopeful book from Nicola Davies and Mike Byrne.

Ella is excited to spend her holiday exploring with her uncle who’s on the lookout for yeti for a new TV programme. Meanwhile, Tick and his yeti companions are doing all they can to remain undiscovered by humans – but with cameras watching their every move they can’t stay secret for long… The International Yeti Collective (Stripes, £6.99) by author Paul Mason and illustrator Katy Riddell is a fantastically imaginative story, taking readers on an adventure through the Himalayas and beyond.

In Flood World (Nosy Crow, £6.99), chaos and division rage in a future torn apart by rising sea levels. Joe and Kara have grown up in poverty in the shadow of London, where the wealthy still enjoy a comfortable life, but when they find themselves in the middle of a dangerous power struggle, they need to decide whose side they are on before time runs out. This is an action-packed and gripping read from author Tom Huddleston which will make older readers think about good, evil and how to tell the difference. SM