The Best Children's Books for Christmas

From two argumentative animals trying to decorate a Christmas tree, to a pair of young maids employed in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, there’s a whole host of colourful characters waiting to meet young readers in this winter’s best children's books. Reviews by Emma Dunn and Clare Fulton

We Disagree About This Tree
We Disagree About This Tree

Ages 0-5

In We Disagree About This Tree by Ross Collins (Nosy Crow, £12.99) Bear and Mouse, everyone’s favourite odd couple, are back with more adorable antics from in a hilarious Christmas caper. Bear brings home a beautiful pine tree and everything seems to be going well – until they decide to decorate it. Mouse loves a giant bauble while Bear’s penchant for candles becomes a fire hazard – and is a fairy manatee for the top really a good idea? Perhaps a present from each other will save the day... Collins’ rhyming text is a delight with some fantastic words to get your tongue around, and his trademark illustrations convey the whirlwind of emotions Bear and Mouse experience in their comical Christmas disagreement.

The Ever-Changing Earth by Grahame Baker-Smith (Templar Publishing, £12.99) is a stunning celebration of planet earth, from the roar of the dinosaurs to the modern world. Baker-Smith’s cinematic drawings give a real sense of awe and wonder, and the book charts the history of the earth from its earliest beginnings, exploring how simple cells evolved over billions of years to become the myriad of plants and creatures we see today. Each page is a beautiful work of art, and the huge topic of the earth’s evolution is made easy-to-read and accessible.

The Ever Changing Earth
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Rock-a-bye Rumpus by Julia Donaldson and Sebastien Braun (Pan Macmillan, £14.99) is a treasure trove of poems, rhymes, and songs ­­– carefully selected by the magnificent Julia Donaldson with some brand-new ones from Julia herself. Some have helpful tips underneath for sharing the poems with babies and toddlers which are brilliant for new parents. Sebastien Braun’s artwork is the perfect accompaniment to the text with bright adorable scenes and cute nursery-rhyme characters.

One & Everything by Sam Winston (Walker Books, £14.99) is a beautiful celebration of stories in dazzling visual form. Using letters for art, Winston celebrates the languages and writing systems that have told stories for centuries. Both thought-provoking and multi-layered, with shapes and colours that will engage the youngest of readers. - ED

Ages 6-9

The perfect book for dipping into, 2023 Nature Month-By-Month: A Children’s Almanac (Nosy Crow in collaboration with The National Trust, £9.99) has been written by Anna Wilson with heart-warming illustrations by Elly Jahnz. This treasure trove of information includes suggestions for craft activities, indoor and outdoor pursuits and recipes, and shows how we can take pleasure in every month as each season unfolds, offering cause for celebration and reasons to connect with nature. With this book on hand, children can always find something enjoyable to do at any time of the year, whatever the weather.

The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories

In The Faber Book of Bedtime Stories (Faber, £20) some very special storytellers have produced a fabulous collection of tales which are just the right length for bedtime reading. Children are sure to return to this book again and again, to hear, read and talk about their favourite story. With fun-filled illustrations by Sarah McIntyre. – CF

Ages 10-12

Big Ideas From History (The School of Life, £22) features a selection of interesting and significant historical events that help us consider how we can learn from the past. The gorgeous illustrations by Anna Doherty blend appealing contemporary images with prints of artefacts and photographs. This book is ideal for a classroom, library or as a very special gift. Starting with prehistory and moving through the ages to the future, it is a book which presents information in a very easy-to-read way to help children develop an understanding of the world.

A sensitive study of a friendship, The Haunted Hills by Berlie Doherty (UCLan Publishing, £7.99) with illustrations by the hugely-talented Tamsin Rosewell, introduces us to Carl, bereft following the sudden death of his lifelong friend Jack. The boys have grown up like brothers and through Carl’s recollections we see their closeness, shared interests and connection – but also moments of envy, boredom and betrayal. The touching story shows how misunderstandings can occur and things can go wrong in a relationship, but also that recovery and acceptance are an important part of life.

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Written in the voices of two young maids employed in the court of Queen Elizabeth I, Honesty & Lies by Eloise Williams (Firefly, £7.99) is a captivating story of hardship, struggle and the challenge of living in an environment in which suspicion and lack of trust prevail. All the more precious then, is a friendship in which the girls find in each other someone with whom they can share their happy moments. Each carries her own worries and secrets as the sharing of confidences can be dangerous with so many eyes and ears in the Queen’s court. The sights, smells and experiences of London in 1601 are expertly conveyed in this gripping tale.

The Fox’s Tower by Sam Thompson (Little Island Books, £9.99), mesmerisingly illustrated by Anna Tromop, shows the damage and destruction which can result from individuals battling for personal power. It is a real adventure story and one in which the heroine, Willow, feels compelled to do everything she can to save living creatures and their habitats from destruction. The power of this story lies in its message that no-one has the right to write your story or map out your life – because that power lies with you.

The ability to say something important by selecting just the right words is a special gift of skilled poets. The Wild Verses by Helen Mort (Bonnier Books UK, £16.99) is a wonderful collection of nature poems, with magnificent illustrations by Sarah Maycock. These poems focus on the things which matter most – love, friendship, hope for the future and healing. Children and adults alike will love the images and messages written in rich, beautiful language. – CF

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Scottish Book Trust Appeal

Many children are growing up without books of their own. As the cost-of-living crisis escalates, more children and families are in need of support this Christmas. Without books, families are missing out. Scottish Book Trust is fundraising to ensure everyone in Scotland has access to books and the many benefits reading brings. Books bring families together, comfort children and help them do well in school. They unlock creativity, increase employability, improve mental health and support wellbeing. Funds raised from the appeal will enable Scottish Book Trust to continue to deliver life-changing work, including specialist outreach for young families, giving tactile books to children with additional support needs, sharing reading with people living with dementia and their carers, and giving books to families in need through food banks and community hubs this Christmas. Make sure no child misses out this Christmas by donating at