Here at the Pigeon Pair and Me, we’re almost done for the Christmas holidays. The tree’s up, cards are thudding onto the doormat (after a worrying few days when I thought this might be the year when everyone stopped sending them). Presents have been bought. Most of them, at least.
Before I sign off for a short break, I wanted to mention a few books that would make good Christmas reading. Just in case you’re in need of any last-minute gift inspiration for the kids. Our children are six and three, so I’ve picked titles for their age groups.
Lucy and Tom at Christmas by Shirley Hughes (Red Fox)
We adore Shirley Hughes. The Alfie books are requested almost every night by our three-year-old. This Lucy and Tom book is illustrated in the same style, and follows a simple narative: a brother and sister prepare for Christmas by helping to decorate the house, hiding presents, and joining in with carol singers. Lucy and Tom’s Christmas is a very traditional, British one: they walk to church in the morning, through snow. They host relatives and neighbours for a big dinner, followed by games around the fire. As a child I used to enjoy reading these straighforward, comforting narratives about festive celebrations, and I’m sure my own children will too.
The Fairy Tales of Hans Christian Andersen (Parragon)
This edition of some classic tales – including The Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, and the Snow Queen – is full of charming pictures. Each story has a different illustrator, to give a unique feel to what are remarkably diverse stories to come from the same author. Orient-based The Nightingale is strikingly different to The Snow Queen, set in the icy lands of the north and full of Nordic traditions. Andersen was clearly a genius storyteller, and this book includes a short biography of the incredible man. The tales themselves are told by Mandy Archer in simple language, but are long enough to include plenty of plot detail (around 25 pages each). At £9.99, this is a good-value book to give as a gift.
The Jacqueline Wilson Christmas Cracker (Random House Children’s)
You know those kids’ magazines that you see in newsagents – the ones aimed at pre-schoolers, which include crafting tips, as well as a story or two? Well this book is like a much better-value, meatier version, for older kids (six and over, I’d say), without the plastic nonsense that comes with magazines. Or the stickers.
It includes Christmas stories by Wilson, with one brand new tale. The stories are interpersed with charming little ‘how-to’ guides: write your own Christmas poem, tips on gift wrapping etc; as well as snippets of information, like how Christmas was celebrated in the Victorian era. It’s the sort of fun compendium that could see a youngster through the holidays, and out into the new year. It’s also my first foray into the world of the Hetty Feather/Tracy Beaker creator, and I’m mightily impressed.
Stick Man (special edition) by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Scholastic)
2015 is the year of Stick Man. Magic Light Pictures’ animated adaption of the book, starring Hugh Bonneville, Rob Brydon, Martin Freeman, Sally Hawkins, Jennifer Saunders and Russell Tovey, will premiere on Christmas Day. It’s already been translated into an acclaimed stage show (which I’ve reviewed here). There’s now even a Stick Man: Helping Santa app, where children can help Father Christmas deliver presents down the right chimneys.
The story itself is a simple, endearing tale, with Scheffler’s distinctive illustrations. A stick man becomes separated from his family, and has to battle his way back to them. It all ends cosily, with the family reunited and happy.
Perfect Christmas reading material. Do you have a favourite children’s book for Christmas?
Disclosure: we were sent some of these titles for review purposes. All views are my own.