Early Years Christmas Books

Maisy’s Christmas Letters
Lucy Cousins
Walker Books

Maisy is throwing a Christmas party and she’s been busy writing invitations to all her friends. It’s not long before the replies start coming in, along with other surprise items for Maisy such as a calendar(Eddie), a recipe (Cyril), a tiny joke book (Charley) and a special letter.
Interactive fun for little ones and just right to share in the run-up to Christmas. I suspect Maisy will acquire a host of new human friends with this book.

Marvin and Marigold: A Christmas Surprise
Mark Carthew and Simon Prescott
New Frontier Publishing

Thanks to a surprise gift from her mother on the first of December, and her own thoughtfulness, Marigold Mouse is able to bring Christmas happiness to her best friend Marvin.
Mark Carthew’s lively rhyming narrative and Simon Prescott’s expressive illustrations together make for a warm-hearted seasonal story in the Marvin and Marigold series reminding us all that Christmas is for sharing with others.

Winnie the Pooh: The Long Winter Sleep
Jane Riordan, Eleanor Taylor and Mikki Butterley
Egmont

Who or what is making those Scritch! Scratch! Crunch! sounds as Pooh and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood bed down for their long winter sleep, shutting out the cold wind blowing through the Forest? One after another the animals venture out into the darkness in the hopes of discovering the source of the weird noises. What they find comes as a wonderful surprise that warms them both outside and inside.

Jane Riordan succeeds in capturing the essence of Milne’s characters in this charming tale while the illustrators give a slightly carton feel to the artwork.
Also in the same series but in a mini edition:

A Pudding for Christmas
The friends all gather to make a Christmas pudding, “A gigantic delicious pudding as big as Pooh,” announces Christopher Robin. Each in turn adds an ingredient to the mix and then one by one they stir the pudding and make a wish until Kanga realises that Roo is missing. Is he or is he not somewhere in the pudding? It’s probably a good idea to defer cooking it – just in case …
Another enchanting episode for tinies, this pocket sized book would make a good stocking filler.

Vegetables in Holiday Underwear
Jared Chapman
Abrams Appleseed

The eagerly anticipated season of holiday underwear has arrived and there’s seasonal excitement in veggie land. So says the green pea announcer at the start of the latest in Jared Chapman’s zany series.

Readers are then treated to a pants extravaganza that displays underwear of the cosy and scratchy kinds, that to wear inside and outside; to accommodate the Christmas meal there are stretchy pants as well as the inevitable tight pair. Some pants are similar while others are utterly unique. And because it’s Christmas even Santa is suitably ‘panted. Festive silliness for sure.

Sarah’s Two Nativities

Sarah’s Two Nativities
Janine M. Fraser and Hélène Magisson
Walker Books

In our world where many people distrust others whom they see as a threat to their way of life, and religious differences are the cause of so many problems, it’s wonderful to see this story that will help children understand that although there are many different beliefs and customs, if we listen to one another and take time to understand our differences, it will help us discover what we have in common.

Sarah has two grandmothers, Grandmother Azar and Grandmother Maria both of whom she loves to spend time with. Grandmother Azar tells her stories from the Holy Koran and when she visits she cooks kofte with Sarah. Grandmother Maria’s stories come from the Bible and together she and Sarah make cupcakes.

Both holy books, full of stories, sit side by side on a shelf in Sarah’s house and her favourite stories are the nativities her grandmothers tell at Christmas.

They are similar in many ways but have differences too. ‘How can they both be true?’ asks Sarah. What she hears in response and what follows, show the little girl that what is most important is a family living together in peace.

What a smashing story showing how similarities transcend differences and that’s what we should focus on and celebrate; it’s ideal for sharing during the Christmas season but a lovely book for any time. Hélène Magisson’s watercolour illustrations are absolutely beautiful, radiating the love and warmth that exists between all the members of Sarah’s family.

We CAN live peaceably together if we listen to one another’s stories.

Early Years Bookshelf: Moon and Me / All Around Me: A First Book of Childhood

Moon and Me
Andrew Davenport and Mariko Umeda
Scholastic

Not being familiar with the TV programmes I watched an episode and with its generous sprinkling of ‘tiddle toddle’s, it certainly does have some of the magic of the Teletubbies and In the Night Garden.

What we have in this book is a sequence of episodes starting with Pepi Nana’s sending of a magical letter to the moon that results in a visit from Moon Baby and his magical kalimba; and thus she makes a new friend.

Once at Pepi Nana’s Toy House he wakes her friends with his music: for the uninitiated they are Mr Onion, Colly Wobble, Sleepy Dibillo, Little Nana, Lambkin and Lily Plant. They create tissue paper flowers from the resources in the curiosity box and one ends up looking like a seed that becomes the inspiration for the next Storyland tale wherein ‘Tiddle toddle’ Pepi Nana’s magical seed grows into a large beanstalk which everybody climbs

and there they see something wonderful.

And so it continues until finally, it’s time for sleep and for their visitor to return to the moon.

There are songs to learn and the repeated “And I think she was right about that’ to join in with, as well as a lot of playing of Moon Baby’s magical kalimba.

If your little ones enjoy the Moon and Me CBeebies series then I suspect they’ll love this attractively presented, whimsical picture book.

All Around Me: A First Book of Childhood
Shirley Hughes
Walker Books

Putting together five previously published books, this is the most delightful children’s collection of basic concepts done with genius as only Shirley Hughes can.

Enormous fun and wonderfully engaging for little ones, we’re shown the world of childhood through the eyes of Katie and her smaller brother, Olly.

Whether it’s the rhyming look at Opposites; the story of an outing (Grandpa and Katie) to the park that provides a superb opportunity for Counting; Colours identified through wondrous scenes and accompanying rhymes;

the enchanting visual presentation of All Shapes and Sizes, again with accompanying rhymes; or cacophonous Sounds alongside some gentler ones, each section offers sheer pleasure (and some gentle learning) at every page turn.

If you have a little one or know others who have, then this is for you. Equally it’s a classic to add to a nursery or playschool collection.

The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story

The Underhills: A Tooth Fairy Story
Bob Graham
Walker Books

This is the wonderful Bob Graham’s second story about Esme and April. Herein while their parents work, they are to spend a whole day and night with their Grandma and Grandpa in the teapot house by the airport fence. What joy!

As they’re just settling in Grandma’s phone rings. It’s Mum about a job: Akuba, a small girl shortly arriving from Ghana by plane has lost a tooth and it needs collecting.

With Mum’s permission it’s decided that Grandad will remain behind to look after baby Vincent, and Esme, April and Grandma will get the tooth, taking great care not to be seen.
Off they go to the ‘terminable’ as Esme calls it to await Akuba’s arrival.

There follows an exciting time as they fly around in the terminal among angels and cupids some of whom they actually meet and learn about their jobs.

Then the Ghana flight’s arrival is announced; can the tooth fairies locate Akuba’s tooth and get hold of a coin with which to replace it without Akuba catching sight of them?

What a gorgeously whimsical, magical tale of determination, hoping and believing. Bob Graham’s telling is absolutely full of delicious moments. For instance Grandad’s reading ‘A Poem for Every Day of the Year’ as the tooth collectors depart and is still so doing ‘with Vincent’s sweet breath in his ear’ on their return and what’s more he’d managed to read four months in that single sitting.

Equally wonderful are Graham’s distinctive illustrations – I just love the scene where Grandad has tethered himself to Vincent so that should he drop off while reading, the baby can’t float away like a balloon.

Totally adorable from start to finish.

Angel on the Roof

Angel on the Roof
Shirley Hughes
Walker Books

Come with me to 32 Paradise Street, Notting Hill, London where something wonderful unfolds.

In her inimitable style, Shirley Hughes presents the story of a friendship that develops between a boy, Lewis Brown, and an angel.

One night this angel alights unnoticed on the roof of the building wherein Lewis lives with his parents, spends the night there and next morning shakes his wings causing a golden feather to fall, landing on the sill of the window through which Lewis is peering.
(Having an underdeveloped leg, Lewis prefers people watching to interpersonal encounters.)

The boy notices the feather, knows it’s something special and clambers up to the roof to investigate.

What he sees is an angel with a beaming smile. Lewis pours out his heart to the being and thus begins their relationship.

The two walk together through the streets of west London, the angel wearing an overcoat belonging to Lewis’s father.

We never see its face, but alongside the angel Lewis feels alone no longer and gradually things change for the better at 32 Paradise Street.

For fear of spoiling the story, I’ll say little more other than that one night Lewis has the experience of a lifetime and things continue to change for the better both in his life and those of other people.

This is such a sublimely beautiful book; it’ll make you feel uplifted and having read it and wondered at Shirley’s illustrations with those touches of gold, you’ll want immediately to find others to share it with. I certainly did.

Dinosaur Day Out

Dinosaur Day Out
Sara Acton
Walker Books

Like the child characters Sally and Max in Sara Acton’s story, most young children love dinosaurs, so there’s always room for just one more dinosaur book.

We follow the exploits of the children as they visit the museum with their dad only to discover that on this particular day the dinosaur exhibition is closed.

Instead Dad buys a book about dinosaurs and they head into the city.

As they explore Dad reads the book telling the children about the diplodocus, the pterodactyl,

the stegosaurus, the tyrannosaurus and lesser-known dinosaurs but so engrossed is he that he fails to notice the exciting and occasionally alarming things around him.

Cleverly conceived, this is a case of showing not telling where the text and illustrations are delightfully mismatched. Little ones will delight in being in the know as Sally and Max give their imaginations free rein as they delight in the opportunities offered.

Woven into the narrative are some basic facts – dinosaur facts to please dino-curious youngsters, while all will enjoy the predominantly watercolour illustrations.

Snow Leopard: Grey Ghost of the Mountain / Who Am I?

Our precious wild animals are under threat as these two books show:

Snow Leopard: Grey Ghost of the Mountain
Justin Anderson and Patrick Benson
Walker Books

Here we have the latest addition to the Nature Storybook series that Walker Books does so brilliantly.

Filmmaker Justin Anderson debuts as an author; his narrative is accompanied by award winning Patrick Benson’s awesome,  finely detailed illustrations. The result is a wonderful look at the animal the inhabitants of the high Himalayas call the “Grey Ghost’, a very rare and beautiful animal.

Patrick Benson takes us right up close to the creature as it weathers a blizzard,

then communicates with other snow leopards by squirting pee.

She uses her camouflage coat to sneak up close to her prey – half a dozen ibex – lower down. Her meal however eludes her on this occasion because her cub alerts them to the danger.

We then follow mother and cub as they seek the sun’s warmth, then briefly curl up together before as the sun sinks they wake and continue their climb, disappearing into the silence of the mountain.

A final note provides further information highlighting the vulnerability of the species and detailing conservation organisations, while accompanying the narrative, in a different font, are snippets of factual information not woven into
the main text.

One feels privileged to have met these stunning animals in this quietly beautiful book.

Who Am I?
Tim Flach
Abrams Books for Young Readers

The award winning photographer Tim Flach whose superb photographs grace the pages of this ‘peek-through-the-pages’ book of endangered and threatened animals is passionate about rewilding.

Here, using riddles, full page shots, small circular images of parts of animal faces, and die-cut peek-through windows,

he introduces youngsters to a dozen animals (or rather they introduce themselves) including the Bengal tiger, a white-belied pangolin,

an axolotl and a giant panda.

In the final pages we learn what makes each creature special and why it’s endangered, and the author ends by asking young readers to help save these amazing animals, indicating how best to get involved in so doing.

A rallying call indeed.