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Gift books for children this Christmas

30 November 2018

Younger readers road-test new offerings

A Little Moment of Peace

A Little Moment of Peace

Gift books

And the Ocean Was Our Sky
Patrick Ness
Rovina Cai, illustrator
Walker Books £12.99 (£11.70)

Arthur Cooper (12): In this book, the timeless novel Moby Dick is reimagined and told from the whale’s perspective. This strange and intriguing tale follows a young whale, Bathsheba, under the command of the brutal Captain Alexandra, who is bent on revenge and the killing of the dastardly whaler Toby Wick.

While searching for the whaler, they come across an upturned whaling ship: all the crew are dead except for a man named Demetrius who was left in possession of a medallion carved with the initials “TW”. This leads to a wild quest for the killer of many whales, and Bathsheba’s questioning of their war. Patrick Ness’s story echoes many of the recurring themes of his previous novels, such as death, loss, and difficult choices, which help to propel the fast-paced story. Highly recommended.

A Little Moment of Wonder for Children
Jenny Muldrum, author and illustrator
Hodder & Stoughton £8.99 (£8.10)

A Little Moment of Peace for Children
Jenny Muldrum
Hodder & Stoughton £8.99 (£8.10)

A Little Moment of Promises for Children
Jenny Muldrum
Hodder & Stoughton £8.99 (£8.10)

A Little Moment of Kindness for Children
Jenny Muldrum
Hodder & Stoughton £8.99 (£8.10)

A Little Moment of Me for Children
Jenny Muldrum
Hodder & Stoughton £8.99 (£8.10)

Christine Miles, parent: In the “Little Moment” series, the author Jenny Meldrum puts her touch on some of her favourite verses from the Bible in a way that children will understand. Not only that, but she has painted a beautiful illustration to go with each verse. With between 28-30 verses in each book, there’s advice, encouragement, loving words, and comfort.

Olivia (8): A Little Moment of Me made me feel I belonged in God’s loving arms. I liked: “I am God’s masterpiece” [Ephesians 2.10], which made me think about God working on me for as long as I live. “Use your freedom to help other people” [Galatians 5.13] reminded me to give to others. In A Little Moment of Peace, I loved the painting of the children throwing bin bags into the sky. “I throw my worries up to heaven,” it said [1 Peter 5.7].

We’re Hungry Too
Sarah Green
David Lorenzo, illustrator
SPCK £5.99 (£5.40)

Ed Thornton, parent: Ellie and Aunt Miranda feed the birds, only to be confronted with squirrels saying “We’re hungry, too.” They soon discover other hungry creatures — caterpillars and cats — as well as hungry-looking children on television. The story was “very hilarious”, Jem (5) says, although the more serious ethical point it was making did not seem to have got through.


Jesus was a Refugee (Lost Sheep Resources)
Andrew McDonough, author and illustrator
Sarah Grace Publishing £4.99 (£4.50)

Ed Thornton, parent: “This book is about when Jesus turned into a refugee, and when Herod was trying to chase him and his family,” Jem (5) says. “I found the story interesting but not scary. In the pictures, the people look really frightened that Jesus is maybe going to get killed. The pictures are good. I liked the colours, like the dark yellow on the angel’s wings.”

Bethlehem Town (Lost Sheep Resources)
Andrew McDonough
Sarah Grace Publishing £4.99 (£4.50)

Ed Thornton, parent: This book tells the story of Jesus’s birth in rhyming verse (“In a house on a hill with a cow that’s brown, Everybody’s welcome in Bethlehem town”). After reading the story, Jem (5) says: “Mary was a bit frightened because she thought it might hurt. When she saw the baby, she was really, really, really happy. She was a bit surprised that she was actually going to have a baby.” The book was “funny” but “not moving”, he said.

The Sleepy Shepherd: A timeless retelling of the Christmas story

The Sleepy Shepherd: A timeless retelling of the Christmas story
Stephen Cottrell
Chris Hagan, illustrator
SPCK £6.99 (£6.30)

Christine Miles, parent: You don’t have to look twice to realise that this beautifully illustrated book (age range 6-8 years) is going to grab your attention. Every time you turn a thick, silky page, there is a lively picture to pull you into the story of Silas, the sleepy shepherd. Of course, he misses the most important night ever to involve shepherds.

But then he grows up, and moves to Jerusalem to work as a goat herder. He encounters the Good Shepherd. And, one night, he happens to see him in Gethsemane, where he looks after his flocks. That night, he stays awake. He prays with Jesus in the garden. Jesus is killed on a cross, but God raises him to life. Now he realises what the angels sang about to his friends. A brilliant ending.

A Pirate Christmas: The Nativity story
Suzy Senior
Andy Catling, illustrator
Lion £6.99 (£6.30)

Ed Thornton, parent: This is a beautifully illustrated book with lively dialogue (parents who read it have plenty of opportunity to practise their pirate accents). “It’s about pirates who had a party,” Jem (5) says. “They learned about when Jesus was born.” The pirates discover that the Christ-child was a gift to “all people” — even pirates. This book is a joy to read, for old and young alike.

Jenny the Shy Angel: A Christmas story
Anne Booth
Ruth Hearson, illustrator
Lion £7.99 (£7.20)

Christine Miles, parent: Bold, bright, painterly illustrations characterise this book (age range 5-7).

Olivia Nicholas (8): While the other angels are getting noisy in the run-up to Christmas, Jenny hangs back. She prefers the hush. And because of that she misses out on the Hosannas with the shepherds, spending time instead with God’s creatures. But, at dawn, when everything is quiet, Jenny gets the best job of all: cuddling the baby Jesus. My sister, Imogen (3), loved the pictures. I thought it was a great way to do the story differently.

Silent Night
Lara Hawthorne
Lincoln Children’s Books £10.99 (£9.90)

Christine Miles, parent: Is it possible to celebrate Christmas without singing “Silent night”? It’s clichéd, but wonder-full. In this book, Lara Hawthorne brings each line to life with joyful illustrations. Set against a black, star-filled sky, each page bursts with the Good News story, and all of creation is awakened and in awe of this newborn king. It is beautiful and vibrant. To close, we read the legend of how it was written, and how it spread to become one of the most loved carols of all time.

Nativity Mini Board Book Stack: Mother Mary, Herald Angels, Three Kings
Dawn Machell, illustrator
Make Believe Ideas/Authentic £8.99 (£8.10)

Fiona Vernazza, parent: These bold and colourful board books are perfect for little hands. There are three titles within the set: Herald Angels, Mother Mary, and Three Kings. Each one features a bright image across each of the two pages, alongside a short text. This allows you to capture the interest of little ones so you can introduce the components of the Christmas story (long journey, simple stable), and provides the chance to then further explain these to your child. They are the ideal size for taking out and about. They were enjoyed by Lorenzo (20 months), but would suit even younger readers/babies.

Activity Books

My First Christmas Colouring Book
Bethan James
Frank Endersby, illustrator
Authentic £2.99 (£2.70)

Christine Miles, parent: What child doesn’t like colouring? This is another great way to bring the Christmas story to life for little ones. The first page tells the story, then each successive page headlines what is happening, and provides a picture to colour in. Foolproof Christmas fun for 3-5s.

My First Christmas Activity Book Bethan James
Frank Endersby, illustrator
Authentic £3.99 (£3.60)

Christine Miles, parent: Again, the first page tells the Christmas story. After that, there are 12 puzzles, and activities and games, including a board game, Baby in Bethlehem. Perfect for 3-5s to practise counting characters, spot identical shepherds, and pick the right route to get to Bethlehem.

The First Christmas Sticker Book
Bethan James
Jenny Tulip, illustrator
Authentic £4.99 (£4.50)

Christine Miles, parent: Imogen (3) loved this Christmas sticker book. We read the Christmas story, adding the missing character to each scene. Then we assembled the frieze. This was Imogen’s chance to inject some creativity: we ended up with a goat on the stable roof, and sheep almost roasting on the shepherd’s campfire. Great fun.

Bible stories and prayer books

My Rainbow Bible
Bethan James
Authentic £5.99 (£5.40)

Fiona Vernazza, parent: This is a wonderful first Bible. Comprising 13 sections, each is a succinct and child-friendly summary of a key Bible story, such as Noah’s Ark, Daniel and the Lions, and Baby Jesus. It is aimed at ages 3 to 7, but is suitable for younger readers also, as the stories are depicted in vibrant images. Lorenzo (20 months) was engaged primarily with these. With this in mind, and as the content encompasses more than just seasonal topics, it would be suitable as a gift not just for Christmas but throughout the year.

A Child’s Book of Prayers
Sally Ann Wright, compile
Honor Ayres, illustrator
Authentic £8.99 (£8.10)

Fiona Vernazza, parent: This is a beautifully illustrated book of prayers, which are arranged by theme. While the title might suggest that this is solely for children, the beginning section, “The gift of a child”, includes prayers which can be used by adults for their children. This would make the book particularly suitable for new parents.

It then covers themes including prayers relating to everyday living, grace, and bedtimes — which can all, of course, be shared as a family. The prayers are a good balance of older and more traditional, and modern. All of the prayers are short, but the topics that they cover would allow older readers to progress from sharing prayers as a family to using them independently as they grow up.

My First Christmas Prayers
Hand-stitched by Dawn Machell
Make Believe Ideas/Authentic £6.99 (£6.30)

Fiona Vernazza, parent: This delightful book was a hit with Lorenzo (20 months). Each short prayer is printed across a bright illustration featuring various animals, and festive imagery, which all appear hand-stitched.

These alone would appeal to young readers, but the prayers themselves are a wonderful accompaniment. They are brief enough for children to understand. They include themes such as jingle bells, carol-singing, and reindeer, but also involve the Christmas story, and the concept of giving thanks for gifts and blessings.

This is a great way to provide a balance between the core religious aspects of Christmas as well as the more commercial, mainstream approach.

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