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Children’s books for Christmas

27 November 2020

Christine Miles reviews a selection of new titles for children

AWAY IN A MANGER is a beautifully illustrated depiction of the classic Christmas carol by Jean Claude. I sang it to five-year-old Imogen as we turned the pages together. She particularly enjoyed the pictures of the rats (there’s one on most pages), as she has an imaginary one called “Rattus”. And I loved the way in which the book journeyed from Bethlehem to a boy’s bedroom, to children in a park, then a playground, and to rows of houses, over the course of the last few lines (”Be near me Lord Jesus”, etc.). She sang the carol to herself as she washed and brushed her teeth to get ready for bed. What more could one ask for?

The Gift of Christmas: The boy who blessed the world tells the Christmas story from the annunciation to the flight to Egypt, accompanied by folk-like illustrations. The picture of Herod, rubbing his chin, with scheming eyes looking straight at the reader, is haunting. Its finish is perfect, explaining that Jesus is God’s gift of Christmas, for all time. She carried on singing the carol all the way through bedtime. Beautiful.

ABC Prayers is perfect for little ones who are learning their alphabet, or in Reception class, as Imogen is. She loved the prettily illustrated capital letter at the start of each prayer (pictured, “N”). The collection of four-line prayers revels in God’s love, forgiveness, care, and involvement in all of creation, of the birth of the baby king, and in the joys and sorrows of life. Imogen loved “X” the best: God’s kiss of great love, which “is everywhere, within us, around us and far away”.

The Good Thing About Bad Days was a hit with my ten-year-old daughter, Olivia. A book written by several experts to help children process and deal with emotions such as sadness, guilt, and worry, it provides chances to draw, brainstorm, and journal thoughts and feelings. Its fun illustrations and interactive format are spot-on, and the carefully selected Bible verses gently reassure.

Soul Fuel for Young Explorers presents a series of reflections on life by the TV adventurer Bear Grylls. The pictorial format makes these snippets of life experience more fun. And what parent would not be grateful to have a TV hero with wise and meaningful things to say about living an adventurous life with God? A good stocking-filler for pre-teens and early teens.

Tales of Tommy Twitchnose has a review on the back by a ten-year-old. Mine wasn’t so keen. The book features six stories about the mouse and his family (including his cousin the Revd Albert Pew), but concentrates more on the tales than on intricate description, or imaginative vocabulary. The tales are sweet, and remind me of the gentle stories my dad used to entertain me with at bedtime. A good read/listen for seven- to eight-year-olds.

Away in a Manger
Jean Claude, verse illustrator
SPCK £6.99
Church Times Bookshop £5.99


The Gift of Christmas: The boy who blessed the world
Mary Joslin
Kristina Swarner, illustrator
Lion £7.99
Church Times Bookshop £7.20


ABC Prayers
Myriam Baudic
Camille Bernard, illustrator
Lion £6.99
Church Times Bookshop £6.30


The Good Thing About Bad Days
Margaret McAllister
Nigel Baines, illustrator
Lion £9.99
Church Times Bookshop £9


Soul Fuel for Young Explorers
Bear Grylls
Hodder & Stoughton £10.99
Church Times Bookshop £9.90


Tales of Tommy Twitchnose
Terry Waite
SPCK £6.99
Church Times Bookshop £5.99

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