Book review: Christmas books for all the family

Christmas books for all the family
Christmas books for all the family
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There’s a host of wonderful books on offer this Christmas to make the winter season a magical time for readers young and old.

From a warm-hearted retelling of the birth of Jesus and an extra special Gruffalo gift set to Christmas poems, yuletide romance, colouring books for grown-ups, quirky cartoons and a sparkling annual for Strictly fans, the glittering line-up is a fantastic festive treat.

Adults and teens:

A New York Christmas by Anne Perry

Put a log on the fire, curl up on the sofa and immerse yourself in a winter-warming yuletide novella from Anne Perry.

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without one of Perry’s irresistible little books – two-hour feasts of history, mystery and the traditional Christian messages of love, hope and goodwill to all men.

These life-affirming, atmospheric stories focus on individual characters from Perry’s two best-selling crime series featuring Thomas Pitt and William Monk, and this year we head off to New York City in 1904 in the company of 23-year-old Jemima Pitt, daughter of Thomas Pitt, head of Britain’s Special Branch.

Jemima is travelling as a companion to Delphinia (Phinnie) Cardew who is to marry the aristocratic Brent Albright in a high-society New York wedding, a grand affair that will join together two fabulously wealthy families.

Missing from the festivities is Phinnie’s mother Maria who abandoned her daughter 16 years ago and now the Albrights refuse to mention her name. But when Harley, the groom’s charismatic brother, asks Jemima to help him search for Maria to prevent any scandal if she suddenly turned up at the wedding, she agrees to assist him.

From Hell’s Kitchen to Fifth Avenue, the Lower East Side to Central Park, Jemima trudges through strange, snowy streets, asking questions but getting few answers, and never suspecting that she is walking into mortal danger…

Love, betrayal, greed, murder and selfless devotion all play their part in a moving story that captures the frailty of human nature and the true spirit of Christmas.

The perfect stocking filler for discerning crime fans…

(Headline, hardback, £16.99)

Christmas in the Snow by Karen Swan

Love transcends both time and place in a gorgeous, snow-filled story from Karen Swan, an author who has become the queen of Christmas novels. Following on from her best-selling Christmas at Tiffany’s and Christmas at Claridge’s comes another captivating, twisting and turning journey to glamorous destinations, magical mystery and heart-stopping romance. In London, the snow is falling and Christmas is just around the corner but Allegra Fisher barely has time to notice. She’s pitching for the biggest deal of her career and can’t afford to fail. And when she meets attractive stranger Sam Kemp on the plane trip to the Zurich meeting, she can’t afford to lose her focus either. She learned to shut off her emotions long ago and only her sister and best friend Isobel knows why. But when Allegra finds herself up against Sam for the bid, their passion quickly turns sour. Meanwhile, in Zermatt in the Swiss Alps, a long-lost mountain hut is discovered in the snow after 60 years and the last person expecting to become involved is Allegra who hasn’t even heard of the woman they found inside. But it soon becomes clear the two women are linked and, as she and Isobel try to make sense of the mystery, hearts thaw and dark secrets are uncovered, long buried by the snow. This is Christmas escapism at its best… lashings of romance, a sprinkling of intrigue and mountains of snow! Bliss…

(Pan, paperback, £7.99)

A Nantucket Christmas by Nancy Thayer

Family and relationships also take centre stage in a captivating seasonal story from popular US author Nancy Thayer. Here she transports us to enchanting Nantucket Island in Massachusetts where the winter time holiday season is nothing short of enchanting, from decorations on the Brant Point lighthouse to the yearly Christmas Stroll. Newly married Nicole Somerset can’t wait to spend her first festive season on Nantucket with her husband, handsome former attorney Sebastian. But the mood is quickly soured when Sebastian’s daughter Kennedy returns for the holidays without a hint of cheer. Determined to keep Nicole at arm’s length – or, better still, out of the picture altogether – Kennedy schemes to sabotage everything. But Nicole is not about to let anyone tarnish her first Christmas with her new family... can she turn things around before it’s too late? Packed with high emotion, the wonders of Christmas and magical romance, this short, sweet read is the ideal way to start the holiday season.

(Headline, paperback, £7.99)

Past Encounters by Davina Blake

There’s romance with a fascinating local theme in Lancashire author Davina Blake’s Past Encounters which sweeps us away to Carnforth railway station and the set of 1945 iconic film Brief Encounter. The station and its famous refreshment room take centre stage again in a beautiful, heartbreaking story of a couple caught up in the cruel winds of war, battered by the fickleness of fate and imprisoned by secrets from the past. Blake takes us on an emotional journey from the atmospheric wintertime filming to the extraordinary Great March of prisoners of war through snowbound Germany in the final year of the Second World War in a moving story that pays a poignant tribute to the suffering of forgotten wartime heroes and explores the heavy price paid by families torn apart by separation and conflict.

(CreateSpace, paperback, £8.99)

My True Love Gave to Me

Edited by Stephanie Perkins

And how about a ‘true love’ gift for teenagers? Edited by Stephanie Perkins, a much-loved American author of scrumptious teen reads, this gorgeous collection of 12 romantic stories, all set around the festive period, have been written by some of the most talented and exciting young adult authors around today. Brimming with the magic of first love, the joy of the Christmas holidays and featuring a ribbon marker and fashionably pink-sprayed edges, this winter warmer includes big names like Ally Carter, Holly Black, Laini Taylor, David Levithan, Gayle Forman and Stephanie Perkins herself. This is a wonderfully eclectic mix of stories emanating from all sections of society and backgrounds. Joy, wonder, disappointment, anger and love… the characters reflect young people everywhere and their different experiences of Christmas time. The perfect gift to read and treasure.

(Macmillan, hardback, £10.99)

Official Strictly Come Dancing Annual 2015 by Alison Maloney

If you want the all the backstage gossip on the tears, tantrums and triumphs of this year’s glitzy Strictly Come Dancing fest, then reach out for the perfect partner. The Official Strictly Come Dancing Annual 2015 is your trusty step-by-step guide to all the goings-on beneath the glitterball of Strictly’s fabulous series twelve. Fans young and old can spin and shimmy through this treasure trove of dancing delights which includes everything from discovering just how many sequins it takes to make a costume to throwing your own Strictly party. And if that isn’t enough for die-hard fans, there’s the chance to read exclusive interviews, swot up an all the dances from the saucy samba to the cheeky Charleston, and follow a day in the life of a professional dancer. Up close and Strictly personal!

(BBC Books, hardback, £12.99)

Creative Colouring for Grown-Ups: Christmas Patterns

Everyone has a favourite Christmas picture – baubles, berries, robins, reindeer, wreaths, stockings and snowflakes. Well now’s your chance to bring them to life with pens and crayons! No, this isn’t colouring for kids… it’s the magic of creative colouring for grown-ups who have secret artistic aspirations, and those who need a hobby to help them relax and unwind. Capture the magic of Christmas with a gorgeous colouring book, brimming with wonderfully festive images, patterns and snowy scenes. Colouring-in can enhance your thought processes and there is no age limit on who can be inspired! So sit down, get out the crayons and get stuck into over 100 pages of stunning designs, guaranteed to get you in the yuletide spirit and keep you occupied until well after the last mince pie has been eaten.

(Michael O’Mara, paperback, £9.99)

Les Dawsonʼs Joke Book by Compiled by Tracy and Charlotte Dawson

He was a comic genius ... Les Dawson, the knave who stole our hearts and became the king of jokers in a prize pack of Lancashire comedians. It might over 21 years since he died but funny man Les lives on in our memories and now we can laugh again at his sparkling humour in a joke book lovingly compiled by his widow Tracy and the couple’s 20-year-old daughter Charlotte. These brilliant jokes represent the highlights of his career across radio and television, from his early days on Opportunity Knocks to his ‘Cissie and Ada’ drag double act with Preston-born comic actor Roy Barraclough. Full of warmth, fun and laughter, just like the man himself, this book is a must-have for any fan of Les Dawson and a laugh-out-loud Christmas gift for joke lovers young and old.

(Michael O’Mara Books, paperback, £7.99)

Still Open All Hours: The Story of a Classic Comedy by Graham McCann

Christmas is a time for laughter so what better than the fascinating history of the much-loved TV sitcom Open All Hours? From its first episode in 1973, Open All Hours was an instant hit. Audiences around Britain loved its familiar setting, good-natured humour and the hilarious partnership of Ronnie Barker and David Jason. The series only ran for 26 episodes but it is still recognised as a British comedy classic. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the show in 2013, the BBC revived it for a one-off Christmas Special. Still Open All Hours was swamped by a wave of audience affection. With recollections from David Jason, his fellow cast members and the scriptwriter Roy Clarke, plus never before seen BBC archive material, acclaimed popular TV historian Graham McCann takes us on a joyful and nostalgic journey across four decades and behind the malfunctioning corner shop till for the inside story of a very British sitcom.

(BBC Books, hardback, £18.99)

Tsunami Kids: Our journey from survival to success by Paul Forkan and Rob Forkan

In 2004, Rob, Paul, Mattie and Rosie Forkan tragically lost their parents in the Boxing Day Tsunami that devastated Sri Lanka. Aged from eight to 17, they then faced a harrowing and solitary 125-mile trek to safety. Their bravery, ingenuity and resilience were the result of an unusual upbringing. Taken out of school at a young age, they received an unconventional education, learning independence and resourcefulness whilst carrying out voluntary work for charities in India alongside their parents. In the decade since the tsunami, Rob and Paul have achieved the seemingly impossible. They have created a multinational brand, Gandy’s Flip Flops, endorsed by entrepreneurs including Sir Richard Branson, and set up Orphans for Orphans, a charitable organisation supporting children deprived of education, nutrition and medication. This is a heartbreaking, engaging but ultimately uplifting journey from the streets of Sri Lanka to the boardrooms of London as told by two inspirational survivors.

(Michael O’Mara, hardback, £16.99)

Fun in the great outdoors with Norman Thelwell

If you’re fishing around for the right Christmas gift this year, then the wry humour of cartoon genius Norman Thelwell could be the perfect catch. Thelwell, the Cheshire-born artist who was rarely seen without a pencil and sketchbook, was regarded as the unofficial artist of the British countryside and his unique style is still instantly recognisable to many. And now his nostalgic and quintessentially English cartoon gems have been republished in four beautifully packaged books which take a tongue-in-cheek look at angling, golf, gardening and sailing. These quirky cartoon books – Compleat Tangler, Play It As It Lies, Three Sheets In The Wind and Up The Garden Path are superb stocking fillers – offering a trip down memory lane for Thelwell’s long-established fans and a breath of fresh air for a new generation of outdoor pursuit lovers.

(Allison & Busby, hardback, all priced £9.99)

A History of the World in Numbers by Emma Marriott

Think of a number… and then discover how it links the past to the present. Emma Marriott has been trawling through the records and archives to explore how the history of our world can be told through numbers. Numbers, we learn, can illuminate the broad sweep of history, from vast movements of populations and the expansion of empires to the effects of technological achievements or climate change. Each statistic provides a starting point for a quirky chunk of information whether it’s the 2.5 million blocks used to build the Great Pyramid at Giza, the average life expectancy of an 18th century worker in Dudley in the West Midlands or the number of Brodie helmets issued in the First World War. A History of the World in Numbers spans the early civilisations, from the plains of Mesopotamia and the Indus Empire right through to the modern day, shining a light on a wide variety of events and topics. A super gift for the Christmas countdown…

(Michael O’Mara, hardback, £9.99)

Children:

Doctor Who: 12 Doctors, 12 Stories, 12 postcards Gift Edition

Knock, knock, who’s there? Doctor Who… well, twelve doctors to be precise! Young time-travelling TV fans will be over the moon and out of this world with this super slipcase gift package containing twelve amazing mini-adventures about the twelve Doctors written by twelve of the most exciting authors living in our galaxy today. The miniature books, published to celebrate the arrival of Peter Capaldi on to our screens as the newly regenerated doctor, feature traditional, action-packed Dr Who adventures and have been specially penned by top writers like Eoin Colfer, Marcus Sedgwick, Philip Reeve, Patrick Ness, Malorie Blackman, Neil Gaiman and Holly Black. And to add to the spaced-out fun, there are twelve exclusive Dr Who postcards. A must-have for all Whovians!

(Puffin, slipcase paperbacks, £18.99)

Christmas poems

Let anthologist Gaby Morgan and illustrator Axel Scheffler bring home the true spirit of Christmas in this wonderful collection of poems, all carefully selected for children. These festive verses, some old favourites and some brand new, celebrate all the best things about Christmas from Father Christmas to snow, angels, reindeer, Christmas trees and, most important of all, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. With charming, colourful decorations by Axel Scheffler, the book includes well-loved carols as well as the work of big names like William Blake, Christina Rossetti and T.S.Eliot, and more modern poets such as Brian Patten, Mike Harding and Wes Magee. A traditional gift that will bring pleasure to all generations of the family.

(Macmillan, paperback, £5.99)

The Jacqueline Wilson Christmas Cracker by Jacqueline Wilson and Nick Sharratt

Enjoy Christmas in the company of brilliantly entertaining children’s author Jacqueline Wilson. This year she has carefully and lovingly put together a classic Christmas Cracker, a bumper festive feast packed with brilliant stories, puzzles, jokes, things to do, recipes and oodles of fun facts. There’s a super, brand-new tale from the master storyteller and a classic favourite starring Wilson’s most popular creation, the irrepressible Tracy Beaker, who lands the lead part in her Christmas play and produces a performance guaranteed to make youngsters laugh out loud. And to add to the box of delights there are some tasty Christmas recipes to make at home, helpful present tips, fun festive facts and a sprinkling of Nick Sharratt’s hilarious illustrations. A stocking filler made in present heaven…

(Corgi, paperback, £6.99)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll’s timeless adventure featuring Alice’s bizarre journey down a rabbit hole is just one of the latest range of Oxford Children’s Classics. These appealing and educational new editions give a contemporary look and feel to much-loved stories which have stood the test of time. All the books are unabridged and feature additional materials including reviews, author background, activities, quizzes and book recommendations from young Oxford Children’s Classics Champions. The book features both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass in one edition and helps younger readers to discover a fantastical adventure that has captured imaginations since the originals were published in 1865 and 1872 respectively. The perfect start to a lifetime of reading…

(OUP, paperback, £4.99)

The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child gift slipcase by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

If you’re looking for a very special gift for a very special little person, a gorgeous Gruffalo slipcase set is the answer. This stunning deluxe gift edition of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child, two of the world’s most favourite picture books, comes in a beautifully designed slipcase covered in shiny foil and featuring stunning new silhouette artwork by talented illustrator Axel Scheffler. Inside are two high quality hardback editions of the classic stories with extra-thick paper and a luxury finish. Ideal gifts for any occasion from Christmas to christenings, and a dream come true for all Gruffalo fans.

(Macmillan, hardback, £25)

My First Keyboard Book by Sam Taplin and Rachel Green

Enjoy music on the move with this ingenious keyboard book which is certain to hit all the right notes with budding maestros. Just turn the pages and learn to play simple, well-known tunes on the sturdy keyboard attached to the book. Each note is represented by a different colour which corresponds to the same colour on the keys, making it wonderfully accessible to the youngest members of the family. Watch the joy on little faces as they press the keys to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Row, Row, Row Your Boat and other family favourites. There are also ideas for making up your own simple tunes and enchanting illustrations to accompany every song. With easy-to-follow instructions and a simple guide to the low and high notes on a basic keyboard, this is the perfect Christmas gift… and music to the ears of children!

(Usborne, hardback, £12.99)

The First Christmas by Rod Campbell

Teach your youngest children the real story of Christmas with a simple, warm-hearted retelling of the birth of Jesus. Rod Campbell, creator of the bestselling Dear Zoo books, uses simple, easy-to-follow sentences and bright, appealing artwork to bring to life the wonder of Christmas for pre-school children. Published in a sturdy cased board book, with an eye-catching shiny star on the cover, The First Christmas looks set to become a family favourite, shared and loved at Christmas time year after year.

(Macmillan, board book, £5.99)