Tag Archives: Christmas

Book of the Month: The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore and Roger Duvoisin

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Celebrating the final Book of the Month for 2019, I’m delighted to share Roger Duvoisin’s eye-catching interpretation of Clement C Moore’s classic poem from 1954, The Night Before Christmas, republished for 2019 by Scallywag Press . It’s been a tradition in my house since my children were little to read aloud The Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve so I have a huge soft spot for this gorgeous poem.

The poem, also known by the name A Visit from St Nicholas, was first published in 1823, with the author wishing to remain anonymous. It wasn’t until some years later that Clement C Moore claimed ownership. The Night Before Christmas was the first time St Nicholas  – Santa Claus – had been depicted in this way and led to the first visualisation of Santa with his reindeer and sleigh. A few hundred years later, it doesn’t fail to capture the imagination and is still a wonderful festive treat to enjoy with whole family. This version is beautifully presented in a long thin format to depict Santa coming down the chimney. Brightly coloured and eye-catching artwork bring the magic and wonder of Christmas Eve to life; I particularly love the spread of Santa and his reindeer flying over the rooftops. You couldn’t really ask for anything more magical at Christmas time!

Find out more at www.scallywagpress.com.

With thanks to Scallywag Press for sending me this book to review!

 

 

New reviews: last reviews of 2018!

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This week’s reads include five great titles to add to your TBR shelf.  Three fantastic middle grade accessible reads published by Barrington Stoke and two moving middle- grade wartime dramas; one set in World War One (published by Scholastic) and one focused on World War Two (published by Firefly Press).  These great books form the last of my book reviews for 2018 as I’ll be taking a book review break over December – but still reading of course!

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Race to the Frozen North by Catherine Johnson

When orphan Matthew Henson ran away from his violent stepmother to find a new life in the big city, no one could have predicted that he would become the first man to reach the North Pole.  A little luck and a lot of hard work led to a life of adventure on the high seas and in the Arctic, but back home in America his achievements were ignored due to the colour of his skin. 

Based on a remarkable true story, Race to the Frozen North sheds light on the amazing achievements of Matthew Henson and his lifetime’s journey to the North Pole. I had never heard of him before reading this story – and I expect I am not alone in this. The prejudice he faced prevented him being recognised as the first man to the North Pole and he lived with this knowledge for many years until times began to change and he finally received a Polar Expedition Medal. But in many ways Matthew’s achievements go way beyond reaching the North Pole – he overcame hatred, poverty, endless prejudice and fear to achieve his dream of living a life of adventure. The friendships he did make through hard work and a desire to learn were strong and true. Brilliantly told, Race to the Frozen North is a story all would benefit from reading, celebrating an incredible unsung hero.

Find out more at www.barringtonstoke.co.uk

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Flight by Vanessa Harbour

Austria 1945.  After losing his family, Jakob shelters with Herr Engel in a rural stables, where they hide the precious Lipizzanner stallions they know Hitler wants to steal.  When a German officer comes looking for Jakob and finds the horses, Jakob and his guardian know they must get the stallions to safety, but the only way is straight through Nazi territory. Joined by Kizzy, an orphan Roma girl, the three must guide the horses across the perilous Austrian mountains.  Will they reach safety? What will be waiting for them the other side?

The opening scene of Flight immediately sets the tone of this wartime story – tense, heart breaking, and full of bravery. Jakob’s care for the beautiful Lipizzanner horses and his determination to save them even in the face of murderous Nazis, is truly admirable.  His relationship with his guardian, the grouchy but kind Herr Engel, is touching and the introduction of a third character, Kizzy, creates a brilliant dynamic to the relationships at the heart of the story.  Wartime dramas such as Flight show how awful the brutal regime that stole the freedom of so many really was, but also captures the bravery and hope that kept the Nazis from succeeding.  A really gripping read that doesn’t stint on the dangers faced by Jakob, Herr Engel and Kizzy, Flight will keep you hooked till the final page.

Find out more www.fireflypress.co.uk

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Anty Hero by Barry Hutchison illustrated by Tom Percival

Ant might seem to have an odd attraction to insects, and it’s weird that he doesn’t know anything about footie, but these aren’t the strangest things about him by a long way. What really sets him apart is what’s hiding behind the ginormous sunglasses that he refuses to ever take off.  When his science teacher catches a glimpse behind the oversized green lenses, Ant is in grave danger. Can his friends Zac and Tulisa, along with an army of tiny helpers, save the day?

Quirky and original, Anty Hero is an engaging story featuring an unusual hero and bugs galore, with great black and white illustrations capturing the action. When Zac realises he’s not the weirdest kid in school any more he’s a bit relieved but also finds a friend in the new boy, Ant.  However, his relief is short lived when Ant accidentally reveals his true identity in a science lesson. So begins a daring rescue to save Ant from their somewhat maniacal science teacher Mr Dawkins and his son – the class bully – Ray.  Zac and fellow classmate Tulisa, find they’re braver than they realise and that friends come in all shapes and sizes in this funny, bug-filled tale!

Find out more at www.barringtonstoke.co.uk

 

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Evie’s War by Holly Webb

On the cusp of World War one, in the seaside town of Whitby, Evie and her family are touched by tragedy when Evie’s younger brother Alexander dies unexpectedly. But when the threat of war turns into a reality and Evie’s older brother David enlists in the army, their mother is truly heartbroken. And as the family does their best to contribute to the war effort, they also struggle with the sacrifices each of them are forced to make. 

Brilliant storytelling shows the true heartache and difficulties faced by one family throughout World War 1.  Instantly creating empathy in the reader from the very first page and as the story unfolds, Evie’s War deals with so many different aspects of the impact of war, from death and bereavement to separation of family, food shortages, cowardice, bombings, to the use of animals in war.  It also is a story of growing up, starting a new school, making friends and coping with a grieving mother.  Evie makes a warm and strong central character, for whom you feel much sympathy as she navigates life, supporting her younger sister Kitty and helping look after the family home, in particular her dogs Max and Brandy.  You’ll need a box of tissues when you read this book which is both heart-breaking and uplifting.  Published in time for the Armistice Centenary, Evie’s War will help children understand the true heartache and horrors of war at the same time as reassuring them of the power of family, love and hope.

Find out more at www.scholastic.co.uk

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The Dog that Saved Christmas by Nicola Davies illustrated by Mike Byrne

Christmas is a nightmare for Jake. He hates the bright lights, all the noise and the disruption to his routine. But everything changes when he finds a lost dog. He names her Susan and adopts as his own. Jake and Susan form a special bond that helps him cope with the things that usually stress him out. With Susan around maybe there’s a chance that this Christmas will be one the whole family can enjoy.

A really touching story that highlights Christmas isn’t always as welcome as we might think for some children.  Jake is a child on the autism spectrum and finds lots of things difficult to cope with, but especially when there are lots of changes. So instead of being excited about the lights, the tree and more freedom, Jake hates it.  The story shows just how hard this is for his whole family and when Jake finds a special friend in the shape of Susan the stray dog, they are all delighted that he feels so much better.  But when his real owners come to take her home, Jake is back to being totally unsettled with everything.  I won’t spoil the ending, but The Dog that Saved Christmas really does make you think – and shows how magical the relationship between a dog and their owner can be.  Therapy dogs are becoming more common in many schools because they can have such an amazingly positive impact on the children they work with – and of course this is felt by the families of those children too.  The Dog that Saved Christmas is a really warm-hearted tale featuring lovely illustrations and sharing an important message of inclusivity and understanding.

Find out more at www.barringtonstoke.co.uk

With thanks to Barrington Stoke, Firefly Press and Scholastic for sending me these books to review! 

 

Winter wonderland….. 5 sleeps to go!

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Two more lovely picture books join the winter wonderland line up , with jut under a week to go until the big day! A crazy canine countdown and a magical journey to celebrate family at Christmas time.

 

 

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The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Alison Ritchie and Marisa Morea

A little puppy is caught up in the countdown to Christmas as dogs of all manner, shape and sizes ‘help’ to get everything ready. From choosing the tree, to baking cakes, to running off with festive treats, the dogs are having a wonderful time.  With Chihuahuas, Retrievers, Scottie dogs and Dalmatians there’s a dog for every person – and a task for every dog!

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A great picture book for all dog lovers this is a lovely rhyming treat, reflecting on the fabulous chaos of getting ready for Christmas.  It captures the fun, excitement and just how much we can all get carried away!  Taking inspiration from the traditional Twelve Days of Christmas, this would be a great book to read aloud.  There’s lots to see with lively and colourful illustrations, bringing to life all the different festive traditions from decorating the tree to wrapping presents to preparing food. With lots of excited little ones counting down to Christmas, it’s the perfect time to share this story.

Find out more at www.marisamorea.com and www.simonandschuster.co.uk

 

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Last Stop on the Reindeer Express by Maudie Powell-Tuck and Karl James Mountford

A young girl, Mia, misses her Daddy as Christmas approaches and even the sights and sounds at the Christmas market don’t make her feel more festive.  Mia can’t get the Christmas card she has made him delivered on time, but when she discovers a magical post box that leads her to the Reindeer Express, it seems her Christmas wish may come true.  Mia is taken by a magical reindeer on a fantastic journey over land and sea to meet a very special person and deliver her card!  When Mia has to leave her father the sky is filled with other children on their own reindeer and she understands she is not the only one missing a family member.  This helps Mia and whilst her Daddy can’t spend Christmas at home, she discovers she is brave enough to be without him.

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This is a beautiful book full of heart-warming, magical illustrations with a lovely message about families at Christmas time.  A simple narrative that even young children will relate to conveys the story, with the added magic and wonder of the festive season. Whilst we can’t always be with all of our loved ones at Christmas, knowing we’re not alone makes it easier and we can still enjoy celebrating.  With lots of lovely illustrations to look at and lift the flaps and cut-outs, Last Stop on the Reindeer Express celebrates Christmas and family perfectly.

Find out more www.karljamesmountford.com and littletiger.co.uk/authors

 

With thanks to Simon and Schuster and Little Tiger Press for sending me these books to review.

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Winter wonderland…..13 sleeps to go!

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Looking for some festive cheer on a damp winter’s day? Look no further than these two gorgeous rhyming stories from Nosy Crow, which are sure to put a smile on your face.  Each one comes with a free Stories aloud smartphone audio book, so they can be enjoyed again and again even if you’re on the move, so quite handy for Christmas travels!

 

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Oliver Elephant by Lou Peacock, illustrated by Helen Stephens

Noah is going Christmas shopping with his Mummy and baby sister, Evie-May.  He takes Oliver Elephant with him to help and has a wonderful time playing all around the store while Mummy chooses presents.  When it’s time to go, after a special treat of a nice piece of cake, Oliver Elephant is nowhere to be seen! Noah and Mummy look everywhere, but it’s baby sister Evie-May who finds the missing Elephant. And they even remember to get the Christmas star for the tree – thank goodness for that!

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Young readers are bound to enjoy this festive story which celebrates the everyday life of little ones at Christmas time.

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The lovely rhyming narrative and gorgeous illustrations capture the magic and busyness of festive shopping, the mishaps that can occur and the love that children have for their family – and their soft toys! A real treat to read aloud, Oliver Elephant is a perfect bedtime story for Christmas.

 

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The Princess and the Christmas Rescue by Caryl Hart, illustrated by Sarah Warburton

Princess Eliza loves to invent things, but her parents the King and Queen want her to do something more ‘Princess-like’ and find a friend to play with. So Princess Eliza tries her best, but no amount of frog kissing, making gingerbread or waiting for a Prince to rescue her seems to work! Soon she discovers she’s not the only one in need and sets about using her brilliant inventions to help none other than Santa and his elves. Before she knows it, Princess Eliza has made a whole workshop of friends and helped save Christmas. What could be better than that?!

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This is an absolute festive delight!  The rhyming narrative skips through this charming story with amusing references to well- known fairy tales. Princess Eliza is a wonderful, industrious heroine who I’m sure anyone who’s ever enjoyed making things will identify with.

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Lovely, bright and detailed illustrations bring to life the magical workshop and all it’s inhabitants and of course, the wonder of Christmas!  Another fantastic book to read aloud that will have young readers reaching for their craft box.

 

Find out more at  www.helenstephens.com/

www.carylhart.com and http://sarahwarburton.blogspot.co.uk

With thanks to Nosy Crow for sending me these books to review.

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Winter wonderland….18 sleeps to go!

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Two very different animals feature in our next winter wonderland installment. Whilst not strictly festive (apart from the snow!), both books have wonderful themes of being brave and celebrating friendship and would make lovely gifts at Christmas time!

 

 

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Don’t Leap, Larry! by John Briggs, illustrated by Nicola Slater

You can’t help but fall a little in love with Larry the lemming.  He is bold and fearless and unlike his fellow lemmings, loves to be different and think for himself.  From going sledging with the puffins to choosing his own very brilliant name (everyone else is just called lemming!) he stands out from the crowd. So much so in fact he decides to see if he’ll fit in better with another group of animals – but nothing works – especially not the polar bears!  Finally, Larry returns home only to discover he can help his fellow lemmings think for themselves just like he does.

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This is a gorgeous story. Funny and heart-warming with a few thrills and spills to boot, it will have all readers cheering for Larry and eventually, the other lemmings too. Brilliantly drawn by Nicola Slater, it’s a joyful story with a wonderful message about being brave, standing out from the crowd and not worrying about thinking differently.

Find out more at www.johnbriggsbooks.net and www.goodillustration.com

Published by Pavilion Books 

 

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The Snow Lion by Jim Helmore and Richard Jones

This is a lovely tale about a little girl who needs a friend and some courage. Who better to help her than The Snow Lion? Caro and her mum have moved home and Caro is just a little bit lost in her new surroundings of bare white walls and no one to play with. As if by magic, a beautiful big white lion appears and soon Caro has made a new friend with whom she can play all day!  And not only does he stop her from being lonely, the Snow Lion helps her find the courage to go outside and make new friends. As the gentle narrative unfolds, Caro’s new home isn’t so lonely anymore; it’s filled with colour – and friends! The Snow Lion quietly leaves but Caro will always know where to look for him…

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Text and wonderful illustrations come together perfectly to create a charmingly touching story young readers will want to visit again and again.  I loved the beautifully described friendship between the Snow Lion and Caro, and how he gently and ever so kindly encourages her to be brave. It’s reassuring to know that sometimes we all need a little comfort and how it’s very often finding a friend in unexpected places that can be just the thing!

Find out more www.stripyhorse.com and www.paintedmouse.com

Published by Simon & Schuster

 

 

With thanks to Pavilion Books and Simon & Schuster for sending me these books to review!

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