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Girl reading under blanket10 December 2020

Landfill-bound plastic toys have never been less fashionable. To keep not only the recipient but also their parents happy, we say a book is the way to go for gifting this year. No nasty packaging, no batteries required, and they can open it time and time again.

The array of books for children available for Christmas 2020 is – like so many things this year – unprecedented in its breadth of choice, so where to begin? Our education consultants are a widely-read bunch with diverse and eclectic tastes so we picked their brains for some ideas to make sure your offering doesn’t end up on the ‘regift’ pile.

Like most things, quality counts, and if you’re anything like us you might like to consider a book with an educational angle (or at least one that will help build the recipient’s vocabulary and pique their curiosity without them even realising). One of our consultants likes to search for books that contain the name of the recipient in the title and will be gifting Abel’s Moon by Shirley Hughes to her nephew bearing the same name this Christmas. Who knows what you might find by typing a name into the search bar (unless you have a Harry, in which case, no surprises).

Classic novels featured highly in our team’s recommendations. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is great for reading aloud, even to quite young children, and Carbonel by Barbara Sleigh, although old fashioned,  has a story that is so exciting, funny and magical, with such brilliant characters, that it gets even the least enthusiastic readers from age 7 up desperate to turn the pages. The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde is a timeless collection of short stories, beautifully written, with poignant moral and cautionary themes for readers aged 8 to adult.

For tinies aged 3+, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein is a study of selflessness, ageing and a microcosm of man’s exploitation of nature, charmingly illustrated by the author. Oh – and we are told it’s wise to keep a box of tissues to hand as is liable to induce tears (from parents not children). Harvey Slumfenburger’s Christmas Present by John Burningham is a similarly charming read-aloud tale, as is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams which will have all lovers of soft toys reaching for their favourite.

For children on the cusp of being able to read independently, the Frog and Toad collection by Arnold Lobel are simple and touching tales of friendship and loyalty, perfect for ages four to eight. Lovers of these books are in good company – they are amongst Julia Donaldson’s favourites too.

Uncle by J P Martin is an excellent choice for lovers of raucous, eccentric characters and entertaining illustrations; Quentin Blake brings the adventures of this kind-hearted, millionaire elephant to life with aplomb. A great gift option for readers aged 9+.

For those keen to read the latest offerings from top authors, J K Rowling’s The Ickabog, a gripping new fairy tale with a twist, is a must. Illustrations by young winners of the Ickabog competition give it an added dimension. A beautiful hard back volume for readers aged 7+.

You may remember reading Which Witch? by Eva Ibbotson yourself as a child and this story of good versus evil, witchcraft and wizardry all wrapped up in a lighthearted package, for readers aged 7+, has lost none of its charm over time. Bound to appeal to Harry Potter lovers of all ages, it will bring the memories flooding back. Journey to the River Sea by the same author also comes highly recommended. My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards will have similar nostalgic appeal and the repetition and approachable vocabulary are perfect for building early reading stamina for independent readers aged 6+.

For those who interested in world events or just like a meaty fact or two, Prisoners of Geography: our world explained in 12 simple maps by Tim Marshall might be just the ticket. Readers can find out how the USA became a superpower, why certain countries are at war and why some are rich while others poor. Also in non-fiction is Kay’s Anatomy: a complete (and completely disgusting) guide to the human body by Adam Kay as well as The Guinness Book of World Records, the perfect gift for stat fans.
For lovers of either poetry, animals, or both, National Trust: Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright!: an animal poem for every day of the year is pure delight with its stunning illustrations. An inspiring gift for children of all ages, with hours of fun to be had looking at the poems allocated to family birthdays or other special dates in the calendar.


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