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Book reviews from 4—7 years

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By Ronda and David ArmitageCreators of The Lighthouse Keeper series

Spread a little Christmas cheer with this seasonal selection of books

Merry Christmas, Blue Kangaroo! by Emma Chichester Clark (HarperCollins, ISBN 9780007284801)

The many fans of Blue Kangaroo and Lily will be delighted by the new edition of this story in miniature format. It is Blue Kangaroo’s first Christmas and Lily is determined it will be a very special one for her little friend. She has made him a card and decorated the room. Uncle George has bought him the Christmas tree. The aunts arrive with Christmas food including a gingerbread Blue Kangaroo, and Lily sings him his own Christmas carol. Blue Kangaroo is increasingly concerned that he has nothing for Lily. While he lies awake wondering what to do, Father Christmas arrives and helps to solve his problem. This charming story highlights the joy of giving and receiving at Christmas, with illustrations that convey a warm, busy family atmosphere without being the least bit sentimental.

Visit our ‘Giveaways’ page for your chance to win the books featured in this review

50 Christmas Things to Make & Do by Minna Lacey and Rebecca Gilpin (Usborne, ISBN 9780746088272)

Angel paper chains, pipe-cleaner trees, shepherd collages and dangly reindeer, are just some of the ingredients of this prettily designed spiral-bound board book. With clear, step-by-step instructions, and a photo of the finished article, there’s hours of pleasure here with glue, paper, paints and scissors – not just for the four to sevens, but for older children too. And after the hours spent lovingly creating the Christmas crafts, there is that triumphant moment when the artistic endeavour turns out to look just like the one in the book (for some anyway!).

Fireside Stories – Tales for a Winter’s Eve by Caitlin Matthews and Helen Cann (Barefoot Books, ISBN 9781846860652)

I have to confess to a prejudice here, but to my mind no Christmas collection of books is complete without some traditional tales. This is a beautifully designed book, with its decorated borders and clear, rich illustrations that perfectly complement these eight stories from the northern hemisphere. Chosen to highlight different aspects of the winter season, they are just right for sharing – either by telling, or reading aloud. ‘The Winter Cabin’ from Russia, a story for the first snowfall, ‘Schnitzle, Schnotzle and Schnootzle’, from Austria, chosen for Christmas Eve, and to welcome the return of the sun, ‘The Bag of Warmth’ from Canada. I was thrilled to find a family favourite known to us as ‘Little Sister and the Month Brothers,’ here as ‘The Twelve Brothers’ from the Czech Republic. An introduction to each story reminds modern readers of the significance of celebratory events for our ancestors, who gathered together to hasten the cold, dark days of winter and anticipate the return of spring.

Jingle Bells by Nick Butterworth (Harper Collins, ISBN 9780006647621)

Life for two little mice living in the barn should have been wonderful, but Angus was such a problem, especially at Christmas time. That cat spoiled everything! Not only had he eaten their Christmas dinner but he’d also redirected Father Christmas, so the Christmas stockings remained empty. After seeking advice from Gavin (alias Ton-Chee the rat), Angus is ingeniously thwarted by a gift from the mice of a little bell, which his owner obligingly insists should be worn around Angus’ neck. A replica of this bell with a red ribbon is tied around the book. This humorous story touches only lightly on Christmas, but the winter setting with two lively little mice and the splendidly illustrated, and very expressive, ginger Angus should not be missed. With skilful visualisation, Nick Butterworth creates a small world that will captivate many readers.

Santa’s Littlest Helper Travels the World by Anu Stohner and Henrike Wilson (Bloomsbury Children’s Books, ISBN 9780747593591)

It is the wonderful painterly illustrations, reminiscent of Kandinsky’s work, that draw the reader into this book, originally published in Germany. The rich, strong colours provide atmospheric pages of winter scenes; dotted with a profusion of Santa Clauses and various animals. My favourite page is of four red Santas with matching red spots, neatly lined up in white beds. At an extremely busy time in the Santa Claus calendar, disaster strikes. All of Santa’s bigger helpers have Christmas Pox and are confined to bed, but never fear – Littlest Helper comes up with a plan to save Christmas. With help from the animals he makes a glorious journey around the world, assisting Santa Claus so he is able to deliver the presents in time for Christmas morning. Although so many look-alike Santas may initially confuse some young readers, I would guess it wouldn’t be enough to put them off identifying with the Littlest Helper.

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