Saturday 16 December 2017

Santa's sack is brimming with books for children

There are some delightful books for good boys and girls to choose from this Christmas. Our reporter browses some of the best on offer

A very, very good girl: Isobel Conachy (5) enjoying a story from Santa at the Zoo last weekend. Photo: David Conachy.
A very, very good girl: Isobel Conachy (5) enjoying a story from Santa at the Zoo last weekend. Photo: David Conachy.

Justine Carbery

Despite worries about children spending too much time in front of screens, the children's book market is booming. People of all ages still love a good tale and with the wealth of beautiful children's books available, the only problem is what to choose. Below are just some of the many wonderful books on offer this year.

Too hard to categorise, the number one bestseller and Irish Book Award winner Irelandopedia (Fatti and John Burke, Gill&Macmillan €19.99) features quirky facts and wondrous information from all over Ireland in one beautifully illustrated book, which is sure to be popular with all ages.

No child is too young to be read to and here are some picture books guaranteed to make both adults and little children excited for story time.

Using simple, colourful illustrations, Oh No! (Patrick George illustration €13.50) is a wordless picture book which encourages interactive storytelling, rather than passive listening.

The Day The Crayons Came Home (HarperCollins €15.99), written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Belfast man Oliver Jeffers, is simply brilliant. The glow-in-the-dark page is cool and the page where you can feel the texture of the crayon, but Esteban the Magnificent and Neon Red crayon steal the show.

A perfect book to read aloud to young children is A Great Big Cuddle (Walker €19.99) by two of the biggest names in children's publishing, Michael Rosen and Chris Riddell. With gorgeous watercolour and pencil illustrations and fun, rhymey words, this great collection of poems will provide hours of entertainment.

For Irish language enthusiasts, there's a sweet story called Ná Gabh ar Scoil! (Gill & Macmillan €9.95). Written by Máire Zepf, it's about a young bear who is excited to start school but his Mommy just can't let him go!

What an amazing collection of books to choose from for children aged 4-8. My only wish is that they had been around when I was growing up.

One such magical book is It Might Be An Apple (Thames & Hudson €12.55) by Shinsuke Yoshitake, about a boy who comes home from school to find a bright red apple sitting on the table. This sets his imagination going and he takes the reader on a fanciful adventure of the mind.

Book (Familius LLC €15.99) by David Miles is my personal favourite, with amazing illustrations and a welcome message that books can take you on a great adventure. So beautiful.

Brian and the Giant (O'Brien Press €7.99), a colourful and imaginative story by Mark Wickham and Chris Judge, is perfect for sharing or for young ones reading alone.

The Great Journey (Agathe Demois, Tate Publishing €19.50) will appeal to creative types. With the aid of a magic viewer (included), children can discover a story within a story, designs within designs.

The Book With No Pictures (Penguin €21.15) by BJ Novak has taken the internet (and real world) by storm. Children adore it as it forces adults to say silly things such as: "I am reading you this book with my monkey mouth in my monkey voice... and my head is made of blueberry pizza." I guarantee they will giggle and squeal with delight. My nieces and nephews loved it.

For emerging and independent readers, there is everything from the new Wimpy Kid Old School (Puffin €12.99) by Jeff Kinney to the latest best-selling David Walliams Grandpa's Great Escape (HarperCollins €10.99). The kids just can't get enough of these fun-filled capers.

Rick Riordan is back with his first book in the Norse Gods series Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer (Puffin €22.50), featuring dwarves, elves, Valkyries and the master of mischief Loki.

Chris O'Dowd and Nick Murphy's new book Moone Boy: The Fish Detective (Macmillan €10.99) is a hilarious read about Martin and his imaginary friend, trying to work out what's going on at the local fish factory.

For girls, Chris Riddell's Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright (Macmillan €13.99) is a fantastically witty and fun read, featuring the Brontë sisters and characters such as Sir Walter Splott, Plain Austen, and Homily Dickinson.

Alongside these perennial favourites, there is something new. 2015 seems to be the year of beautiful illustrations and books that any child (and many adults) would be delighted to receive.

Once Upon a Place (Little Island €14.99) is a new anthology of stories and poems for children, compiled by Laureate na nÓg Eoin Colfer and illustrated by world-renowned artist PJ Lynch.

Another Book Award-winner, Imaginary Fred (HarperCollins €13.99), also by Eoin Colfer, and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers brings us a brilliant story about an imaginary friend, who loves playing with his human pals but dreads the day when they will move on and leave him behind. Great story for kids that have a tough time making friends.

Both would make lovely gifts, as would Jim Kay's spell-binding illustrated Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Bloomsbury €29.99). Perfect for Potter fans young and old. And a deluxe edition of Lewis Carroll's timeless tale Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (€16.50) has been brought out by Penguin Books in time for its 150th anniversary.

Prepare to be wowed by Brian Selznick's The Marvels (Scholastic €22.99), a visually breathtaking book which intertwines two stories, one told entirely in pictures, one in text.

The Doldrums (HarperCollins €19.50) by Nicholas Gannon is an exquisitely illustrated book about a lonely boy, Archer B Helmsley, who wants to go on an adventure to save his grandparents. It is ideal for fans of Roald Dahl or Lemony Snicket, as is Hook's Daughter (Chicken House, €11.05) by Heidi Schulz, about 12-year-old Jocelyn Hook who longs to become a pirate like her father.

The Book of Learning (Mercier Press €9.99) by E R Murray is the first book in the Nine Lives trilogy, about 12-year-old Ebony Smart, who lives with her Grandpa Tobias and pet rat, Winston. When Tobias dies, Ebony has to go to Dublin to live with a newly discovered aunt.

A magical adventure full of weird and fascinating characters.

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