Book reviews: Books to put the sparkle into Christmas

The magic of winter and the fun of the festive season spring to glorious life in a captivating selection of childrens books from Simon & Schuster.

The magic of winter and the fun of the festive season spring to glorious life in a captivating selection of childrens books from Simon & Schuster.

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The magic of winter and the fun of the festive season spring to glorious life in a captivating selection of children’s books from Simon & Schuster.

Age 9 plus:

Winter Magic Curated by Abi Elphinstone

What could be better on a winter’s night than snuggling up with magical stories about whirling snowflakes, husky-hauled sledges, frozen lakes, snow dragons and frost fairs?

Author Abi Elphinstone, who also teaches creative writing workshops in schools and loves the season of ice and glittering landscapes, has gathered together this beautiful, classic anthology of eleven fabulous, frosty short stories from a group of acclaimed children’s writers.

Michelle Magorian, Berlie Doherty, Lauren St John, Geraldine McCaughrean, Jamila Gavin, Emma Carroll and Katherine Woodfine are just some of the well-known names who have cast their own special spell over wintertime with exciting new versions of fairy stories, folk tales and thrilling lost legends.

Enjoy dancing with the Nutcracker ballet, skating on the frozen Thames and thrill to landscapes filled with snow queens, elf tunnels, time travellers, witches, pied pipers… and even renegade French teachers!

This is the joy and magic of winter captured perfectly in enchanting stories that will set young imaginations in flight and ensure children will return to the book time and time again.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £9.99)

Age 9 plus:

Dork Diaries: Friendship Kit by Rachel Renée Russell

Christmas is a time for sharing… and spending time with your best friends!

Nikki Maxwell, star of Rachel Renée Russell’s much-loved Dork Diaries series, which chronicle the daily dramas of the 14-year-old’s life in (and outside!) school, just loves being with her BFFs Zoey and Chloe and this dork-tastic kit means that youngsters and their own friends can have some dorky fun too.

Russell, a US lawyer who prefers writing children’s books to legal briefs, also illustrates the fabulous Dork Diaries, filling Nikki’s entertaining meanderings with drawings, doodles and comic strips.

This perfectly pitched series was inspired by Russell’s own middle school experiences as well as those of her two daughters, Erin and Nikki. Elder daughter Erin helps with writing and Nikki helps with the illustrations.

The friendship kit comes with a super Party Time story book, cards to share with your besties, a special notebook to write about all the KA-RAY-ZEE times you have together, super cool stickers and a friendship bracelet craft set.

So whether you have one extra special best friend or a few BFFs that you’d be lost without, this kit is the perfect way to remember and share the fun you have together… and to let your inner dorks shine through.

The cleverest present around for demanding in-betweenies!

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £12.99)

Age 3 plus:

You Must Bring a Hat by Simon Philip and Kate Hindley

You have to take your hat off to author and illustrator team Simon Philip and Kate Hindley for a top-notch picture story simply brimming with fun!

The only rule for attending Nigel’s biggest, bestest, hattiest party of all time at Panama avenue, west trilby, is that guests must bring a hat. That sounds pretty simple but what if you don’t own a hat? One young boy, who doesn’t own a hat, searches for one everywhere without any luck. So will bringing a monkey wearing a hat, a piano-playing badger called Geoff and an elephant wearing a tutu be enough?

Simon Philip’s anarchic tale, with its quirky animal cast and hilarious premise, slowly builds to a gloriously surreal conclusion which will leave little party-loving readers giggling and parents smiling.

Warm, whimsical, and brought to a head by Kate Hindley’s gorgeous illustrations, this fun, colourful and delightful story is destined to be a bedtime favourite!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Ho-Ho-Hopeless Santa by Rebecca Gerlings and Sarah Jennings

Santa isn’t all he’s cracked up to be in a quirky, charming picture book from top team Rebecca Gerlings and Sarah Jennings.

Youngsters will be giggling all the way to Christmas when they discover Santa’s naughty secret in a gorgeous rhyming story brimming with laughs, mishaps and mysteries.

Spreading Christmas joy is not as easy as it seems this year. The elves are busy working on getting everything ready for Christmas but the floor is getting sticky, ribbons tangle round the beams, the wrapping paper is running out and the workshop is in a state. And what’s this? Father Christmas is wrapping presents with tin foil, his beard looks a little wonky and he doesn’t seem to be able to get anything right. For the very first time, it seems Christmas might be late.

Sarah Jennings’ lively illustrations add lots of festive colour to Rebecca Gerlings’ fun-filled, all-action Christmas story which is guaranteed to get everyone in party mood!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Age 3 plus:

Supertato Veggies Assemble by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet

Meet Supertato… he’s the most a-peeling veg in the supermarket!

Always there when the chips are down, Supertato is a picture book superhero with his eyes firmly fixed on the bad guys and always ready to play out of his skin.

His wacky, calorie-consuming adventures amongst fridges, friends and foes have been cooked up by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet, the formidable duo who created Barry the Fish with Fingers.

In his latest mission, Supertato is rooting for the root vegetables! One evil pea was bad enough, but now there are bags of them on a roll in the supermarket. The Evil Pea is on the loose and there is anarchy in the aisles. He has switched off all the freezers which means that all the peas have turned bad… really bad! Can our supermarket superhero avert disaster? Or is he going to need backup?

Enjoy a scintillating sweetcorn with ninja know-how and a marrow with massive muscles as the veggie gang slices through those pesky peas.

Big, bold and bright illustrations help this funny, fast-moving vegetable adventure boil over as the spud with superpowers makes mincemeat of the perfidious peas.

One taste of Supertato, and little ones will be begging for more!

(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £6.99)

Young Adult:

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid

Get ready to be bowled over by The Diabolic, the thrilling new dark, dystopian novel of love, betrayal and galactic drama from talented young American YA author S.J. Kincaid.

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task… kill in order to protect the person you have been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a Galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia… she must become her.

Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia, a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity inside her that is true and pure – more so than that of most humans she encounters. Amidst all the danger, action and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life – and the empire.

Fast-paced action, nail-biting suspense, superb characterisation, and more twists and turns than a snakes and ladders board, make this one of one the most exciting sci-fi adventure stories of 2016.

(Simon & Schuster, hardback, £10.99)