Have yourself a Luddite Christmas
While I don't even try and compete with the Playstation 3's, the Xboxes and the Wii's out there for Christmas, I am still old school, and believe a book is the ultimate kid's present.
I've selected 15 classic Christmas titles, which are the cream of the crop in this vast genre. Underneath are 10 kids books that really stand out this year, and all of them would make great presents. While I realise the importance technology plays in children's lives, there are only so many times you can play a console game. You can read the same book many times and each time your imagination can take you to a different place.
1. Barney's C is for Christmas
Yes, I know, but at least it gets them reading!
2. Noddy Saves Christmas
He still appeals, and is widely loved by small people everywhere.
3. Angelina Ballerina: Angelina's Christmas
The ultimate in feminity! A ballet-dancing mouse in a pink tutu. This edition is great value for money as it includes a read-along CD.
4. Little Rabbit's Christmas
This one is gorgeous, with Harry Horse's sweetly old-fashioned watercolour and ink illustrations. Personally, what I like about this title is the very subtle message that friendship and love are better than any toy. This is expertly woven through the story through the animals facial expressions, and not blatantly preaching a message (don't you hate kids books with a "life lesson"?)
5. Christmas Mouse
I love this one! It's a wonderful, gentle book with Ruth Brown's (one of my favourite illustrators) exquisite illustrations. This is a soothing, mummy-and-me-time read, perfect for bedtime.
6. The Night Before Christmas
Perfect for toddlers, this classic poem (which is awesome to read aloud to kids) is in a board book format with a space at the top for small hands to carry it around.
7. Santa's Snow Cat
Gorgeous re-assuring tale of Santa's favourite cat, who gets lost in a big city. This one is perfect for small animal lovers and the quality of the illustrations have to be seen to be believed.
8. Russell's Christmas Magic
If you haven't yet met Russell the sheep, quick, you are missing out. Author and illustrator, Rob Scotton's illustrations are the magic of this book. I love his Reindeers, and Russell, of course, looks exactly like a sheep should look (check out his legs!)
9. The Night Before the Night Before Christmas
I'm a bit biased on this one, I grew up with Richard Scarry so he still retains a very special place in my memories. But regardless, I think this is a great book. It's actually 2 books in one, as the pages on the one side feature the traditional "Night Before Christmas" poem, while on the other side you have the the night before the night before Christmas, Scarry's version, in which Father Christmas almost heads out with his loot a night too early! Scarry's illustrations transcend description.
10. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Book and Toy)
I am definitely buying this one for my future daughter (due next year!). It includes a mini hardback edition of this classic Dr Seuss story (isn't the word "Grinch" perfect for a miserable miser?) and a stunning green furry Grinch toy, whose facial expression is pure naughty delight.
11. Christmas Activity Book
This one's beautiful! With traditional illustrations and jam-packed full of activities: Join-the-dots, crosswords, matching games and puzzles.
12. Say Hello to the Snowy Animals
Another one I'm definitely buying! Whether it's the velvety Husky on the cover, I don't know, there's just something so comforting about this book. It's semi touch-and-feel, with some of the really furry animals having tactile fur. It does feature mainly Northern Hemisphere animals, but while some people see this as a problem, ie. Kids won't be able to relate to a Caribou, etc, I think it's fantastic to learn about animals from far away. I love the roundedness of the illustrations, and the size of the book is a bonus too, slightly larger than most picture flats.
13. Flat Stanley Magic
This is perfect for that in–between stage, when children are reading by themselves, but are daunted by a book with lots of text. Flat Stanley contains some line drawings, but is text-rich enough to challenge new readers. This edition has 2 books in one, and Stanley is such a kooky character, that he is very popular with old fans as well as new ones.
14. Christmas Activity Fun Stickers
More geared for younger children than the previous Christmas Activity Book, this brightly coloured book aims to keep tiny ones amused for hours. It has loads of great stickers (over 64), but what makes this one special is that it comes with a game board. It also has a veritable smorgasbord of festive puzzles and activities.
15. Winter in White
This is a pop-up with a difference. While most pop-ups feature bright colours as part of their allure, this unusual little gem is completely white with a swirl here and there of silver or gold. The beauty of these pop-ups is in their silhouettes and detail which can often be missed when swimming in colour. What I really love about it, is it encourages kids to really look, as there is no distracting colour.
Brilliant Christmas reads for kids
This is actually a gift for any age. It's a veritable treasure chest, uncovering layer by layer, the tragedy of the Titanic's fatal maiden voyage. It includes a 75cm model of the ship which is built up gradually. Peep into the opulent dining rooms through ingenious pop-ups. My favourite part is the dossier of old documents, including tickets, menus, and newspaper accounts of the disaster. What I found fascinating are the reports from the captain and crew of what they saw, and it's interesting to try and decide whether the disaster could have been avoided.
2. Vampyre: The Terrifying Lost Journal of Dr Cornelius Van Helsing
Lavishly illustrated and embossed, using photomontage, fold-outs, pull-outs, booklets and letters, this will take you into the secret diaries of a famous vampire hunter. Wonderfully OTT, yet strangely realistic, this is a great gift for older readers. Throw in all the vampire clichés you can think of, Transylvania, garlic, pretty pale people in jewel velvets, yes, it's all there. And it's wonderful!
3. How to Find Flower Fairies
Remember Fairyopolis? That great big, beautiful pink book? Well, this is far better. C'mon deep down somewhere we all want to lift that ferny frond in the garden and discover a tiny winged person beneath, well this is the thrust of the book. An absolute must to read together, with your child. I loved lifting the various flaps and peering behind trees to find the secret homes of the Flower Fairies.
4. Peter Rabbit: A Lucky Escape
While the collectable little white Beatrix Potter's are still my favourite, I love this book, as it introduces Peter and friends to younger readers by making them more accessible. The book is a great size for tinies and the pictures are much bigger than in the original books, but are by no means garish, they still have that gentle, watercoloured wash feel. It is also interactive, which keeps the child involved.
5. The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny, Mixed Media
Fantastic value for money! Contains the book of the above title and a DVD, packaged beautifully in a folder with traditional Beatrix Potter illustrations. Normally, A DVD which retail for a lot more than this on its own.
6. Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears
Little Mouse is one of those unfortunate people who are terrified of some things and nervous of everything else. Everyday things can be very scary, having a bath, for instance, what if you got sucked down the plughole?! This is a very real situation for many children, who develop anxiety from worrying about everyday things. Apart from being brilliantly reassuring, this book is exquisitely illustrated and has foldout maps, lift the flaps and a piece missing from some pages where Little Mouse had a nervous nibble. This book has won many children's books awards, and I can certainly see why.
7. Do Not Open
The perfect pressie for those who have not been bitten by the reading bug, and maybe find it hard to read a book. The format is fantastic, everything comes in a cool funky cage. Playing with the conspiracy theme, kids can find out all the secrets behind the worlds greatest mysteries. Let them discover where exactly the Bermuda Triangle is, whether alien abductions actually happened and the real story behind crop circles. Has tons of secret codes, puzzles to decode. Great idea.
8. Gadget Book: How Really Cool Stuff Works
Be warned, this might end up on Dad's bookshelf or a very techno-savvy Mum’s shelf. Ok, so you've bought Bluetooth, HDTV, SEM, PSP and a Wii. But how do they work? The Gadget Book will tell you all about it in such a brilliant way, that even I, self-confessed techno-phobe (and secretly proud of it) not only enjoyed reading about it, but actually understood it, too. I loved the cross-sections. Also included are things like the world's fastest robot and how online worlds work.
9. Seventeen Annual
Are you despairing that she's too into make-up and clothes to ever sit down and read a book? Well, fight fire with fire... The Seventeen annual is packed tighter than Justin Timberlake's trousers full of hot celeb gossip and quizzes, make-up tips, what to wear in 2008, real-life stories from girls her age, luv-o-scopes, cool Christmas gifts to make and cut-outs for her school diary. Basically everything a teen girl would want to read. And of course, it might, just might, lead to her picking up a real book in the future.
10. Parasite Positive and Last Days
If you haven't discovered Scott Westerfield yet, do yourself and the teenager in your life a favour, have a look at his titles. I wish his books were around when I was a teenager. They have a sharp intelligence to them, a sly humour that is so refreshing. They are definitely for older teens, as they unashamedly deal with sex, but Westerfield does not make sex, drugs etc the focus of his books, sex just happens as a part of life between 2 consenting people (as it should!) Parasite Positive and it's sequel, Last Days, introduce the current fastest growing genre in kids books, vampires. You'll be hard-pressed to find many vampire books for this age group as intelligent and accessible as these.