The Book Activist reviews Christmas books!

Christmas is the ideal time to give the gift of a book.  With so many to choose from, it’s difficult to know where to start! Sitting by the fireside or curled up at bedtime, sharing stories or reading independently; here are some suggestions to get you in the festive spirit!

Festive Favourites

The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore

As St. Nick and eight tiny reindeer descend through a brilliant night sky onto the roof of a Victorian house in a snowy New England village, the famous Christmas poem begins. First published in 1823,  this classic poem brings to life Father Christmas and all the excitement of Christmas Eve.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss

"The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!  Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason." Dr. Seuss's small-hearted Grinch ranks right up there with Scrooge when it comes to the crankiest, scowling holiday grumps of all time!

The Snowman by Raymond Briggs

One winter's night, a snowman comes to life and an unforgettable adventure begins. Raymond Briggs' favourite classic is a true piece of Christmas magic - narrated entirely through pictures, it captures the wonder and innocence of childhood and is now recognised throughout the world.

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The story begins with a young boy, who hears a train whistle roar. To his astonishment, he finds the train is waiting for him. He sees a conductor who then proceeds to look up at his window. He runs downstairs and goes outside. The conductor explains the train is called the Polar Express, and is journeying to the North Pole….

Festive Picture Books

The Empty Stocking by Richard Curtis

It's Christmas Eve. And there's one very important question on everyone's lips...have you been good this year? For twins Sam and Charlie this is a big worry because Charlie is really quite bad. And sometimes, just sometimes, Santa has to get tough...

Father Christmas Needs a Wee by Nicholas Allan

At each different house that he visits Father Christmas drinks and eats all the goodies left out for him. Before long he really, really, really needs to go to the loo, so much so that he even forgets to leave the presents behind. But he dashes back, delivers all the gifts, and flies home at high speed to avoid an embarrassing accident—but there's just one tiny problem—he's lost his house key! Find out what happens in this fabulously funny counting book!

The Snow Womble by Elisabeth Beresford

Snow has arrived on Wimbledon Common! The young Wombles, including Bungo, Orinoco and Tomsk, can't wait to start sledging, making snow Wombles and generally having fun in the snow. Then one particular Womble decides to play a snowy trick on the small Wombles . . .A funny, warm picture book, perfect to curl up with on a cold Christmas night.

The Christmas Show by Rebecca Patterson

The Christmas pageant doesn’t go QUITE as planned in this fantastically funny holiday tale for the forgetful kid in all of us. It’s almost time for the nativity play, and everyone has been practicing hard. The narrators know their lines, the Important Angel has brushed her hair, and the audience is in their seats, eagerly awaiting a special Christmas performance. But there’s one cast member whose listening skills haven’t exactly been the best, and no one’s expecting a spare shepherd to steal the show…

Ollie’s Christmas Reindeer by Nicola Killen

This is a gorgeous new picture book featuring a magical adventure.  When a jingling sound wakes her from her sleep, a little girl's dreams come true when she meets a lost reindeer in the forest. Setting off together it soon becomes a Christmas never to forget. 

Sproutzilla vs Christmas by Tom Jamieson and Mike Byrne

Readers young and old may well be able to identify with this story!! Jack loves everything about Christmas.  Except for one thing: he does not like Brussels sprouts.  When Jack's parents bring home the largest sprout he has ever seen, things are about to get out of control. Sproutzilla is the meanest, greenest Christmas ruining vegetable ever and now he's heading straight towards Santa! It's up to Jack to save Christmas, and there's only one way to do it ...He'll have to eat the sprouts!

Stories for sharing

Christmas Stories by Michael Morpurgo

A collection of beautiful stories by one of our best loved storytellers.  Including: "The Best Christmas Present in the World," a mysterious letter in a secret drawer brings one night in the Great War vividly to life. Writing home from the front, a soldier has an incredible story to tell. The second tale is "On Angel Wings." A singing of wings, a glorious light, and a sudden beacon of brightness? It can only mean—can it really?—a visit from the Angel Gabriel himself. When the Prince and Princess marry in "The Best of Times," joy rings out across the land. But all too soon it fades away and a shadow hangs over the royal palace. As Christmas approaches, Prince Frederico must find a way to warm his new bride's aching heart. In the new story, "The Goose is Getting Fat," Gertrude the goose is getting bigger by the day, and Charlie is proud to look after her. But as Christmas approaches, the thought of the grizzly fate awaiting her fills him with sadness. Can he save Gertrude from the Christmas dinner table?

Winter Magic by Abi Elphinstone and others

A beautiful anthology of frosty, magical short stories from acclaimed children’s writers such as Michelle Magorian, Berlie Doherty, Lauren St John and Katherine Woodfine, and edited by author Abi Elphinstone.  Featuring snow queens, frost fairs, snow dragons and pied pipers this is an enchanting treat of a collection that will be enjoyed for years to come.

Something for independent readers

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig

Following up his bestselling book A Boy called Christmas, Matt Haig brings another magical tale of hope at Christmas time.  If magic has a beginning, can it also have an end? When Amelia wants a wish to come true she knows just the man to ask - Father Christmas. But the magic she wants to believe in is starting to fade, and Father Christmas has more than impossible wishes to worry about. Upset elves, reindeers dropping out of the sky, angry trolls and the chance that Christmas might be cancelled. But Amelia isn't just any ordinary girl. And - as Father Christmas is going to find out - if Christmas is going to be saved, he might not be able to do it alone . . .

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens

Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms - but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College. Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident - until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).  The fabulously festive fifth mystery from the bestselling, award-winning author of Murder Most Unladylike.

Letters from Father Christmas by J R R Tolkein

Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J.R.R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in a strange, spidery handwriting and a beautiful colored drawing or some sketches.  The letters were from Father Christmas. They told wonderful tales of life at the North Pole: how the reindeer got loose and scattered presents everywhere; how the accident-prone North Polar Bear climbed the North Pole and fell through the roof of Father Christmas’s house; how he broke the Moon into four pieces and made the Man in it fall into the back garden; how there were wars with the troublesome horde of goblins who lived in the caves beneath the house.
No reader, young or old, can fail to be charmed by the inventiveness of J.R.R. Tolkien's Letters from Father Christmas.

I’ll be home for Christmas by various (for ages 13+)

The UK's top Young Adult authors join together in this collection of new stories and poems on the theme of home. Contributors include: Tom Becker, Holly Bourne, Sita Brahmachari, Kevin Brooks, Melvin Burgess, Katy Cannon, Cat Clarke, Juno Dawson, Julie Mayhew, Non Pratt, Marcus Sedgwick, Lisa Williamson and Benjamin Zephaniah.  At a time when many are homeless at Christmas, this book celebrates home and reminds us that not everyone is as fortunate as we may be.  Supported by Amnesty International, funds raised from sales of this book benefit the charity Crisis.


Victoria Dilly
The Book Activist

December 2016