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The top 10 children’s books

The very best stories of 2017 to inspire young, imaginative minds, as chosen by Banbury indie experts (and Muddy faves) Book & Ink.

Thank you once again to the lovely guys at indie bookshop Book & Ink in Banbury for their suggestions for the best children’s books for Christmas. They really know their stuff and their passion for what they do really comes through. I hope this gives you some inspiration.

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and illustrations by Jackie Morris

This show-stopping book has captivated hearts and minds, young and old, since it was published in October. For a start, its size makes it unmissable – it’s a behemoth of a book. It’s a book of words and pictures – yet it’s impossible to separate the two; the words and illustrations each form two halves of a whole; something that becomes clearer when you start to read the book yourself. Back in 2007 the words in the book all disappeared from a junior dictionary commonly used in primary schools; hence the Lost Words…. words such as Otter and Kingfisher; Ivy, Raven, Bluebell, Blackberry and Adder. Between them Robert and Jackie have created spells (or poems) to return the language of the natural world to children’s vocabulary. This is a book to share and enjoy with children of all ages, then take them out, go for walks, explore, read the poems out loud to conjure up the natural world and share the magic of nature. If you’re out and about, there’s an exhibition of the book currently on show at Compton Verney in Warwickshire until 17th December, before moving to London. Jackie has been tirelessly touring independent bookshops recently, so for an extra special signed copy try your local indie bookshop.

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher

Out now in paperback, this is the perfect stocking filler for young readers. We love that it’s full of fun, magic, silliness and redemption. The story is about young dinosaur-mad William Trundle and a North Pole dinosaur, who secretly wants to be a reindeer. Oh yes, it sounds bonkers – and it is! William and the Christmasaurus share an amazing adventure and have great fun along the way. Watch the Royal Variety Show on Tuesday 13th December for a musical Christmasaurus preview of the London shows later in December. Recommended for all ages.

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

How do you follow the brilliant How to Train Your Dragon series? Well, with this exciting start to a new fantasy series starring wizard boy Xar and warrior girl, Wish. Set in ancient Britain; a land of dark and menacing forests where two opposing realms live in hatred of each other – the Warriors (opposing magic), and the Wizards (pro-magic) – but both fearing a common enemy, Witches. Xar is a young wizard who hasn’t yet come into his magic; a very likeable livewire – a self-centred and arrogant young man but with a great sense of humour and very loyal to his friends. On a foolhardy adventure, he crosses paths with Wish. Both have been brought up to hate the other but the more they’re forced into each other’s company, the less they can see the reason for this hatred. I love how Cressida’s illustrations make the characters leap into your imagination, and the suspense and plot twists make for a fab page turner. Recommended for ages 8+ (and another one to borrow from the kids when they’ve finished with it!).

Sky Dancer by Gill Lewis

Gill Lewis doesn’t pull any punches with her children’s novels, frequently tackling difficult themes about the world in which we live. Sky Dancer is the story of 11-year-old Joe who has grown up in a traditional game-keeping family and whose loyalties are tested when a baby hen harrier needs his help… but hen harriers are the traditional enemy of the grouse game-keepers. It’s a powerful and thought-provoking story about our wildlife and environment but what really stands out are the human relationships – it’s a great story about loss and family, friendship and ultimately about having the courage to stand up for what you believe in. The perfect gift for children who love animals and nature, ages 9+.

Quentin Blake’s A Christmas Carol

What better way to get children interested in reading Dickens than with this fab edition of the timeless classic, A Christmas Carol? – the original text brought to vividly life with Quentin Blake’s fun and instantly recognisable illustrations. This new luxurious gift edition feels quite special and young bookworms are sure to love and treasure it. The miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve – the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come show Scrooge how to have love and charity for other people; how to find the true meaning of Christmas. Share with children of all ages, or recommended for solo readers age 10+. Just Missed Out on our Top 10 but highly recommended: Bad Dad by David Walliams; Hetty Feather’s Christmas by Jacqueline Wilson; The Creakers by Tom Fletcher; Father Christmas and Me.

Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll

One of the my highlights of the year is this beautiful book about two evacuee children, billeted to a lighthouse at Budmouth Point on the Devon coast. The children were sent there from their home in London, after a particularly horrific bomb blast in 1941. Olive was rendered unconscious by the blast and her elder sister, Sukie, disappeared without trace, leaving only the coat she was wearing with a mysterious coded message in the pocket. Olive and her little brother are sent to Devon, together with other evacuees and in their search for their sister, the siblings end up becoming embroiled in a top secret plot to smuggle in a group of refugees from Germany. This is a beautifully touching story, both in the relationships between the evacuated children and in the wider rescue plot – as relevant today, as to Britain in the 1940s. Mystery and adventure make this a gripping page turner. Recommended for ages 9+.

The Snow Angel by Lauren St. John, illustrated by Catherine Hyde

11-year-old Makena lives in Nairobi and her over-riding ambition is to climb Mount Kenya and become a mountaineer or a mountain guide like her adored father. She has never seen the snow but her most treasured possession is a jam jar of melted snow water, brought back from Mount Kenya by her Baba. When Ebola breaks out in Sierra Leone and Makena’s world is unexpectedly turned upside down, Makena has to find courage, resilience and self-preservation. A snow fox vision brings her luck and she becomes best friends with a girl called Snow – Makena’s path seems linked very much with “snow”. Many tough challenges now face Makena. Can she learn to trust and to love again? Will the mountains guide her? A compassionately told story, guiding us to find hope in every situation and show love and friendship to others less fortunate than ourselves. A beautiful story, for ages 9+.

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop, illustrated by Ashley King

Property Jones lives in a bookshop with her eccentric adoptive family. They run the bookshop during the day and sleep amongst the bookshelves at night. Property was 5 when she was found abandoned in the bookshop and for the last 6 years she has kept a whopping big secret from her family… she can’t read! When Property’s family wins an extraordinary bookshop in London (The Montgomery Book Emporium) Property’s life becomes quite an adventure. Montgomery’s is fabulous, with revolving themed book-filled rooms and a peculiar cat called Gunther. But something strange is going on at Montgomery’s… can Property unveil some villainous crooks and save the bookshop? And what about her own secret…? Suitable for all ages (7+ if reading alone).

Asterix and the Chariot Race by Jean Yves Ferri, illustrated by Didier Conrad

Here’s a great bit of fun for Christmas – a new Asterix and Obelix adventure. The duo are off on a new journey to ancient Italy, seat of power for their arch enemy Julius Caesar. But on their way around Italy they meet all sorts of locals who want nothing to do with Rome and Julius Caesar as well – like the Italics, inhabitants of the Italian Peninsula! Loads of laugh-out-loud jokes to enjoy. Suitable for all ages.

The Five Realms: The Gift of Dark Hollow by Kieran Larwood and illustrated by David Wyatt

Three brave little rabbits, Podkin, Paz and Pook, continue their scary adventures in this sequel to ‘The Legend of Podkin One-Ear’. Podkin and his siblings, with the rabbits they helped rescue from the evil Scramashank in Book One, have been sheltering in Dark Hollow since winning an almighty battle with their enemy. Podkin gets bored as he doesn’t have anything to do – his sister Paz is kept busy in the sickroom and his friend and their leader, Crom, spends his days discussing defence tactics with the Council; his little brother, Pook, is too small to be an interesting companion, so Podkin goes exploring and discovers an abandoned underground chamber… his special magical blade starts twitching… there’s something down there that Podkin is destined to find. A magical fantasy tale for ages 8+.


Just Missed Out on our Top 10 but highly recommended: Bad Dad by David Walliams; Hetty Feather’s Christmas by Jacqueline Wilson; The Creakers by Tom Fletcher; Father Christmas and Me by Matt Haig; The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave; The Song From Somewhere Else by A. F. Harrold; The Smoking Hourglass by Jennifer Bell; Dinosaurs by Matt Sewell; Winter Magic – an anthology curated by Abi Elphinstone; My Miniature Library: 30 Tiny Books to Make, Read and Treasure by Daniela Jaglenka Terrazzini.

Books & Ink Bookshop, 4 White Lion Walk, Banbury OX16 5UD; 01295 709769;

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