If you like to buy books for yourself, there’s a good chance that you like to give books to your friends and family too. There are so many fantastic books available to choose from that the perfect choice can seem a little daunting. Never fear, we at Booka are going to devote the next three blogs to showcasing some of the very best books for the people in your life. You’re sure to find something classic or brand new that will bring joy.
This week we are focusing on books for children. It should go without saying that books make fantastic gifts for children. But in case you need any reassurance, here are some great reasons.
1. Books last. A well-chosen favourite will be reread for many, many months. A Christmas classic can be put away with the Christmas things and will reappear year after year to increasing nostalgia. A copy of The Jolly Christmas Postman or Father Christmas (Raymond Briggs picture book classic) will be enjoyed by children every December long after they have technically outgrown them.
2. Time together. A good book may be enjoyed alone, but becomes much better in company. Buying a book, especially one that is slightly too difficult or long for a child to read on their own yet, is an opportunity to carve out some quality time together. If there is a favourite book that you were always hoping to read to your children someday, Christmas is a great time to make that happen.
3. It’s all good. There is no doubt that reading is good for children; if they enjoy it, all the better. If you have keen readers, be guided by what they like, but don’t be afraid to challenge them with something greater. Reluctant readers should be allowed, especially at Christmas, anything that tempts them: joke books, picture books, non-fiction, activity books, it’s all good. You may like to read our previous post about encouraging young readers here.
4. Cost. Books are a pretty affordable luxury all things considered. The vast majority of picture and chapter books for children and teens are less than £10. Of course, you can spend a little more and get a really lovely special edition, boxed collection, or beautiful hardback. A few well-chosen volumes will add much to the quality of the gift collection, but comparatively little to the cost.
On board with the principle but still not sure what to buy? Read on for some of our very best suggestions.
No Ballet Shoes in Syria by Catherine Bruton (9+)
This is our children’s book of the month for December and we can’t recommend it highly enough. Nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2020, this inspirational tale of hope and courage will stay with you long after you have finished it. Aya and her family have fled Syria and found themselves seeking asylum in the UK. Joining a local ballet school, Aya’s incredible talent is spotted, encouraged and a scholarship at the Royal Northern Ballet School is a real possibility. But with their status in the UK uncertain, and longing for news of her father, who was separated from the rest of the family on the journey, Aya can only hope, and dance. Ballet dancers will love this especially for its intricate depictions of the art of dance, but the story of courage and hardships overcome will engage all.
Mr Penguin and The Catastrophic Cruise by Alex T. Smith (ages 6-8)
We were lucky enough to host a brilliant event with Alex earlier this month and if you missed out on this event, we still have a number of lovely signed copies available here. Not met Mr Penguin yet? You are in for a treat as Mr Penguin returns in the third of his eventful adventures. Enjoying a luxurious cruise, with fish finger sandwiches available twenty-four hours a day, Mr Penguin can’t quite escape the feeling that something is about to go very, very wrong. Teaming up with a young stowaway, Mr Penguin turns investigator, and sets about uncovering a thrilling mystery. Strikingly illustrated, and with plenty of humour and intrigue, this great adventure book is one to enjoy together.
Umbrella Mouse by Anna Fargher (ages 9-11)
Weaving between fact and fiction comes this outstanding story of WWII, from the viewpoint of animals as well as humans caught up in the conflict. Pip, a mouse who lives in an umbrella shop, has her life changed forever when her home is bombed. Joining ‘Noah’s Ark’, a group of animals who fight in the war, she vows to do her part, and perhaps even change the whole course of war. An insight into war that does not shy away from the suffering, told from a unique, but no less poignant viewpoint.
White Bird by R J Palacio (ages 9+)
Another author school event that we were lucky enough to enjoy this month. Julian is best known as a key character in Wonder, R J Palacio’s best seller, the classroom bully of Auggie. White Bird is a compelling story-within-a-story, as Julian discovers the childhood of his own grandmother, a young Jewish girl, hidden from the Nazis in occupied France. In the form of a graphic novel this power story explores the extent of human cruelty and the possibility for forgiveness and redemption. We have some beautiful signed copies available of this fabulous book available here.
Every Child a Song by Nicola Davies (ages 5-7)
This is a unique birthday message for the United Convention on the Rights of a Child. The ‘song’ of the title is the song that is born with each child and deserves to be protected and valued as it grows into adulthood. The book doesn’t fail to address the poverty, injustice and exploitation that many thousands of children face but does so in a way that provides hope that the current generation of readers can change the world for the better.
A Conspiracy of Magic by Harriet Whitehorn (ages 9-12)
The author of the highly acclaimed Violet Books, returns with an epic fantasy adventure, transporting readers to the faraway lands north of Minaris. Revisiting her familiar format of sword and sorcery, the next instalment in the series follows the well-received ‘The Company of Eight’ and sees our hero, Cass, plunged into more jeopardy as she investigates a crisis in the company of Queen Arden. Drawing comparisons with Lord of the Rings due to its epic scale, beautiful map work and illustrations, this is sure to enthral readers new and old.
Beyond Platform 13 by Sibeal Pounder (ages 7-11)
Pounder, known for her love of the original ‘Secret of Platform 13’ by her idol, Eva Ibbotson, crafts a spellbinding sequel which is much anticipated by fans of the original. Ably assisted by the lush illustrations supplied by Beatriz Castro, Pounder builds upon the themes established in the original and adds her own sense of flair to the story. When the Island of Mist is threatened by dark forces, can any hope of survival exist? The answer is certainly ‘Yes’ if young adventurer Lina has anything to do with it.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o (Ages 3-7)
Academy Award winner Nyong’o turns her attention from acting to the world of literature for her debut book which has already turned heads by those lucky enough to get an early preview. Perhaps with younger readers in mind, this enchanting story is ideal for bedtime with its gorgeous illustrations and charm. Young Sulwe is upset that her skin is darker than that of her sister and mother, does that mean that she is not beautiful? Nyong’o presents a modern, complex issue at the heart of her story to inspire youngsters to discover their own inner beauty.
The Magic Place by Chris Wormell (Ages 14+)
Author/Illustrator Chris Wormell evokes the worlds of Grimm’s fairy tales with that of Dickensian murk and mirth in this dark story of rags to riches. Young Clementine dreams of escaping the dark basement her Aunt and Uncle have imprisoned her in and searching for the magical places she’s dreamed about. To do that she will have to escape the horrors of the Great Black City, but will she achieve her goals? Wormell will show you every step of Clementine’s journey across 200+ wonderfully illustrated pages, rich with detail and perspective. Chris has a firm place on our Illustrator Wall upstairs in Booka, and you can buy signed first editions of this magical book here.
We hope that this varied selection will give you plenty of gift possibilities to consider. In one short post we couldn’t possibly cover all the marvellous books in our children’s selection, so if you have the time, do come to Booka and browse for yourself. We also have a range of traditional toys, activity sets and gifts which encourage creative play and learning for you to discover.
See you next week for the second instalment of our Book Buying Guide, where we look at book themed gifts for adults (who perhaps don’t read as much as they should). Happy December!