Item List

December 2021 
New Children's Books We Love

It's easy to feel lost in the flood of so many new children's books available. Each month, we pick five of our recently published favourites. 

Check out our Review Panel's top picks for you to read in December 2021....

More recently published releases
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Recommended Age:  9+

Format: Chaper book

Publication Date: 4th Nov


Lucy Hope

Fledgling is a real treat for those who love a gothic story full of thrills and atmospheric settings. 

Taking place at the turn of the century in 1900, everything about Cassie's life is remote; from the rock-edge house in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps to her aloof and emotionally distant parents and a gravely ill grandmother. When a strange cherub-like creature appears after a storm, a series of strange events are set into motion and a shocking family secret is brought to light. 

With owls and angels, menacing storm birds, an eerie forest setting and a family mystery to uncover, there's plenty of tension around each corner in Lucy Hope's debut narrative. Taxidermy animals and strange inventions furnish the inside of Cassie's home, while outside in the forest there are storms and strange birds and all the noises of the forest. There's a sense of darkness gathering throughout the story and a brilliantly gothic cast of characters and setting.  The story feels surreal in places, while never losing the thread of hope pulled long by Cassie and the cherub and finished with a warming message about love and family.

Recommended Age: 5+

Format: Hardback gift book

Publication Date: 28th Oct

How Winston Came Home for Christmas

Alex T. Smith

There's no feeling quite like cosying up with the next instalment of a much loved story - and Alex T. Smith's Winston books offer an almost month-long delight of a festive tale.

 A cross between a Christmas story and an advent calendar, the Winston books are charming full-colour hardbacks structured into 24½ chapters – one for each day of advent. Each day’s offering includes the next chapter of the story and easy-to-follow instructions for an accompanying craft to make or activity to try. New this year, How Winston Came Home for Christmas is the second Winston story and follows Winston the mouse on a quest to find a long lost friend. 

Themes of kindness, connecting with loved ones, recovering what is lost and valuing friendships abide - all perfect for Christmas time - and the daily activities range from art and baking to giving gifts to others and finding out about festive traditions from different cultures. 

This is a gorgeous gift book that will be treasured year after year as a treasured festive tradition for young readers.

Recommended Age: 3+

Format: Picture book

Publication Date: 14th Oct

The Christmas Pine

Julia Donaldson & Victoria Sandøy

A gentle tale of a famous seasonal traditional is offered in The Christmas Pine  by Julia Donaldson and Victoria Sandøy.

 The words were originally commissioned by The Poetry Society for their annual poetic welcome to Norway’s gifted Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, and have since been beautifully illustrated by Norwegian artist Victoria Sandøy and presented in hardback. 

The gentle rhyming verse tells the journey of the Christmas tree itself, from its origins in a deep and snowy wood to its final destination in Trafalgar Square. Coupled with pictures that accentuate the joy of children and animals at each stage of the tree's journey, this makes for a comforting bedtime story that refocuses attention on the aspects of Christmas that become treasured in our hearts long after the season is over.

Recommended Age: 7+

Format: Illustrated non-Fiction

Publication Date: 1st Oct

Bandoola: The Great Elephant Rescue

William Grill

This is the true story of Bandoola - an Asian timber elephant of Myanmar, which was for a time a colony of the British Empire. The story focuses on Bandoola’s adult life around the time of World War 2, when elephants were used to help move and haul hardwood teak. The elephants at this time were looked after ‘Oozies’; men who cared for the elephants, but perhaps in a way that didn’t always show these majestic and intelligent animals the respect that they deserved. 

Things changed when James Howard Williams arrived to work for the timber company, and soon saw the true nature of the hard-working elephants. He began to find different ways to work with all the elephants, developing a mutual respect between man and beast, leading him to be known as ‘Elephant Bill’. World War 2 eventually arrived In Myanmar, and the people of the country were forced to leave. Bandoola and Williams led 53 elephants and over 200 refugees to safety in Northern India, on an unbelievable and treacherous journey that saw them scale mountains and tested them to the limit. This incredible journey showed an astonishing trust between humans and animals, with a remarkable level of understanding and bravery that saw them reach their destination in once piece.  

Having enjoyed William Grill’s compelling re-telling of Shackleton’s Journey in his wonderfully sensitive yet engaging style, it was a joy to have the opportunity to read another. Grill has a talent for finding incredible stories; stories with historical importance and that show the best (and sometimes the worst) of humanity. Bandoola is no different. Derived from a chance find of copy of the book ‘Elephant Bill’ in a charity shop, this is a beautifully written true narrative, set against the indulgent pages of Grill's distinctive illustrations that you can’t help but linger over and absorb. His use of a limited palette mixed with his simple style are cleverly detailed, bringing the story to life. 

 There are clear strong themes of conservation and the environmental impact of human behaviours, along with reminding us of the utter respect we need to have for all animals, particularly as we learn of the dwindling numbers of Asian elephants still living in the wild. At the heart of the story is the legacy of one special elephant. Bandoola had a lasting effect on Williams, who through his time with the elephants learnt that humans could live side by side with animals, based on respect and understanding.  

‘Bandoola’ is visually and literarily compelling, powerful, and thought provoking; one not to miss for any age.

Recommended Age: 6+

Format: Colour-illustrated chapter book

Publication Date: 11th Nov

The Snowman

Michael Morpurgo & Robin Shaw

Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Raymond Briggs' classic story The Snowman and this year sees a stunning new gift edition, re-imagined by beloved author Michael Morpurgo and complete with Robin Shaw's full-colour illustrations. 

A boy named James is so excited when snow arrives on his farm that he rushes outside to build the snowman he has been longing to create. Wonderfully, the snowman comes to life and gives James a magical adventure that he will never forget. Morpurgo’s short chapter book is as loyal to the original as a prose version can be, with one or two developments, like the heartwarming relationship between James and his Grandma. Like the original, this version is also tinged with poignancy as we watch the snowman melt away, just as the excitement of the Christmas season always dissolves when the festivities come to an end, leaving behind only happy memories and a reminder of how precious time with our loved ones can be.

To many children the story is already a familiar one, if not from the original book then from the televised animation faithfully aired each festive season. To those unfamiliar with Briggs' original, Morpurgo’s adaptation is likely to bring the joy of a classic story to a new generation of readers and Shaw's illustrations faithfully capture the sense of gentle magic that makes this story such a treasured one.

This cherished story that never loses its magical appeal - as retold in the beautiful words of one our nation’s favourite children’s authors - is bound to be a favourite for many to curl up with this Christmas.

A teachers' resource pack is also available to download here.