Books for Christmas Part 3: Swish-capes, Mistakes, Misfits - Favourite Fiction for Younger Readers

We've had plenty of gift ideas for grown ups over the past few weeks (history and biography and some special editions) so this week is given over almost exclusively for children (although we have a sneaky suspicion that several of these books will end up in bigger people's stockings).

Some might argue we're living in a golden age of children's books at the moment, and this selection of our favourite books for younger readers aged 7-9 can only strengthen that argument. Here we go...

The Sleeper and The Spindle - Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddell - £10.99
A thrillingly re-imagined fairy tale from the truly magical combination of two of our absolute favourites, author Neil Gaiman and illustrator Chris Riddell - weaving together a sort-of Snow White and an almost Sleeping Beauty with a thread of dark magic, which will hold readers spellbound from start to finish. Lavishly produced, packed with glorious Chris Riddell illustrations enhanced with metallic ink, this is a spectacular and magical gift. This is one of those books you have to come in and pick up to truly appreciate - so please do!

Dragons at Crumbling Castle: And Other Stories -Terry Pratchett - £12.99     
This collection of quirky, funny, delightful stories were started when Pratchett was just 17 years old, and give us an insight into the mind which went on to create the Discworld universe. With more than a hint of Roald Dahl about them, we learn the philosophy of the Joke Monks of Ben Drumlin, what happened when a very lazy Father Christmas goes to the job centre (on his days off), and the selfie-obsession of the Abominable Snowman. Great little stories for children, and a special treat for gown-up fans!

Goth Girl and The Fete Worse Than Death - Chris Riddell - £10.99
It's a Chris Riddell Christmas, with his second entry on our list. Preparations for the Ghastly-Gorm Garden Party and bake-off are under way. Celebrity cooks are arriving at the hall for the big event and, true to form, Maltravers, the indoor gamekeeper, is acting suspiciously. Elsewhere at Ghastly-Gorm Ada's wardrobe-dwelling lady's maid Marylebone has received a marriage proposal. Ada vows to aid the course of true love and find out what Maltravers is up to, but amidst all this activity, everyone, including her father, appears to have forgotten her birthday! The sequel to Goth Girl, and if anything even more witty, feisty and intelligent than the first book... 

Archie Greene and the Magician's Instruction - DD Everest - £9.99       
When Archie travels to Oxford to return a book to the Museum of Magical Miscellany, he meets family that he never knew he had - and discovers the world of the Flame Keepers, a community devoted to finding and preserving magical books. But the magical book under Archie's protection is extremely dangerous, and dark spirits hunt it out. With the help of his cousins, Archie must do everything he can to uncover the book's hidden powers and save the Flame Keepers from evil.

This is the first book in a thrilling fantasy adventure - and one of the most exciting debuts of the year. Find out much more about the author and book here when we took DD Everest to schools in Abingdon a few weeks ago...

Jet the Rescue Dog - David Long - £9.99       
Dogs, horses, cats (even birds, camels and elephants) have saved thousands of lives through instinct, intelligence, courage and devotion. Engaging, uplifting and deeply moving, these stories tell of these brave, silent heroes with sensitivity and gentle humour for readers age 8+. With black and white illustrations throughout.

Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island: The Lost Children - Gillian Philip - £5.99       
Molly and her brother Jack visit rich relatives on Ravenstorm Island, where eerie statues of children are dotted around the island. She's expected to be friends with her moody cousin, Arthur. But things become much worse when Jack disappears - and no one else on the island remembers he ever existed! Molly and Arthur must work together to save Jack.

Stinky & Jinks: My Hamster Is A Detective - Dave Lowe and Mark Chambers - £5.99
This is the sixth (and final) installment of the adventures of Ben and his hamster Jasper Stinkybottom (a creation of comic genius, trust us). This time Bruiser, Ben's neighbour's cat, goes missing, and at first Stinky the genius hamster is all ready to celebrate. But when Ben's sister's kitten, Delilah, disappears too, things start to look suspicious. It's time for tenacious twosome Stinky and Jinks to spring into action once more.

With sly literary references, nail-biting adventures and the world's most intelligent hamster, will appeal to even the most reluctant young reader (and you can learn more about author Dave Lowe when he flew halfway round the world to visit school children in Abingdon earlier this year!)

The Secrets of Flamant Castle: The Complete Adventures of Sword Girl and Friends - Frances Watts - £8.99
Fun and fantasy combine in this collection of six amusing stories about Tommy, a kitchen girl at Flamant Castle, who dreams of becoming a knight. When she is made the Keeper of the Blades, caring for all the swords in the castle armoury, it seems like her dream might come true. But trouble is never far away from Flamant Castle and the Keeper of the Blades is often in the thick of it. Luckily Tommy is both daring and curious, and has a cast of friends ready to help, including Lil the talking cat, the friendly Crocodiddle who lives in the castle moat and her best friend Jasper, the ghost of a young squire who inhabits one of the old swords.

Charlie Merrick's Misfits In Fouls Friends and Football - Dave Cousins - £5.99
Dave Cousins is a seriously funny author ('15 Days Without a Head' is a comic masterpiece for older readers) but this book for younger readers is the first in a new - and very funny - series about a football team (the inappropriately-named 'North Star Galaxy'). Charlie Merrick is the hapless team captain, and his long-suffering efforts to turn things around makes for a funny, gripping and surprisingly poignant story that appeals not just to football fans.

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