Books for Christmas Part 4 - Guinea Pigs, Pugs and Polar Bears - Favourite Fiction for Younger Readers

Giving books as gifts for young children is possibly the best part of Christmas - we've already told you about some of our favourite activity books for children - but here are some of favourite new fiction books throughout the year for ages 7+.

Knight In Training: A Very Bothersome Bear -
Vivian French and David Melling (£4.99)
David Melling has become renowned as the creator of bestseller (and everyone's favourite dispenser of hugs) Hugless Douglas, but before the cuddly bear he was already critically-acclaimed as the illustrative genius behind 'The Tale of Jack Frost' and 'The Kiss That Missed'. 'Knight In Training' is a new young fiction series inspired by the hapless Knight from that book, and has been written with author Vivian French.

Following the tale of Sam J. Butterbiggins (whose only ambition is to be a Very Noble Knight) it manages to harness the energy and quirkiness of the original, as Sam discovers a magical scroll listing the six quests to be completed to become a knight. Along the way he helps a grumpy dwarf, a dunderheaded bear and an island of tiny elves. Huge fun and bags of young reader appeal!

Atticus Claw on the Misty Moor - Jennifer Gray (£5.99)
The world's greatest cat-burglar turned cat detective is back! With the Cheddar family celebrating New Year's Eve in a Scottish castle, it isn't long before Atticus is up to his whiskers in hidden treasure, an ancient family curse, and sightings of a mysterious giant cat on the moor. Police Cat Sergeant Claw's detective skills will be needed once again, and with danger lurking everywhere, can Atticus solve the mystery? Imaginative, very funny, this series of books keeps getting better.

Olga da Polga - Michael Bond (£20)
Be prepared for a lot of very cute animals in this wonderful new edition of the classic guinea pig tales illustrated by the wonderful Catherine Rayner. Olda da Polga loves telling tales of her adventures to Graham the tortoise, even though he's not sure they all actually happened! A feast of adventure and fun - and utterly charming illustrations.

(We have a very few copies signed by Catherine in the shop - email to reserve one!) 

Gabriel-Ernest and Other Tales - Saki (£6.99)
In 'Gabriel-Earnest', local landowner Van Cheele is stunned when his aunt decides to take in a wild-looking boy found on the estate, buying him a suit of clothes and naming him Gabriel-Ernest. Van Cheele is suspicious, especially when it is revealed that there is something supernatural about their new ward...

Saki was the pen-name of Hector Hugh Munro. and his short stories were strange and satirical, poking fun at the mores of the Edwardian age. This republished book (with new illustrations by Quentin Blake) is a mischievous collection of stories which find an echo of Roald Dahl a generation before.

The Adventures of Miss Petitfour - Anne Michaels (£10.99)
Meet the utterly irresistible Miss Petitfour (a name of unknown origin but possibly descended from bakers of tiny delicious cakes). She loves baking and making and dancing with her cats, but most of all she loves to fly. All she has to do is pick up a favourite tablecloth (preferably the one with the paisley print), catch the breeze and she swooshes off on an adventure - with her many cats dangling paw-to-tail behind her.

In five utterly captivating stories of gentle adventure, delicious edibles (with cheese for the cats), occasional peril and heart-zinging warmth, poet and novelist Anne Michaels (author of award-winning 'Fugitive Pieces') makes a charming, purrfect debut as a children's author.

Meet at the Ark at Eight! - Ulrich Hub (£6.99)
Snow and ice and ice and snow all around, and nothing for three penguins to do but fight with each other and smell slightly of fish. But are they good penguins or bad penguins? And if they're a bit bad then what's the worst that...What? Building an ark? The whole world is going to be flooded? Well! They should probably get on that ark.

Meet at the Ark at Eight is a delight: a funny, odd and strangely moral story of three penguins, a plump, over-worked dove, a beautiful butterfly that may or may not get done in, and a quite apologetic God.
Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright - Chris Riddell (£10.99)
What a year for Chris Riddell. With Goth Girl winning prizes galore, delighting huge numbers of children - and being appointed Children's Laureate, it's difficult to appreciate that Chris started his illustration journey almost 30 years ago.

In 'Goth Girl and the Wuthering Fright' - the third in the Goth Girl series - sinister happenings are surrounding Ghastly-Gorm Hall during Lord Goth's Literary Dog Show. The esteemed judges are in place and the contestants are all ready to win. But there are mysterious footprints, howls in the night and some suspiciously chewed shoes. Can Ada, the Attic Club and their new friends the Vicarage sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) work out what's going on before the next full moon?

The Storm Leopards - Holly Webb (£8.99)
From best-selling author Holly Webb comes this charming wintery story: the countdown to Christmas has begun, and Isabelle is enjoying a family day out at the zoo. As her sister watches the penguins, Isabelle is the only one to catch a glimpse of a snow leopard, with its beautiful spotted silver-grey coat and long fluffy tail. Fascinated by these rare and endangered creatures, Isabelle tries to find out what she can do to help protect them. Little does she know she's about to be whisked into her very own magical snow leopard adventure, where a mother and her cubs are in danger...

My Father is a Polar Bear - Michael Morpurgo (£11.99)
Drawing on Michael Morpurgo's own childhood experience of first seeing his real father on television, 'My Father Is a Polar Bear' tells the story of two young brothers rediscovering their birth father in the most unlikely of places - and in an entirely unexpected guise! A warm and delightful tale of family bonds and love told by a master storyteller and beautifully illustrated by Rome-based artist Felicita Sala.

How to Fight a Dragon's Fury - Cressida Cowell (£12.99)
It's taken twelve years, spawned two films (a third is in production), cracking audio book voiced by David Tennant, and now the final book has arrived!

It is the Doomsday of Yule. At the end of this day, either the humans or the dragons will face extinction. Alvin the Treacherous is about to be crowned the King of the Wilderwest on the island of Tomorrow. His reign of terror will begin with the destruction of dragons everywhere. The fate of the dragon world lies in the hands of one young boy as he stands on the nearby isle of Hero's End with nothing to show, but everything to fight for. Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third's Quest is clear. As Doomsday draws to an end can Hiccup be the Hero of the hour? A mixture of sadness and celebration with a splendid end to a modern classic series.

(Revisit Cressida's visit to Kennington back in 2012 when we interviewed her!)

Refuge - Anne Booth & Sam Usher (£7.99)
This is a poignant and wonderfully told take on the Christmas story and what follows: the fleeing of Jesus, Mary and Joseph from Herod's soldiers to Egypt. In a beautiful hardback format, it’s a book that takes the Christmas story and makes the reader consider it from the point of view of today’s refugee crisis.

Nosy Crow and the wider book trade are ensuring that £5 from the sale of each book will go directly to the charity War Child, which is caring for Syrian refugee children in camps and host communities in Jordan and Northern Iraq.

(Mark reviewed this book, and the next one, on BBC Radio Oxford during Children and Need - you can listen to his review on iPlayer here at approximately 2 hours and 10 minutes)

A Boy Called Christmas - Matt Haig (£12.99)
This is a completely different take on Christmas, the childhood story of a figure we all know well. It tells of the upbringing of a young Father Christmas, before the responsibilities of getting toys to children, before he came to live at the North Pole. It’s brilliantly imaginative, as a young Nickolas escapes from a Dahl-esque wicked Aunt, and travels North to discover what happened to his father – lost on a polar expedition. Along the way he befriends a reindeer named Blitzen...but not everything runs as smoothly as you might imagine.

This is an instant classic, and we think children will love the flawed but determined Nickolas, and the obstacles he overcomes to fulfil his destiny. It’s witty, a few aspects of modern consumerism are neatly skewered – and the illustrations from Chris Mould, one of our favourite (and, in our opinion, underrated) illustrators just turns this into a seasonal delight.

Harper and the Scarlet Umbrella - Cerrie Burnell (£8.99)
A beautifully written, lyrical tale featuring a cast of funny and loveable characters, created by CBeebies' presenter Cerrie Burnell and stunningly illustrated by Laura Ellen Anderson. Harper lives in the City of Clouds with her Great Aunt Sassy and her beloved cat Midnight. When Midnight goes missing - together with all the cats of the neighbourhood - Harper realises that only her magical scarlet umbrella can help her find him...When Harper steps out with the umbrella in her hand, she is carried up into the sky on a series of amazing adventures. And Midnight isn't all she finds when she stumbles upon the Midnight Orchestra and its wild conductor... 

Pugs of the Frozen North - Philip Reeve (£8.99)
The Race to the Top of the World! It comes around once in a lifetime, and the prize? Your heart's desire. Shen and Sika can't resist the chance to win, but competition is fierce. The path to victory is littered with snow trolls, sea monsters, and a gang of particularly hungry yetis. But Shen and Sika have something the other contestants don't have. Actually, they have 66 other things; pugs to be exact. That's a 264 paw-powered sled. Let the race begin! This beautifully illustrated story by the award-winning team of Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre will enchant fans of their previous books, 'Oliver and the Seawigs' and 'Cakes in Space'.

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