Whether it’s the story of the nativity or a beautifully illustrated morality tale, these are the books to buy for and read with children.

‘If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books,’ said Roald Dahl. You can’t argue with that, much as your children may sometimes want to. In a world of Netflix and computer games, we must remind ourselves of Dahl’s wise words and encourage reading whenever we can. So, this year, why not give the children on your list books for Christmas? We’ve rounded up the best titles – some old, some new – to give as presents or read with your little people over the holidays.

Here, for your perusal, is our list of favourites.

The Fox And The Star

By Coralie Bickford-Smith

Inspired by William Morris and William Blake, this enchanting book is, in its author’s own words, ‘about love, loss and learning to accept change’. It’s divine. It may have been designed for children but it resonates with grown ups, too.

Father Christmas

By Raymond Briggs

Since it was published in 1973, this book’s comic version of Old St. Nick has become the definitive one for millions of British children. It won the Kate Greenaway Medal when it came out and has been delighting young and old ever since.

The Lost Words

By Jackie Morris & Robert Macfarlane

This one has a magically pacifying effect on any child who looks at it. It is quite large, so you often find them stretched out on the floor for optimal proximity to its exquisite pictures and poetic descriptions of the natural world. Frank Cottrell Boyce called it ‘the most beautiful and thought-provoking book I’ve read this year’ when it came out in 2019.

The Jolly Christmas Postman

By Janet & Allan Ahlberg

Younger kids will go mad for this perky tale of the Jolly Postman doing his rounds on Christmas Eve. Delivering cards and presents to the fairy-tale characters we all know and love, he embodies the spirit of Christmas.

Where Snow Angels Go

By Maggie O’farrell

You’ll almost certainly have read one of Maggie O’Farrell’s prize-winning novels for grown ups. (If you haven’t, what are you waiting for?) Here, she turns her hand to a charming book for children, complete with a snowy night, a little girl with an illness, a guardian angel and a happy ending. Sounds pretty good, right?

The Story Of The Nativity

By Geraldine McCaughrean

If you want to take things back to basics and revisit the Christmas story, this is just the ticket. The Bookseller magazine reckons that Geraldine McCaughrean ‘is one of the greatest living children’s authors’. In her hands, and with its captivating silhouette artwork, this tale of shepherds, wise men and the arrival of Baby Jesus is a classic you’ll want to return to year after year.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox & The Horse

By Charlie Mackesy

Last year’s bestseller by the artist Charlie Mackesy is more pertinent than ever after the tribulations of this year. The characters of the title – brought unforgettably to life on the page by Mackesy’s ink drawings – go on a heartwarming journey of self-discovery, examining fear, vulnerability and hope. Elizabeth Gilbert says of it: ‘The world that I am required to inhabit is this one. But the world that I long to inhabit is the one that Charlie Mackesy has created.’

The Puffin Keeper

By Michael Morpurgo

Published last month to coincide with the 80th anniversary of Puffin Books (the children’s imprint of Penguin), this is the delightful tale of a mother and son who are rescued from a shipwreck by the lighthouse keeper on Puffin Island. Morpurgo, the former Children’s Laureate, has produced yet another gem that will live long on your bookshelves.

Dogger’s Christmas

By Shirley Hughes

This cosy book by Shirley Hughes proves that sequels aren’t always bad news. You will remember her original Dogger, about the loss and retrieval of a beloved soft toy (which also won the Kate Greenaway Medal when it was published in 1977). Well, this its seasonal complement. Amid the excitement of piles of brand new Christmas toys, will Dogger be forgotten?

An Anthology Of Intriguing Animals

By Ben Hoare

This beautiful bestiary is a pleasure to read to children but they’ll pore over it alone, too. With stunning photography and illustrations as well as compelling facts and details, it can’t help but capture the imagination. From the largest whales to the smallest insects, this book celebrates over 100 creatures. Curious kids will be hooked.

By Becky Ladenburg
December 2020

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Becky Ladenburg

Features Editor

As the GWG's features editor, Becky has her discerning finger on the cultural pulse. She's also our go-to expert on the property market.