The Oldie

EMILY BEARN on some great ideas for Christ­mas presents


The rules of chil­dren’s fic­tion are not al­ways straight­for­ward. It is rare, for ex­am­ple, to find blood­shed in pic­ture books – but why is it so of­ten ac­cept­able for char­ac­ters to be eaten alive? Such is the fate e of Red Rid­ing

Hood (Warne, 48pp, £12.99), who stars in this de­cep­tively sin­is­ter retelling by Beatrix Pot­ter, newly il­lus­trated by He­len Ox­en­bury. ‘Once upon a time there was as a vil­lage child who was as so pretty – so pretty as never was seen,’ Pot­ter er be­gins, with her fa­mil­iar mix of charm and men­ace.

Mean­while, sto­ries about grief are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar. For tod­dlers, there is now a board book ver­sion of Gran­dad’s Is­land by Benji Davies (Si­mon & Schus­ter, 30pp, £6.99), an ir­re­sistibly touch­ing story about a young boy’s friend­ship with his grand­fa­ther, and their fi­nal ad­ven­ture to­gether af­ter Gran­dad’s death. Small in the City (Walker, ‘Your bowl is full and your blan­ket is warm. If you want, you could just come back,’ says the boy 40pp, £12.99) by the Cana­dian il­lus­tra­tor Syd­ney Smith (win­ner of last year’s Kate Green­away Medal) is the heartrend­ing story of a child ex­plor­ing a big city, in search of a lost cat. ‘Your bowl is full and your blan­ket is warm. If you want, you could just come back,’ says the boy, in lan­guage which will res­onate with many an anx­ious par­ent.

If you as­pire to keep the art of let­ter writ­ing alive in your grand­chil­dren, The Mis­ad­ven­tures of Fred­er­ick (Two Hoots, 32pp, £12.99) by the de­but au­thor Ben Manley will pro­vide plenty of in­spi­ra­tion. Writ­ten as a se­ries of letters be­tween a boy clos­eted in a coun­try house and an ad­ven­tur­ous girl who wants him to come out­side and play, this de­light­ful story is il­lus­trated by the ever

in­ven­tive young oldie Emma Chich­ester Clark. For older read­ers, Be­yond Plat­form 13 (Macmil­lan, 256pp, £6.99) is Sibeal Pounder’s imag­i­na­tive se­quel sequ to Eva Ib­bot­son’s Ibbo beloved The Se­cret of Plat­form Pla 13, pub­lished pu 25 years ye ago. It takes ta a brave au­thor au to med­dle m with a clas­sic c – but this t is an en­gag­ing story, in which whi Pounder’s skill is to let Ib­bot­son’s voice be heard along­side her own. There is also a new breath of life for Enid Bly­ton, whose Malory Tow­ers se­ries has been reimag­ined in a new col­lec­tion of short sto­ries. It has been more than 60 years since Dar­rell Rivers and her friends bade their fi­nal farewell to Potty and Miss Grayling – and in New Class at Malory

Tow­ers (Hod­der, 192pp, £6.99) changes are afoot. A story by Pa­tri­cia Lawrence sees the ar­rival of the first black girl at the school, and an­other stars a girl from In­dia. (‘In­dia!’ a third-for­mer gasps.) And Noel Streat­feild, who died more than 30 years ago, is the lit­er­ary fount that goes on flow­ing, with The

Theatre Cat (Scholas­tic, 32pp, £9.99) among sev­eral of her for­got­ten ti­tles to be reprinted this year. Fea­tur­ing a cat who lives in a theatre but is fright­ened of the mice he is sup­posed to catch, this gen­tly hu­mor­ous story will de­light Streat­feild’s fans. And The Som­er­set Tsunami (Faber, 304pp, £6.99) is the lat­est best­seller from the queen of his­tor­i­cal fic­tion Emma Car­roll. Set in 1616, and telling the story of a ser­vant girl in a manor house at the cen­tre of a witch-hunt, this is Car­roll at her best.

From top: Gran­dad’s Is­land, Theatre Cat and Greta Thun­berg

The Boy with a But­ter­fly Mind

by Vic­to­ria Wil­liamson (Floris, 264pp, £12.99) is the poignant and sim­ply told story of an 11-year-old boy suf­fer­ing from ADHD, who be­lieves that if he could only con­trol his ‘but­ter­fly mind’ he would be able to make friends, and solve his prob­lems at home. And In­vis­i­ble in a Bright

Light (Ze­phyr, 320pp, , £12.99) is the much-awaited new novel from Sally Gard­ner, au­thor of Mag­got Moon (2005). Set in 1870, and fea­tur­ing a mag­i­cal chan­de­lier and a girl aban­doned as a baby on the steps of an opera house, this grip­ping novel will ap­peal to read­ers grad­u­at­ing from Gard­ner’s younger ti­tles such as Mr Tiger, Betsy and the Blue Moon. And don’t miss The Tzar’s Cu­ri­ous Run­aways (Ev­ery­thing with Words, 304pp, £8.99), a first novel by the for­mer BBC sports jour­nal­ist j Robin Scot­tEl­liot. Set in 18th-cen­tury Rus­sia, R and star­ring a hunch-backed h bal­le­rina per­form­ing p in a Cir­cus of Curiositie­s, C this is a sump­tu­ously s imag­ined story, which w clev­erly weaves el­e­ments e of fairy­tale with his­tor­i­cal h fic­tion. Greta Thun­berg’s pocket book of speeches No One Is Too Small To Make a Dif­fer­ence (Pen­guin, 80pp, £2.99) is a best­seller among chil­dren and adults alike. Be she ad­dress­ing street protests or the United Na­tions, the in­domitable Swedish school­girl gives us an 80-page mas­ter-class in get­ting to the point: ‘Ev­ery­thing needs to change. And it has to start today.’ And it wouldn’t be Christ­mas with­out a book with a fes­tive cover. Some such ti­tles risk look­ing dis­tinctly stale by Box­ing Day – but Scal­ly­wag Press’s en­chant­ing new edi­tion of The Night Be­fore Christ­mas (40pp, £11.99) – us­ing Roger Du­voisin’s 1954 art­work and pub­lished in a tall, chim­ney-shaped edi­tion – is a present which will have a shelf life for years to come.

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