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.