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Christmas Stories without Father Christmas

Christmas With You
by Julia Hubery, illustrated by Victoria Ball
(Little Tiger Press)
A mouse-eye view of Christmas with falling snow, glowing candlelight, festive food, sledging, singing and finally, sleeping and dreaming is presented in a gentle sonorous rhyme and atmospheric paintings.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Grumpy Badger’s Christmas
by Paul Bright, illustrated by Jane Chapman
(Little Tiger Press)
Christmas is approaching fast and the woodland animals are excited and busy with
their preparations. All that is except Grumpy Badger for whom it’s all ‘piffle’; he just wants to be left alone to bed in for his winter sleep. Things don’t go his way though. The stream of interrupters that knock on his door make him grumpier and grumpier. But will a real emergency soften his gruff exterior?
Jane Chapman’s illustrations really do convey Badger’s feelings but not without a touch of humour.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Suzy Goose and the Christmas Star
by Petr Horacek
(Walker Books)
Impetuous as ever, but with the best of intentions, Suzy Goose sets out to catch a star for the top of the Christmas tree. Despite her plans and determination, Suzy never reaches that illusive star; instead she finds herself lost in a snowstorm. But happily there is something else to follow – the sound of her friends.
Suzy Goose and friends stand out against the dramatic night sky and snow swept landscapes in Horacek’s mixed media illustrations in this story for the very young.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Pocket’s Christmas Wish
by Ann Bonwill & Russell Julian
(Oxford University Press)
When little white rabbit, Pocket, sees a snow angel on Christmas morning he asks her the meaning of Christmas. The angel remains silent so he follows the trail of children’s footprints leading from her, determined to find the answer. The atmospheric snowy scenes tinged with purple, catch the mood of this gentle and sentimental seasonal story for the very young.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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The Magic of Christmas
by Claire Freedman, illustrated by Gail Yerrill
(Little Tiger Press)
What exactly is the essence of that magical feeling in the air, ponders Little Mouse as he and his family collect Christmas holly in the snowy landscape? There follows a series of partial answers from the perspectives of his various relations. But in the end it’s Mother’s answer, “The magic is love,” that gets to the heart of the matter.
   Yes, this rhyming tale is rather cosy and sentimental and one could say ‘would that it were true for everyone’. But nevertheless, with magical sparkles sprinkled over every spread, this is a picture book story to share and discuss with young loved ones and others, during the Christmas season.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Christmas Spirit
by Robert Westall
(Catnip)
Set in the nineteen thirties, both stories in this book successfully evoke the era of the depression without being depressing themselves. The first tells how a girl’s miserable Christmas with her equally miserable uncle is transformed by an act of kindness to a pregnant cat. The second is a spooky story set on Christmas Eve where a ghost gives a boy the task of preventing a disaster. Although Santa gets a mention in this story, there's no attempt to suggest he's real - hence, the book's position on this page.
    Well-produced with a hard cover and a ribbon bookmark, the book has black and white illustrations which combine with the text to provide an enjoyable read for children and adults. 8+
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The Snow Angel
by Christine Leeson, illustrated by Jane Chapman
(Little Tiger Press)
It's Christmas morning and after opening their presents, two little mice go out to play in the snow. Suddenly they see an amazing sight up above, something with gleaming wings. Could it be a Christmas angel? But then the beautiful creature falls from the sky, lost, tired and hungry and the act of kindness the little mice perform is in the true spirit of Christmas.
A sprinkling of stardust glitter adds a sparkle to every turn of the page.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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An African Christmas
by Ifeoma Onyefulu
(Frances Lincoln)
A very unusual and fascinating Christmas information story set in a Nigerian village where Afam and his family live. There, a special masked dance called Mmo is performed which, although not a Christian ritual, nevertheless forms apart of the Christmas festivities. Afam, who loves to dress up, is determined to be a Mmo and wear a fantastically coloured mask and costume. He sets about collecting what he needs but his family’s Christmas preparations keep impinging on his time. Finally however, thanks to the generosity of some of the other villagers, Afam has his Mmo finished – just in time to perform a celebratory dance.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Tickly Christmas Wibbly Pig!
by Mick Inkpen
(Hodder Children’s Books)
Wibbly’s Big Aunt Larlie loves to knit but Wibbly is less than impressed with the tickly scarf (last year’s present) and the tickly gloves (from the year before that), so he’s wondering what this year will bring – especially as Big Aunt Larlie is coming to stay. Could be it be a hat perhaps? Then, on Christmas Eve, the doorbell rings and it seems Aunt Larlie is wearing the anticipated hat, so just what will Wibbly’s present be? Well, there’s a surprise in store, this year…
Great fun for sharing with the very young and nice big print for those who want to try reading the story themselves.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Wenceslas
by Geraldine McCaughrean, illustrated by Christian Birmingham
(Doubleday)
The Victorian carol is the inspiration for Geraldine McCaughrean. She takes Neale’s bare, spare original and fleshes out and clothes it with rich poetic language and description. Christian Birmingham’s illustrations are a stunning Bohemian rhapsody of blues and golds, which illuminate the retelling, through Peter the page’s eyes, of the story of his and the king’s bone-numbing journey through the snow to share Christmas with a poor peasant family.
Like the carol that is its inspiration, this picture book is about the joy of giving and doesn't mention the nativity.
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Mog’s Christmas
by Judith Kerr
(Harper Collins)
A timely reissue starring a much loved character whose antics have been delighting young listeners and readers for over thirty years. Mog feels totally at odds with life as the Thomas family are all busy preparing for Christmas and when she sees a tree walking towards her it’s the last straw; she takes refuge on the roof. That’s where she stays all night, then all of a sudden it’s not Santa who comes crashing down the chimney next morning...
( The same story can also be found along with five other Mog favourites in a bumper volume, Mog Time)
(reviewed by Jill Bennett)
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Buy Mog Time from Amazon

Is it Christmas?
by John Prater
(Red Fox)
This gentle picture book follows Baby Bear and Grandbear as they prepare for Christmas, making cards, cooking special food and decorating the house. The story stops on Christmas morning and only refers to 'someone' (who has Grandbear-shaped shadow) putting presents under the tree. It's a delightful way to introduce very young children to the practical side of the festivities, although the emphasis on snow may cause disappointment if you live in an area where a white Christmas is a rarity.
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Baby Bear's Christmas Kiss
by John Prater
(Random House)
After opening presents, playing games and eating a huge Christmas dinner, Baby Bear suddenly realises he hasn't got a present for Grandbear. So he goes outside and makes a tiny snowbear with snowberries for his hair. Naturally Grandbear is delighted and asks for a Christmas kiss. It's lovely to find a story about Christmas celebrations with the emphasis on giving rather than receiving. This picture book follows on from Is it Christmas? but both books are completely freestanding.
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The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by P.J.Lynch
(Walker Books)
Jonathan Toomey, the woodcarver, seldom smiles and never laughs because he has never recovered from the death of his wife and baby son. Then the widow McDowell and her son Thomas ask him to carve them a wooden nativity site to replace one they have lost. As he works, their gentle friendship gradually thaws his frozen heart until the task of carving Mary with her baby forces him to finally face his grief. A beautifully written story with wonderful use of language that subtly reveals the changes in Jonathan and weaves in the love story without actually mentioning it. The text is much longer than most picture books so is suitable for older children and well worth reading with KS2 classes.
Ages 5-9+
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The Christmas Pony
by Sylvia Green
(Scholastic)
Laura and Ben help look after Mr Crumbs, an old pony who lives near their home. But when his owner decides to move to Australia, it looks as if Mr Crumbs will have to go to a horse sanctuary so far away that they will never see him again. The only other possibility is for Laura, Ben and their friends to keep him themselves so, with Christmas fast approaching, they set out to raise the money they need to pay for his keep. A gentle story for pony loving children.
Ages 6-10
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Crispin The Pig Who Had it All
by Ted Dewan
(Picture Corgi)
Crispin is a rich, young pig who always has the latest toys but soon gets bored with them. Then, one Christmas, all he's given is an enormous empty box which helps him find the one thing he didn't have - friends. A morality tale that's well told with bright illustrations packed with detail.
Ages 3-6

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Happy Christmas Maisy
by Lucy Cousins
(Walker)
Brightly coloured pictures on a white background and plenty of flaps combine to make this an excellent choice for babies and toddlers. The simple story follows Maisy's preparations for Christmas and ends with a fold-out spread for the big day itself. Very useful for introducing the idea of Christmas to the very young.
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Laura's Christmas Star
by Klaus Blaumgart, English text by Judy Waite
(Little Tiger Press)
This seasonal sequel to the very successful Laura's Star has Laura looking forward to Christmas at Aunt Martha's. But when snow and a broken down car stop the family travelling, it looks as if they won't even have a sparkly tree until Laura's star comes to the rescue. The colourful illustrations reflect the emotional ups and downs of the story with Laura's star depicted in glittering silver. A good picture book for 3-6 year olds.
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Star's Turn
by Linda Newbery
(Corgi)
Star the donkey feels inferior to his prize winning pony friend, Moon, until he is chosen for a starring role in the local nativity play. This slightly predictable but never the less appealing story has plenty of black and white illustrations which are only marred by the illustrator's ignorance of what a halter looks like. A good stocking filler for beginner readers.
Ages 5-8
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The Glass Angels
by Susan Hill
(Walker)
Set just after the Second World War, this short novel tells the story of Tilly and her determination to have proper a Christmas despite rationing, poor housing and her mother's illness. Well written so both the characters and the setting come alive. A good choice for more able readers, especially girls.
Ages 8-12
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Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas
by Alison Uttley and Margaret Tempest
(Collins)
This is sure to awake nostalgic memories in grandparents who grew up with Little Grey Rabbit, Hare and Fuzzypeg the Hedgehog. Although this version is abridged, it retains the delight of the original and is ideal for sharing those memories with the youngest generation.
Ages 3-7
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Click for Writing for ChildrenAn Angel just like me
by Mary Hoffman
(Frances Lincoln)
When the angel for the Christmas tree breaks, young Tyler asks why all the angels in the shops are girls and pink. Why aren't any of them boys and black like him? He wants "an angel just like me" and, thanks to a good friend, he eventually gets one. This is a thought provoking story which offers a good opportunity to talk about race and different appearances. But it's not at all preachy and children will enjoy the story for its own sake, identifying with Tyler and his desire.
Read aloud 5-8. Read alone - fluent readers
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For more Christmas titles, see
Nativity Stories     
Stories with Father Christmas     
Christmas Film Tie-ins and Videos    
Christmas poetry    
Christmas Activity Books
Nativity Plays

 

 

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