Diary of a Christmas Wombat by Jackie French, illustrated by Bruce Whatley, (HarperCollins, £6.99)
Mothball is a wombat with attitude, a wombat who knows what she wants and how to get it … rather like my daughter.
This is a welcome companion book to the brilliant Diary of a Wombat, in which she eats, sleeps and scratches. Here, Mothball scraps with strange creatures (reindeers) over carrots before going on a trip on Santa’s sleigh in search of more.
This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers (HarperCollins, £11.99)
There is much to enjoy in Jeffers’s books, but I especially like the deadpan delivery, as in: “Wilfred was beginning to get a little bit worried. It was past his home time now and the monsters would be out soon.” Fortunately Marcel the moose comes to the rescue in this tale of pets, ownership, rules and relationships. Jeffers’s writing is superb and his images a joy.
The Night Before Christmas by Clement C Moore, illustrated by Angela Barrett (Orchard Books, £11.99)
“What’s a pedlar?” asks Iona. Inquisitiveness is what a great children’s story should provoke.
There are some other corkers too in Moore’s 1823 poem about St Nicholas including droll little mouth, coursers and sugarplums. A traditional, beautifully illustrated version of the nostalgic classic.
Merry Christmas Splat by Rob Scotton (Harper Collins, £5.99)
After Splat the Cat has written his letter to Santa, doubt creeps in.
Has he been good enough? To make sure he starts to ‘help’ his mum with disastrous consequences. If you are a parent for whom ‘help’ means cake mix across the kitchen walls, Rob’s witty creation will raise a wry smile.
The Nutcracker by Alison Jay (Templar Publishing, £10.99)
In her trademark crackly paint style, Jay has produced an atmospheric version of ETA Hoffman’s story of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.
Jay’s illustrations are sophisticated yet fantastical, capturing the theatricality of the Russian ballet in a faithful retelling.
The Somethingosaur by Tony Mitton illustrated by Russell Ayto (HarperCollins, £6.99)
This collaboration is a ‘where’s my mummy?’ tale of a little lost baby dragon searching for home in a scary dinosaur world.
Like most children, Iona is fascinated by dinosaurs and enjoyed this wonderfully executed tale of overcoming the odds.
Ella Bella Ballerina and The Nutcracker by James Mayhew (Orchard Books, £11.99)
The latest in a charming series where Ella Ballerina is introduced to classical ballets. Here she is transported to the Land of Sweets by ‘magical music’.
An enchanting Christmas classic for little girls who love to dance.
Walter & the No-Need-to Worry Suit by Rachel Bright (HarperCollins, £6.99)
Iona worries about dragons and about her brother messing up her games, but anxiety on Walter’s scale isn’t really an issue. He is so worried about Funday Sunday that he might pop and the sentiment is that with help from your friends you can leave your worries behind you.
Through humour, this stays on the right side of self-help for children.
Cinderelephant by Emma Dodd (Templar Publishing, £10.99)
A comical interpretation in which Cinderella is an elephant and the ugly sisters are warthogs.
When it’s time to try on the sparkly shoe, the girls’ trotters are too small, while Cinderella’s enormous foot is perfect. Dodd at her best with bombastic pictures and inventive text.
Jolly Snowman (Templar Publishing, £12.99)
Given free rein in a bookshop, my three-year-old son Reuben will go for one with a furry puppet.
So here is the Christmas version of a cuddly book. There isn’t much story, and the pictures are digital, but there is a furry snowman to play with.
The Reindeers’ Christmas Party (Templar Publishing, £7.99)
A Christmas Eve story with pleasing pop-ups on every page telling the story of what Santa does after his work is done. Bright and brash fun for little ones, as Santa gets to join the reindeers’ party.
The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson (Sort of Books, £9.99)
Finland was at war with Russia from November 1939 and, for Jansson, “one’s work stood still”.
In that stillness the Moomins were created although not published until 1945. Set almost entirely in darkness, this is the epic adventure of Moomintroll’s search for Moominpappa. Like Odysseus, he meets terrifying and beguiling creatures. A masterpiece.
Beauty and the Beast by Ursula Jones and Sarah Gibb (Orchard Books, £11.99)
Some picture books are also works of art and Sarah Gibb’s elegant illustrations, and particularly her silhouettes, make this an example.
Many of us probably know the Disney version best but Jones returns to the traditional 18th Century tale for this stunning publication.