Tom has pretty much refused to write this blog post, on the basis that “Cyber-Monday” is a dreadful old nonsense, and a US import Against Which We Should Take A Stand. But, as I pointed out, he is young, while I am an old and tired mum who is currently running two colour-coded spreadsheets for Christmas presents alone (one of things – often books – that we are giving, and one of things – often books – that we are suggesting to people asking about gifts that we would particularly welcome). I think that we all need all the reasonably-priced, will-last-beyond-26-December, easy-to-wrap present suggestions that we can get.
Though I am using Cyber Monday as a sort of hook for this blog post, I am not, though, suggesting that you order online, necessarily. Most of these books should be available in your local bookshop. And there is no nicer shopping experience than a local bookshop around Christmas.
Anyway, today, I am going to be shamelessly full-on and commercial and give you my recommendations age-by-age for Nosy Crow children’s books and apps. Selected from the 100-odd books (and 10 apps) we have published in our first three years of existence (a number that still seems astonishingly huge to me, to be honest), here are some books that I think would sit nicely under the tree or in a stocking. The books all have recommended retail prices between £4.99 and £10.99.
FOR BABIES 0 TO 1
Noodle Loves to Cuddle, which has found a fan in this mum blogger and her baby, is the bestseller in our Noodle series of touch-and-feel board books. I put this down to the blanket flap half-way through the book under which Noodle, the mischievous panda, is hiding.
FOR TODDLERS 1 TO 2
Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm is one of the strongest sellers in this series of sturdy toddler tab board books. And there’s an app. If you are dealing with a toddler who likes vehicles, Bizzy Bear: Fire Rescue might be a better bet, and if you are looking for something for someone who’s more of a soft-toy sort of a person, then Tiny Tabs: Bunny Boo might fit the bill.
FOR 2 TO 3 YEAR–OLDS
Pip and Posy is pretty top-notch for this age group, I think. These books gently explore the emotional turbulence of toddler life in deceptively simple stories and they are illustrated by the incomparable Axel Scheffler. As The Guardian said, “Scheffler’s talent at portraying the trials and tribulations of early childhood in this series is second to none.” In particular, Pip and Posy: The Snowy Day has a nicely seasonal feel. Again, there’s an app.
FOR 3 TO 4 YEAR–OLDS
Dinosaur- and vehicle-lovers will think that Dinosaur Dig! was made for them – as The Guardian said, “For the prehistoric speed freak, this is a roaring delight”. Meanwhile, Troll Swap, currently shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, celebrates being true to who you are, even if that means that you are someone who would “rather pick her nose than a flower any day of the week”. The Sunday Times said, “Funny and full of vim, the book has an exhilarating mix of childlike drawings, elegant design and jokes about burps”.
FOR 4 TO 5 YEAR–OLDS
Just Right for Christmas is all about the joy of giving at Christmas, and it has a little bit of an eco-twist: the things that aren’t useful to one person (or animal) turn out, with a little creativity, to be just right for another. The Sunday Telegraph said, “It’s hard to find a Christmas book that’s about giving without coming across all preachy (you can’t fool kids: Christmas is about receiving) but Just Right by Birdie Black and Rosalind Beardshaw delivers a warm glow with its waste-not-want-not message. The story follows a roll of cloth – “so red and soft and Christmassy” – as it makes a cloak for a princess with the leftover scraps passing down a human/animal hierarchy until it becomes a scarf for a mouse.” If you’re looking for something less Christmas-themed, then Open Very Carefully, a book about… well, a book, and a crocodile stowaway, is one of those books that I talk about when I am discussing what print and the page do that’s different from what a screen does. The same is true of Axel Scheffler’s Flip Flap Farm, a split page book we’ve struggled to keep in print this autumn. There’s an app too, though, which allows for a direct page-to-screen compare-and-contrast.
FOR 5 TO 6 YEAR–OLDS
I think that children of 5 and 6 are absolutely not too old for picture books. If you agree, then Shifty McGifty and Slippery Sam would be a good bet. The Telegraph chose it as a book of the year, saying “Corderoy’s rich, rhyming text is a pleasure to read aloud and the ending got a big laugh in my house”. For pernicketty princess types, The Princess and the Peas which won the Oldham Key Stage 1 Book Prize last week, is a funny (not-at-all-gruesome) cautionary tale, which MIGHT encourage a child to tackle Christmas Day sprouts, but we’re not promising anything…
FOR 6 TO 7 YEAR–OLDS
Weasels, described by The Telegraph as “insanely brilliant” and currently both shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize and nominated for the Greenaway Award, is a picture book that I think works particularly well for children of six and over, because of its design, the density of the illustrations and, honestly, because of the joke that’s at its heart. By the time children are six and older, though, we they are often able to deal with a different balance of text and illustrations and are easing their way into novels. Hubble Bubble: The Great Granny Bake-off should make them laugh, and, like the Hubble Bubble picture books makes a great grandparent gift. Independent readers, I find, really love a series at this age (if they’re putting in the time and effort required of early independent reading, they rather like the guarantee that a book is going to be similar enough to one they’re enjoyed to warrant the investment), and Vulgar The Viking: The Rock Cake Raiders or Rescue Princesses: The Secret Promise are both great places to start… and unlike many series, they’re each written by one author.
FOR 7 TO 8 YEAR–OLDS
The pull of series continues, I think, for many children in this age-group. Space Pirates: Stowaway is a great, roistering, funny adventure series. And Zoe’s Rescue Zoo: The Lonely Lion Cub is perfect for animal lovers.
FOR 8 TO 9 YEAR–OLDS
The Grunts in Trouble is the first of the titles in The Grunts series, described by The Telegraph as the “21st-century Twits”. Funny, silly, quirky, the books are by Philip Ardagh and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. The second book in the series is currently shortlisted for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize, and there’s a free app.
FOR 9 TO 10 YEAR–OLDS
Danny Danger and the Cosmic Remote is light-hearted gadgetty adventure that might appeal to a Doctor Who fan. Lyn Gardner’s Olivia books are deliciously traditional stage-school stories with appeal to the same kids who are watching X-factor. They attract an extraordinarily loyal following.
FOR 10 TO 11 YEAR–OLDS
Recommended by Julia Donaldson and Michael Morpurgo and described by The Daily Mirror as a “fabulous debut”, The Secret Hen House Theatre explores family and friendship in a story that has warmth, drama and an extraordinary sense of place – a quintessentially British farm. If your recipient likes a laugh, then My Best Friend and Other Enemies, described as “hilarious” by Harry Hill and “properly funny” by The Independent, is a cleverly-observed story of managing mean girls by a stand-up comic.
FOR 11 TO 12 YEAR–OLDS
Twelve Minutes to Midnight has an end-of-the-year setting… though the year in question is 1899. Spooky and atmospheric, it’s set in a wintry post-Dickensian London. This is, again, a good book for a Doctor Who fan. And if you like the first book, the second in the series, Shadows of the Silver Screen was described by The Telegraph as “a serious (and playful) intelligent historical thriller for children.”
If the child you’re buying for has access to an iPad (or iPhone, or iPod Touch), our multi-award-winning apps, which can be given as gifts, are very rich reading experiences to which children return again and again. The apps are priced between £0.69 and £3.99.
I’ve mentioned one of our Bizzy Bear apps, which, as it’s suitable for toddlers, is the youngest app we have.
I’ve also mentioned the Pip and Posy app, which is suitable for 2 to 4 year-olds.
FOR 4 TO 5 YEAR OLDS
The Flip Flap Farm app is funny and silly.
FOR 5 TO 7 YEAR OLDS AND UPWARDS
For curious 5 to 7 year olds, our Rounds apps provide lots of information (who knew that frogs crush their food against the back of their eyeballs?) with a lot of interactive fun. Rounds; Parker Penguin is nicely seasonal, and has just won the FutureBook Children’s Digital Book/App prize.
For 5 year-olds and over (and adults find them pretty compelling too, in our experience), our Fairy Tale apps are brilliantly interactive reading experiences, and the most recent, and, in my view, spectacular one, is Little Red Riding Hood.
It was hard making this selection, and I am painfully aware there are many books we publish, and that I think would make great gifts, that I left out of this particular list. And, it is, of course, hard to be terribly age-specific, particularly as children get older: one eight year-old is not the same as another eight year-old in reading ability or interest. But if these books don’t seem quite right for the child you have in mind, you could search other books we’ve published by age-group or genre (board books, activity books, novelty books, picture books and fiction).
Nearer Christmas, we’ll be doing a blog post about the books we all hope to receive, and those we’ll give, this Christmas.