Best Christmas gift books 2008

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    Kids


    Picture books
    Johnny’s Bad Day

    Edward Ardizzone
    Jane Nissen Books £6.99
    This little hardback has vintage charm and practical appeal. It’s wordless, so the story – of little Johnny’s series of scrapes – can be ‘read’ independently by pre-school children. Ardizzone’s drawings, with lots of cross-hatching and moody orange and green backgrounds, communicate Johnny’s muddled feelings with perfect clarity.

    Rotten Island
    William Steig
    National Maritime Museum £9.99
    New Yorker cartoonist William Steig’s lava-lamp colours are perfectly suited to this tale of a rotten lot of primordial monsters – which has a ‘Where the Wild Things Are’-style hotline to the swampier areas of the pre-school personality.

    The Baby in the Hat
    Allan Ahlberg and André Amstutz
    Walker Books £10.99
    Ahlberg, author of pre-school classics ‘Peepo!’ and ‘Each Peach Pear Plum’, has teamed up with a new illustrator for this beautifully inviting story of derring do in the days of good King William. Amstutz’s illustrations capture the smog of London and the roil of the high seas with enticingly shaded aplomb. One to treasure.

    Traction Man Is Here
    Mini Grey (Mark Gatiss reads audio CD)
    Red Fox £6.99
    The camply heroic audio CD read by Mark Gatiss (think Flash Gordon with a touch of Lord Kitchener) is a real bonus in this tale of a lantern-jawed action figure with clothes for every adventure. But why do book CDs never leave enough time to admire the characterful pictures before turning the page?

    Pirate Gran
    Geraldine Durrant, illustrated by Rose Forshall
    NMM £9.99
    She bakes, she knits and she fusses over her grandchildren. But back in the day she was the flame-haired terror of the southern seas. A feisty story, with plenty of pratfalls that older children will appreciate – and some gentle feminism to please their mothers.

    The Sea of Tranquility
    Mark Haddon and Christian Birmingham
    HarperCollins £5.99
    This fortieth-anniversary celebration of Apollo’s giant leap for mankind is superb in every respect. Haddon’s rhythmic, dreamy prose takes you right back to the wonder that he felt as a little boy dreaming of the lunar landing, and Birmingham’s illustrations are magical.

    Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
    Mem Fox and Helen Oxenbury
    Walker Books £10.99
    It’s the tender illustrations of babies from around the world (by Helen ‘We’re Going on a Bear Hunt’ Oxenbury) that make this so lovely. Mem Fox’s simple rhyming story is nicely paced (it has a refrain, about five words to a page and plenty opportunities for extra toe-counting). Babies love pictures of other babies, making this a great first book.

    Pop-up magic
    Maisy’s House and Garden
    Lucy Cousins
    Walker Books £14.99. Age 2+
    In my experience, these open-out play-books get quickly trashed, so it’s good to see that Walker has made this one using extra-sturdy stock. Cousins’s trademark thick black outlines and bold primary colours make Maisy’s house irresistible to the very tiny, and thanks to stand-up figures and other press-out items to play with, this offers plenty of tactile interaction (until they all get lost).

    Inventions – Leonardo da Vinci, paper engineering
    David Hawcock
    Walker Books £14.99. Age 9+
    Using facsimiles of da Vinci’s drawings and text from his notebooks, this classy pop-up is densely packed and satisfyingly evokes a historical document, thanks to its monotone sepia design and old-fashioned type. Each spread offers an intricate 3D centrepiece, but there’s also lots of detail round the edges. A great fusion of history and engineering.

    Nut Cracker
    Jan Pienkowski, told by David Walser
    Puffin Books £17.99. Age 8+
    The king of silhouettes has produced an utterly magical series of illustrations for ETA Hoffman’s nineteenth-century goth-fest. Not for the very young – the story is thoroughly bizarre and Walser doesn’t balk at including all the horrid bits .

    Moonlanding – Richard Platt, paper engineering
    David Hawcock
    Walker Books £14.99. Age 9+
    While there’s plenty of noble detail about Kennedy and human endeavour, the author hasn’t forgotten the joy of yuck – watch those little faces light up when they read about the astronauts’ Faecal Containment Subsystem.

    ABC 3D
    Marion Bataille
    Bloomsbury £9.99. Age 2+
    This ABC offers as many oohs and aahs to adult audiences as it does to pre-schoolers. Bataille’s ingenuity has created a series of dynamic experiences, each letter blossoming out of the book in a new and interesting way. Most intriguing are the spreads that cover more than one letter: watch E morph into F as the page opens fully; see O and P transformed into Q and R when you overlay two matching tails. You won’t want to let grubby infant fingers near these pristine pages.

    Art | Classical | Kids | Teens | Comedy | Dance | Film | Music | Theatre | Stocking fillers

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The king of silhouettes has produced an utterly magical series of illustrations for ETA Hoffman’s nineteenth-century goth-fest. Not for the very young – the story is thoroughly bizarre and Walser doesn’t balk at including all the horrid bits . While there’s plenty of noble detail about Kennedy and human endeavour, the author hasn’t forgotten the joy of yuck – watch those little faces light up when they read about the astronauts’ Faecal Containment Subsystem.This ABC offers as many oohs and aahs to adult audiences as it does to pre-schoolers. Bataille’s ingenuity has created a series of dynamic experiences, each letter blossoming out of the book in a new and interesting way. Most intriguing are the spreads that cover more than one letter: watch E morph into F as the page opens fully; see O and P transformed into Q and R when you overlay two matching tails. You won’t want to let grubby infant fingers near these pristine pages. | | | | | | | | |

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